In conjunction with the SBN Houston Astros blog The Crawfish Boxes, I'm doing a brief series on some of our baseball players who may feature in the MLB Draft. Today, we're starting with Matt Price. Price, of course, has been Carolina's closer since the 2010 season, and he's beloved by Gamecocks fans for his dominant performances in Omaha, including a memorable performance in Game One last year against Florida. But how will he fare in the major leagues? Let's take a closer look.
Price was drafted last season in the sixth round, which is pretty respectable for an aspiring pro. He returned for his senior season in order to see if he could improve his stock, in part by proving his capabilities as a starter.
Price is a power pitcher who has notched more Ks than IP the past three years, including an 83-55.2 ratio in 2010. He posted similar numbers in 2011, although they're a bit down this year. Price also throws a fairly effective slider. He's generally shown good control of the ball over the course of his career. At his best, he's shown a repertoire that could get it done in a variety of MLB roles. It's also worth pointing out that Price is a proven clutch performer in the post-season, something any MLB team wants in its closer. He pitched nine scoreless innings over eight outings in last year's CWS.
After returning for 2012 in order to improve his stock, Price may have actually hurt it. On the one hand, he didn't prove himself in the starting role, although that is as much due to our need for a dominant closer as it is to his own struggles in the starting role. While not dominant in his handful of starts, he wasn't chopped liver, either. Still, one of his goals was to do more work in the starter's role, and that simply didn't happen. On the other hand, his play has dropped off a bit this year. Price has always tended to be a feast or famine pitcher who is either hit hard or notches strike outs, but that's been even more the case this year, as reflected in the fact that he has an unimpressive ERA (3.69) and an extremely impressive OBA (.198). He tends to be especially vulnerable when his velocity is having an off day, which may suggest that he's a limited pitcher in terms of repertoire. Of course, whether these numbers reflect the normal course of things or Price's confused roles over the course of the year is unclear. One other caveat about Price's somewhat lackluster 2012 numbers is that he's generally pitched well when he's had to; for instance, he gave up several runs in a game the Gamecocks had already run away with against Arkansas, which bumped up his ERA but didn't really hurt us too much, while he continues to generally shut opponents down in tight games.
Obviously, players who are proven starters are more valuable than closers, and Price's value--whether he is drafted higher than the sixth round--will likely depend on how well he can convince teams that he's capable of playing that role. That said, Price is a pretty sure bet to get a shot in the pros due to his relief abilities; even if starters are more valuable, everyone needs a good closer, and Price has more than proven that he can get it done in that role. That's why I feel he's a solid guy to take a chance on; you're betting on whether he can be a starter at some point, but if he doesn't, you've got a good relief guy in the bargain.