Birds of a Feather Flock… in Opposite Directions

The St. Louis Cardinals’ top two pitching – not currently at the Major League level – are headed in different directions. Adam Ottavino and Jess Todd were both drafted within the top two rounds of the 2006 and 2007 drafts. And both were solid college pitchers, although Ottavino has been a starter throughout his college and pro career, while Todd was converted to a full-time starter in pro ball.

Ottavino, 22, was selected 30th overall in the 2006 draft out of Northeastern University and had a solid pro debut in 2006. He followed that up with another good season, although he was not quite as good as some of his superficial numbers would suggest. In High-A ball, Ottavino posted a 3.08 ERA with a record of 12-8. Those numbers masked some other numbers that were not as impressive, including a 3.96 BB/9 rate and an 8.04 K/9, which is OK but not spectacular for his age, level and experience. So far in 2008, Ottavino has had a rough season at Double-A. He has a 6.08 ERA in 66.2 innings and has allowed 72 hits. Ottavino has also posted 37 walks and 59 strikeouts. He has allowed more than a hit an inning for the first time in his career and his walk rate has risen to almost five per game, at 4.90 BB/9. His strikeout totals are about the same at 8.16 K/9. After allowing fewer than one homer per nine innings in his career, Ottavino currently has a rate of 1.48 HR/9 in Springfield.

On the other hand, Jess Todd, 22, has thrived at Double-A. The 2007 second round pick out of the University of Arkansas currently has a 2.31 ERA in 74 innings pitched with 51 hits allowed. He has walked just 17 batters with 57 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .199 against him and he has a rate of 5.84 H/9. One downside is that after averaging more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings over the last two minor league stops, Todd now has a rate of 6.93 K/9. He has offset that by walking just 2.07 batters per nine innings. If you take out his worst outing of the year, which occurred in his last start when he allowed six runs in 4.2 innings, Todd would have a career ERA of 2.09 with 111 hits allowed in 155 innings.

Prospects Chris Perez and Jaime Garcia have already made an impact at the Major League level this season for the Cardinals and Todd does not seem that far away. He could even find himself in the majors before the end of the season. Ottavino, on the other hand, has a few more adjustments to make before making the next step.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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8 years 1 month ago

Nice work.

Ottavino was slowed by some shoulder issues and missed a couple of starts. Reportedly his velocity is still around normal, so I’m not sure what’s plaguing him exactly. I recent interviewed him at my blog, if you are interested.

I’m not really sure what to make of Todd. After watching him in the Futures Game, his delivery just screams “reliever” but as you said, he’s dominating about every level. He’s a big leaguer, probably by next year, but I’m not sure he’s a starting pitcher.