In perhaps his final Double-A start, Montgomery Biscuits left-hander David Price turned in a quality start on Wednesday night, scattering three runs on seven hits in six innings against the Tennessee Smokies. Price struck out six without walking a batter, allowing his first unearned run of the season. While he was effective, it was certainly not his most dominant outing so far. He even looked human for once, surrendering a two-run home run to Tennessee catcher and Chicago Cubs prospect Jake Fox, who has 12 homers and an OPS near .900. Fox’s shot was only the fourth home run that Price has given up all year.
Overall, though, it was still a solid start for Price, who is likely to earn a promotion to Triple-A Durham sometime later this week. Jeremy Cummings, an International League All-Star who has been a nice addition to the Bulls’ starting rotation, was added to the US Olympic roster yesterday. This will perhaps clear the way for the 22-year-old, whose ERA jumped to 2.19 on the night. If he does not get the call in the next few days, a promotion will come soon enough, as it is unlikely that he will be in Montgomery this time next month.
The first overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Vanderbilt University, Price has made pitching in the minors look easy so far in his first professional season. The lanky southpaw began the year in the Florida State League, where he was a perfect 4-0 in six starts for the Vero Beach Devil Rays. In fact, he looked absolutely dominant at times, overmatching young hitters with his mid-90s fastball and excellent command. He posted a 1.82 ERA, 37-to-7 K/W ratio and .220 opponents’ batting average, allowing only seven earned runs on 28 hits in 34.2 innings pitched.
After showing that he was ready for the next level, Price earned his promotion to Montgomery. He has made the transition flawlessly—Jeremy Hellickson, on the other hand, struggled a bit getting adjusted—making pitching in the Southern League look easy by going 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a 25-to-10 K/W ratio in his first five appearances before Wednesday. Overall, combined between Vero Beach and Montgomery, he is now 8-0 with a 2.07 ERA—only 16 earned runs in 71.2 innings pitched—and 68-to-19 K/W ratio.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been reportedly searching for bullpen help. Instead of incurring the cost of acquiring a reliever along the lines of Brian Fuentes, the Rays will most likely look for internal reinforcements. Price is perhaps the missing link for Tampa Bay as the club attempts to make its first postseason appearance. He has the command, pitching sense and overall stuff—far beyond his years—to get hitters out at the highest level, evident by his dominant showing in spring training against the New York Yankees.
Whether or not Price will come up as a power late-innings reliever or take a spot in the Rays’ starting rotation (if a Tampa Bay starter should get hurt or falter), it is almost certain that he will have an impact when rosters are expanded in September, if not sooner. He is gifted enough on the mound to make a significant contribution. Thus, it would not be a surprise to see him turn into this year’s version of Joba Chamberlain, who added a huge boost to push the Yankees into the postseason down the stretch in ’07.
Often times, prospects do not live up to the hype, and it is rare to see a player like Evan Longoria make a flawless jump to the majors. Price, though, is the real deal, possessing the mental make-up and pure ability to make a similar to transition to Longoria.
Also worth mentioning, Rocco Baldelli played three innings in right field for the Biscuits, going 0-for-1. If he can remain on the field until then, Baldelli is also a likely candidate to join the Rays as a September call-up.
To reach Tyler Hissey, send an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.