I expect to be writing a lot on this guy, and not just because he is a controversial pick. So let’s get that controversy off the table right away.
When the Cubs took Simpson with their first round pick in the 2010 draft, there was no consensus regarding the pick because hardly anyone had heard of the guy. No one had him projected higher than the 4th round (though there were whispers that the Angels were considering taking him much higher). While some did like the pick, objections to taking him centered largely on three things: he is too small to amount to more than a middle reliever, he pitched against inferior competition at a Division II school, and he was taken way too high.
Today and Monday I will take a look at and dismiss all those arguments. I am firmly in the Hayden Simpson camp. I think he was a very smart pick, and I think the complaints against him stem largely from some bad assumptions.
First the idea that he is too small to be a major league starting pitcher and only projects as a middle reliever is so ridiculous I’m surprised any credible writer ever brings it up. Yes, Simpson is “only” 6’0 and weighs “only” 170. That means he is the same size as Greg Maddux. Would anyone like to argue that Greg Maddux is too small to have success as a major league starting pitcher? And how about Tim Lincecum? The World Series Champion Giants’ ace is an inch shorter than Maddux and Simpson. Should the Giants shove him into the middle of the pen because he isn’t 6’4”?
There is no doubt that taller pitchers do tend to have an advantage in the majors in large part because the physics of pitching favor a higher release point. If you gave me two guys who were otherwise identical in every way, I’d probably agree that the taller pitcher has the better shot at success. It is a factor. It is not by any means so dominant a factor that it should negate every other item on a player’s resume and relegate him to middle relief.
Clearly, there is more to being a successful pitcher than height, and a good pitcher will be a good pitcher regardless of height. A lack of stamina was apparently not an issue for Maddux or Lincecum, why should it be for Simpson? There is no reason to doubt this guys ability or question his record of success because of his size. That said, there is no reason to assume because is smaller he’ll mimic the career of Maddux. In fact, there is no reason to assume anything based on his size. That’s my point.
When we consider just what Simpson has done as a pitcher, he looks like a very good pick. But we’ll talk more about that on Monday.