PHILADELPHIA -- Andrew Painter is only 19 years old, and he is only 14 months removed from being the Phillies’ first-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft.
What a time it was.
“It’s all moving pretty fast,” Painter said Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, where he received the Phillies’ Paul Owens Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award. “It’s kind of hard to get a grip on it. I was thinking about it earlier, how this first year has gone by quick, but it’s also weird to think how, in the beginning of the year, I was in Clearwater, then I was at three different locations. But it’s definitely moved quickly.”
If Painter thought the past 14 months went fast, he might not believe what the next 12 months might look like. Because Painter, who is the club's top prospect and the No. 24 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is a good bet to be in the Phillies’ rotation at some point next season, if not by Opening Day.
Yes, he is that good.
“I mean, 100% if they’re ready for that,” Painter said. “It’s whatever they do. I just do what they tell me to do and be ready whenever they are.”
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said before the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline that he would not trade Painter, Mick Abel or Griff McGarry because he believed at least one of them could be in the rotation next season. Dombrowski has promoted young pitchers in the past, so it is not just hyperbole. Andrew Miller pitched for the eventual AL champion Tigers as a 21-year-old in September 2006. Josh Beckett, whom Painter has been compared to, pitched for the Marlins as a 21-year-old in September 2001.
Painter went a combined 6-2 with a 1.56 ERA in 103 2/3 innings with Single-A Clearwater, High-A Jersey Shore and Double-A Reading. He struck out 155 and walked only 25. Painter is the first Phillies’ Minor Leaguer to post a sub-1.60 ERA (minimum 100 innings) with 145 or more strikeouts since Cole Hamels in 2003.
Those are video game numbers.
“It’s cool to look at,” Painter said. “But I try to block it out, because my thing is, once you look at it and start to realize what you’ve done, then it gets a whole lot harder. So try to block it out and worry about that next start. But it was an impressive stretch and it felt good.”
It was especially impressive because Painter achieved a preseason goal by pitching 100 innings for the first time in his life.
He never tired.
It was his biggest improvement, he said.
“I kind of learned how important it was to get ahead early and how much easier it makes it,” he said.
Painter is learning how important it is to maintain his body, too. He said it is a priority this offseason.
“Really, I think it's just work ethic,” he said. “Making sure I'm not going through the motions. Making sure there is attention to detail in every little thing you do. Prioritizing the arm care. Starters here are going 150-200 innings, so to be able to go through that workload, you have to be able to sustain that.”
Painter already has a good role model in likely future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander. They work out at Cressey Sports Performance in Florida in the offseason.
“Just seeing his work ethic off the field is really cool to see,” Painter said.
Dombrowski’s Tigers drafted Verlander with the second overall pick in the 2004 Draft, by the way. Verlander made his big league debut in 2005.
There is no reason to think Painter cannot join Verlander, Beckett and Miller as one of Dombrowski’s fast risers.
“I'll just go into the offseason like I always do,” Painter said. “Get back to the weight room and prepare for next season and Spring Training. Whether that's Double-A, Triple-A or [the Majors] throughout the year, it's going to be the same thing, pitching every sixth day. Just worry about that.”