We're deeply thankful for a guest post on Amir Garrett's progress on the baseball diamond from Jason Cole, a regular in Rumble in the Garden community during basketball season and Rangers' writer.
Garrett was drafted and signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a pitcher last year before coming to St. John's as one of Steve Lavin's talented athletic wings. Amir moved up from rookie ball in Arizona to Single-A baseball in Montana for a pair of starts before returning to Queens to get ready for the upcoming hoops season. Enjoy! - Pico
Hey guys, I’ll start this with a quick introduction. You may have seen me commenting here before. My name is Jason Cole, and I cover the Texas Rangers’ baseball organization at LoneStarDugout.com. We’re part of the Scout.com (soon to be FOX Sports Next) network of sites.
I had a chance to get feedback directly from MLB scouts on St. John's basketball sophomore Amir Garrett, and had a chance to see video on the left-handed pitcher as well.
My take on Garrett's ability and future prospects, below the fold.
About JASON COLE
Although I’m originally from Texas and currently living in Austin, I attended St. John’s about midway through Norm Roberts’ tenure in Queens. Despite that, I quickly became a fan of the basketball and baseball teams and loved watching any sort of college basketball at the Garden. I found myself attending most St. John’s games in addition to all the great early-season showcases.
While I’m often around this site during the regular season (especially in the game threads!), my free time for college basketball unfortunately shrinks between March and October.
During the course of the season, I travel to all of the Rangers’ minor league affiliates at least once and do full coverage––feature stories, interviews, scouting reports, scouting videos, and the like. I’m always at least a little intrigued when I know I’m going to run across a St. John’s guy.
In covering professional baseball, I’ve had the privilege of running into a number of Johnnies since I began doing this about six years ago. I was able to directly cover former St. John’s reliever (and fellow sports management major) Justin Gutsie while he played in the Rangers’ system a few years ago.
I was in Arizona to cover the Rangers’ rookie club. As you all know, Amir Garrett spent most of his summer in the Phoenix area at the Reds’ minor league complex.
Garrett arrived in Arizona around the middle of extended spring training (after the spring semester) but didn’t immediately begin pitching in games. In fact, it wasn’t until July 3 that he made his first professional appearance. He did so without ever pitching in fall instructional league, spring training, or extended spring training.
While the rookie Arizona League is full of young players who have minimal pro experience, the vast majority of them (excluding this summer’s draft picks) have at least played a number of unofficial games at the complex.
Amir Garrett came into this summer with far less experience than most of his peers.
The unique pitching prospect toes the pro rubber
Even if Garrett weren’t a St. John’s guy, I would have been highly intrigued. Not only is he a phenomenal athlete with long arms and a 6-foot-6, 210-pound frame, but he’s also left-handed and produces a fastball that reaches the mid-90s. Garrett is a unique baseball prospect in all aspects. For much of his life (and I’d argue this is still true), his primary focus has been on the basketball court. But the Reds handed him a $1 million signing bonus purely based on his raw talent.
There aren’t many guys (to my knowledge) who have played college basketball and professional baseball simultaneously. Though Kenny Lofton did, he wasn’t focusing on both from the very start of his collegiate career.
Though I wasn’t able to see Garrett on the mound first-hand while I was in Arizona a few weeks ago, I made sure to ask every scout and coach around the league that I could find about the talented southpaw. One scout was even nice enough to show me video from his first professional outing, which came against the Rangers.
Video evaluation - raw and talented
The video showed about what I expected, but I came away impressed. He looked like a guy who didn’t have much experience on the mound. His control was erratic, and just about every pitch came from a sightly different arm slot. But the pure stuff was excellent.
His loose, quick arm produced a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 95, and he showed the ability to spin a quality curveball. The long arms also helped him create some deception in his delivery.
Given the 20-year-old hurler’s lack of experience on the mound, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s much more of a raw thrower than pitcher at this point. While his mechanics are inconsistent at present, his elite athletic ability should enable him to repeat his delivery with time––if he puts enough focus on the baseball aspect.
The future of Amir Garrett's dual focus
And that’s the key. Garrett probably won’t become a major league pitcher if he never dedicates his full-time focus to baseball. If he’s only around baseball during the regular season––and just long enough to make 10-15 starts at that––he won’t have ample time to develop. Between half of the regular season, the postseason fall instructional league, and spring training, he will be missing a lot of key developmental time over the next few years.
I’m not saying Garrett should quit basketball and focus solely on baseball, and I’m not saying he should give up baseball right now.
But it’s going to be difficult for him to excel in professional baseball while getting so little time on the mound.
As we all know, he’s also an extremely talented basketball player with a bright future on the court. Though it’s certainly not a bad dilemma for an athlete to face, I expect he’ll have to make a decision one way or another before his collegiate career concludes.
After speaking with scouts and watching the video, it’s easy to see what makes Garrett a seven-figure bonus prospect. There aren’t many pitchers on this planet with the overall package of talent that he offers. I’m still a little surprised that the Reds were willing to give such a sizable bonus to a prospect who begins his career as a part-time baseball player, but it makes more sense to me after seeing the talent in action.
Regardless of what may happen in the future, I am excited to see how Garrett’s career develops both on the mound and on the court. And I’m intrigued to see how long he’s able to continue playing both sports.
- Jason Cole
Thanks to Jason for his evaluation - follow Lone Star Dugout on Twitter.