Name: Barret Loux
Notable 2011 Stats: 3.80 ERA, 2.74 FIP, 6 HRA, 34 BB, 127 K, 50% GB% in 109 IP with Myrtle Beach (High-A)
Why He’s This High: If you’ve been reading my top 100 profiles, you’ve probably been wondering when the parade of (comparatively) low-upside position players in the upper minors was going to end, and this is the time, as Loux is the first pitcher on the list, as well as the first player who has yet to advance to Double-A.
Loux’s numbers speak for themselves–he turned in an excellent season in High-A in his pro debut, as he struck out 10.49 batters per nine innings while keeping the ball on the ground and in the park. He also walked under three batters per nine innings.
Loux has a well-rounded arsenal, featuring a low-90′s fastball, low-80′s sinking change, and a big curveball in the mid-70′s. He also has a slider to give batters a different look. He commands all four pitches thanks to a simple drop-and-drive delivery, and shouldn’t have trouble with walks. Standing 6’5″ and featuring good sink on his pitches, his solid groundball ability also looks to be a sustainable skill, and will help him a lot in Texas’ tough home park if and when he gets there (my rankings don’t take into account future home parks, for the record, or else I’d be discussing Rockies hitters and Padres pitchers every other day).
Why He’s This Low: First off, Loux is a 22-year-old polished guy who was pitching in a very friendly environment in the Carolina League (and possibly the league’s most pitcher-friendly home park in Myrtle Beach). He doesn’t have one true knockout offering, so while his fastball, curve and change all have some promise, it remains to seen if he’ll develop a true “out pitch” that allows him to continue racking up the strikeouts against more advanced hitters. Certainly, he’s not going to suddenly turn into Blake Beavan, but the odds of Loux ending up as a K-per-inning starter in the big leagues are fairly low. Since he was pitching in such an offense-suppressing environment, we also shouldn’t take his .5 HR/9 rate at face value, which means his true FIP may be around 3.00, which is great, but doesn’t really shake the stigma of Loux being a polished guy with solid-average stuff and good command beating up on unpolished hitters.
That’s somewhat nitpicky; the real elephant in the room is injuries. Loux, of course, has a rather unique backstory in that regard: selected sixth overall by Arizona last year, he basically failed his physical when the team’s examinations revealed damage in both his shoulder and elbow. Made a free agent in the offseason because Arizona refused to offer him a contract (instead taking a compensation pick for the next season, which they used on Archie Bradley seventh overall), Loux signed on with Texas and saw his first season cut short by “arm fatigue.” That’s why he only logged 109 innings; he went on the DL in early August after his fastball had reportedly dropped to the mid-80s.
He was considered an overdraft at #6 overall in the first place, for the general “lack of a dominant pitch” I cited above, which means Loux’s ceiling is “mid-rotation workhorse.” With all these injury concerns, there’s considerable doubt in my mind on whether he’ll be able to ever be a “workhorse,” big frame or not.
While his delivery is simple and allows him to throw strikes, he’s all over the place with how he finishes it. Take a look at this video and see how many different ways his right leg finishes his delivery. When he gets it all the way around, he’s mechanically sound, but too often he cuts his momentum off before following through with that leg, putting undue stress on his arm. He has to get more consistent with his landing; even then, it appears significant damage has already been done, whether this season’s nebulous “arm fatigue” issue leads to something more major or not.
Conclusions: There’s a lot to like about Loux: he’s a relatively complete pitcher from both a scouting and a statistical perspective. He has the requisite three pitches and solid command to project as a solid big-league starter, and all of his sabermetric indicators were excellent in his first professional season. But he’s more of an across-the-board good arm than a potentially dominant pitcher, which means he could basically be what Phil Humber was for the White Sox this year (3.69 ERA, 3.5 WAR).
That’s valuable, but it’s considerably less valuable in sporadic, Erik Bedard/Rich Harden/Ben Sheets-style bursts. That’s not to say Loux’s injury future is that bad–he’s a bigger guy than any of those three, for one–but then again, those three pitchers are far more dominant in their rare stretches of health than Loux projects to be.
Perhaps he never gets hurt, or perhaps he has one major arm surgery and returns in fine form, experiencing no more significant problems. But even one major injury would be troublesome–if it occurs in his pre-arbitration years, the amount of profit his team makes from him is dramatically lessened, and there’s also the chance that he’d never be the same. If Loux’s stuff takes a significant hit, he suddenly is Blake Beavan.
The injury concerns are thus enough to slide Loux past a number of similar non-ace-upside A-ball arms who reside in the back quarter of my top 100. Still, though, we shouldn’t be too focused on the negative here–anybody who is even considered for a top 100 list, let alone makes the list, could well have a bright future ahead of them in the major leagues. If he stays healthy, Loux should be a better version of what Colby Lewis is for the Rangers now.
Previous installments in the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects:
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