In a somewhat surprising development, right handed pitching prospect Matt Lollis was recently featured as the 74th-best prospect in baseball, as unveiled by Nathaniel Stoltz of Seedlings to Stars. Lollis, who was drafted in the 15th round by the Padres in 2009, struggled to a 5.35 ERA at High-A Lake Elsinore this past season, but did so while yielding a .350 BABiP in the California League. His FIP was significantly lower at 4.05.
In placing Lollis as high as he did, Stoltz conceded that there would be room for argument, but cited the giant hurler’s projectability and increased strikeout rate as reasons for optimism.
Lollis, however, has thrown strikes and repeated his delivery his whole career, and seems to be the rare behemoth who soothes more headaches than he creates. A four-pitch pitcher, he changes hitters’ eye levels with a low-90′s fastball, big overhand curve, slider, and changeup. He could have two plus pitches and two average pitches in the majors, to go with plus command, good deception created by his height, and bigtime durability–the ideal #2 starter.
In reading Stoltz’ write-up, the first name that came to my mind in terms of a comparable player is that of Detroit Tigers right hander Doug Fister. Fister has used exceptional command and average-to-above-average stuff to handcuff American League hitters, both while in Seattle and in the more hitter-friendly Comerica Park (contrary to popular belief, Comerica actually favors hitters slightly). If Lollis can eventually mimic Fister’s command, he could have great success in the pitcher’s haven that is Petco Park.
Lollis, who just turned 21, has been young for his league in each of his two seasons as a professional. It will be interesting to see where he is assigned when camp breaks for 2012. I wouldn’t rule out a repeat of High-A, given his age, but an aggressive assignment to Double-A San Antonio wouldn’t surprise me, either. The Padres have kept him on a strict innings limit thus far, increasing his workload from 79 in 2010 to 119.1 last season, so he should be on pace for 140-150 innings in 2012.