Monday, April 25, 2011

OTF's 32 Most Interesting Prospects: No. 29, Michael Main, RHP

Michael Main was the crown jewel in the Bengie Molina to Texas trade last June. Sure, Chris Ray was nice for like...a month...but when Main was named the player to be named later in the deal, many Giants fans and writers thought they were getting a steal. Molina was obviously proving to be dead space behind the plate, Buster Posey was obviously ready to take the reigns (The Rookie of the Year award being evidence), and Main was a first round pick pitcher who had some obvious upside (See the number of times I used the word "obvious?" That's how much Giants fans wanted Molina traded).

And yet, Main's career has been a series of up and downs. The right-handed pitcher from Florida, and the 24th pick overall in the 2007 MLB draft has really not developed as well as many hoped. What was once deemed an absolute hi-jacking by the Giants, proved to be a questionable pickup, as the Rangers organization probably wouldn't give up a prospect like Main (high pick, pitcher, etc) if there wasn't some "buyer beware" warnings attached. After all, Jon Daniels is one of the best general managers in the game who has really developed the Rangers' minor league talent during his tenure.

Early on in his career, Main lived up to his first-round hype. In a split campaign in Rookie Ball and Short Season Single-A, Main had a K/9 rate of 10.9, a K/BB ratio of 2.62, an ERA of 3.20 and a WHIP of 1.286 in 28 innings pitched. The following season in a split campaign between Rookie Ball and Single-A, he probably had his best season in the minors yet. He made 15 starts and pitched 58.2 innings, going 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA, a 3.61 K/BB ratio (compounded by a 10 K/9) and a 1.108 WHIP.

However, a variety of weird injuries (he got a viral infection) in 2009 seemed to sideline as he made the step up High Single-A ball in the Rangers system. In Bakersfield, he went 4-6 with a 6.80 ERA, a 1.879 WHIP and his gaudy K/BB ratio fell to 1.32. Granted, he wasn't helped by the .350 BABIP, but it was safe to say that Main's 2009 brought up some serious red flags in terms of his future and projection as a prospect.

Things didn't get much better when he was traded to the Giants organization. Despite showing some improvement his second time around in Bakersfield (he went 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.182 WHIP in 15 starts and 91.1 IP), he got shellacked in his promotion to Richmond. In 13.2 IP, he went 0-3 with a 13.83 ERA, a 2.561 WHIP and his K/BB ratio was a dismal 0.50. Main didn't show any of the control or strikeout ability that made him such a gaudy prospect when he was in the lower levels of the Rangers' farm system.

This year, he was assigned in San Jose to start the year, which the Giants probably should have done last year. He is off to a good start (0.87 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 4.00 K/BB ratio in 10.1 IP), but he has found himself on the injury list, which further hinders his development this season. It's nice to see Main find some success, but this is his third go-around in the California League, so you do have to keep his good start in context.

There are some things to like about Main. Though he probably won't duplicate the impressive K/9 numbers he flashed early on in his career, his FIP has outperformed his ERA during most of his stints in the minors (his FIP has been lower in five of his nine campaigns in the minors) and when his control is on (his BB/9 has been under 4.50 seven times), he can be as dominating as any pitcher in the Giants minor league system. Unfortunately, that hasn't always been the case, and his inconsistency with walks and control has been an issue more as of late.

Main still has a pretty decent ceiling as a prospect (though even Sickels admits he was probably vastly overrated by Rangers fans early in his career). He has a power arm and he has shown flashes of good command. However, considering he is still in the California League despite being 22 (he broke into professional ball in 2007 when he was 18) and his shaky health history, Main just seem to be a guy who'll live up to his first round billing. That being said, if he can turn it around in San Jose, and make an adjustment in Richmond some time this season, then Main might have some kind of future in the Giants system...even if it is a shaky one.

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