In the spirit of the MLB draft and also as a tribute to today's performance by Nick Schmidt (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 Ks and a W) in Fort Wayne, I thought I'd talk about the left handed 23 year old pitcher.
For those who don't know, Nick Schmidt was the 1st pick made by the Padres in the 2007 draft and the 23rd overall selection. Shortly after signing with the Padres (he only appeared in 3 games for Fort Wayne) he had an elbow injury that needed Tommy John surgery. He missed all of the 2008 season and finally got back to pitching at the start of the 2009 season for the Fort Wayne Tin Caps the Padres' Low A affiliate.
As I said earlier, he is 23 years old and will turn 24 in October. This is, as prospect gurus say, a little old for his league, especially for a 1st round pick. Low A is typically filled with players drafted out of high school and in their 3rd year of professional baseball (and thus ~20 years old), international signees in their 4th-5th year of professional baseball (19-21 years old) and players drafted out of college the year before (22-23 years old). Why does it matter? Because, unless you skip some levels then you will have to go through High-A, AA, and AAA before reaching the majors and if you are already 23 then that means you aren't making your big league debut until you're 27 years old, which is a pretty old rookie. Fellow 2007 Padres draftee of college Cory Luebke is already in High A Lake Elsinore (and dominating, which is awesome) and 3 fellow 1st round picks from 2007 who also went to college are in AA (Aaron Poreda, Daniel Moskos and Joe Savery), 1 is in AAA (James Simmons), and 2 (Ross Detwiler and David Price) are in the majors. There's even 1 pitcher drafted in the first round in 2007 out of High School in the majors (Rick Porcello). Suffice it to say, Schmidt will need to skip some levels to make an impact on the Padres in the near future. The last 4 starts are starting to show that he is going to earn those promotions. Some guys skate by doing just enough to get promoted, but shutting out your opponents in 4 straight games is a good way to make the organization want to promote you quickly.
Kudos to Nick Schmidt for battling back. In this day and age, coming back to full strength after Tommy John seems like a near certainty, but its not. I think Cesar Carillo's (Padres' 2006 #1 pick) struggles in San Antonio can show you that some comebacks are tougher than others. I hope he keeps pitching well and gets promoted quickly. The Padres' #1 picks have been the butt of jokes for a few years, but if Nick can be successful going forward he and the Padres FO will have the last laugh.