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School: Princeton; Class: Senior
Position: LHP; B/T: L/L
Height: 6-0; Weight: 175 pounds
Previously Drafted: San Diego Padres, 45th round, 2010
Background: Tucked nicely between the quartet of Matt Imhof, Reilly Hovis, Brandon Finnegan, and Kyle Freeland, three of whom will be first round picks this June and the other a potential opening round pick in 2015, is Michael Fagan, a little left-hander out of Princeton whose 11.95 strikeouts-per-nine-innings happens to rank third in the country.
Fagan, who stands 6-foot and, barely, 175 pounds, is no stranger to some professional scouts; he was selected in the 45th round by the Padres out of San Diego Jewish Academy in 2010, a point that, up till this season, seemed almost unobtainable again.
The little-lefty-that-could was once the erratic-lefty-that-couldn’t. Find the strike zone, that is.
Following an impressive high school career, there were a lot of collegiate ups and downs for Fagan. A few ups, sure, but mostly downs – a lot of downs.
He appeared in 11 games for Princeton during his freshman season, throwing 27 innings while posting an atrocious 14.33 ERA and walking more than double the amount of guys he fanned (39-to-19). Fagan followed that up with two more seasons of ERAs in the 7.0s and walk rates above 12.0, but the strikeouts started improving, going from 8.89 K/9 his sophomore season to 11.03 last year.
And then something happened. Something…clicked.
This season, out of nowhere, Fagan transformed from the second coming of Steve Blass to, well, an early career version of Blass, the one that had solid average to slightly better control.
Through his 58.0 innings this season, Fagan has averaged 11.95 K/9, a career best, and, most importantly, just 2.79 BB/9, a total that’s about than 25% of his previous career average. And for good measure, he’s thrown three wild pitches; his career mark heading into the year was 32.
Projection: One of the more intriguing sleeper prospects in the college this season, Fagan has more than a red flag or two surrounding his draft status.
First: His track record. Fagan’s level of success extends barely past 50.0 innings. Of one season. Otherwise, he was an absolute mess on the mound. But dominance is dominance, which brings us to the next red flag…
Second: His level of competition. It’s the Ivy League. Not too many quality prospects are unearthed out of the Ivy. Matthew Bowman, the right-hander making his way through the Mets’ farm is the first to come to mind because, well, he’s one the organization’s top prospects (and another fellow sleeper). And, by the way, a Princeton alum. Bowman, by the way, averaged 9.32 K.9 and 2.73 BB/9 during his final collegiate season.
Third: His size. Even for a left-hander Fagan is small.
All of that aside, it’s important to remember — dominance is dominance and it needs to be recognized.
Fagan’s days in the rotation are likely winding down as we speak. He might spend another year or two working as a starter in the lower levels, but his real home is in the pen. If the control issues are truly behind him – and let’s hope they are – the he could be a serviceable left arm out of the bullpen in a few years, alternating between middle reliever and solid left-handed setup man.
Fagan’s definitely worth a gamble in the latter rounds, somewhere between 12 and 15. Think a lesser version of Tim Collins.
Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win player
Floor: Replacement Level
Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low
Draft Projection: Eighth Round
Photo Courtesy of Beverly Schaefer via goprincetontigers.com.