Technically speaking, RHP Chris Jensen is the only prospect in the deal that sent oft-injured starter Brett Anderson to the Rockies and Jensen and Drew Pomeranz to the Athletics, as he is the only player to still retain his rookie eligibility. But Jensen, who pitched to a 4.55 ERA in High-A this past season and was not named to Baseball America’s list of the top 30 Rockies prospects or MLB.com’s top 20, is an afterthought in the deal behind Pomeranz, a former elite prospect who at 25 now sits on the threshold of the land of busts and failed prospects.
Pomeranz, a fifth overall pick by the Indians in 2010 and the centerpiece of the 2011 Ubaldo Jimenez trade,began his fall from grace the year after he was drafted. Despite tearing through the minors in 2011 (1.78 ERA, 10.6 SO/9), he struggled in four major league starts that September. A rookie performing poorly in his first taste of the minors is not a cause for concern; the alarming aspect was that his velocity had dipped. His fastball used to hit 94, but only averaged 89.6 MPH in his four major league starts.
The rough waters only got choppier from there. In 2012, he was part of the Rockies 75 pitch, four man rotation experiment, and he struggled, going 2-9 and walking 4.3 batters per nine.Then this past season Pmeranz tumbled to an all time low as he was sent to the minors and managed just a middling 4.65 ERA there. He looked even worse after being called up, walking as many batters – 19 – as he struck out.
But Brett Anderson, despite all his health issues, is a premium talent and the Athletics needed commensurate value in return. There is in fact reason to believe that Pomeranz can supply the A’s with this. Despite the poor ERA at Triple-A last year, his peripherals were as good as they’ve ever been. Pitching in Colorado Springs, one of the best hitting environments in the minor leagues, he still managed to strike out 10.0 batters per nine and walk only 3.4. In regards to his stuff, the velocity is mostly back, as he averaged 91.3 MPH on his fastball in his 21.2 major league innings, although its worth noting pitchers throw harder out of the pen and many of this pitches came in relief. His curveball, probably his single most valuable asset, has lost a tick on the gun but is overall just as good as it was when he was a premier draft talent three years ago.
Also in play here is the change of scenery. Pitching in Coors field, Pomeranz allowed an inordinate amount of home runs. He allowed 1.7 HR/9 last season and gave up home runs on 19% of fly balls, well over the league average of approximately 1.0 and 10, respectively. Moving into the spacious Oakland Coliseum, Pomeranz’s home run rates should fall, and with them, his ERA.
Pomeranz is a gamble for Oakland. He has no history of major league success and his performance in the minors has begun to deteriorate, but his arm is still live and his stuff still fresh. The shoe-string A’s had to move Anderson’s eight million dollar contract and Pomeranz has a chance to give them one of the best and most surprising returns possible.