In exchange for starting pitcher Bud Norris, the Houston Astros continued to strengthen their organization with the acquisition of outfielder L.J. Hoes and 19-year-old left-handed pitcher Josh Hader from Baltimore.
At the time of the transaction, Hader was ranked No. 5 on the Orioles' Top 20 Prospects list, while Hoes was No. 7. They slid into the Nos. 13 and 18 spots, respectively, on the Astros' significantly stronger list.
Hader builds his mechanics around his physical presence.
Because of his tall and lanky physique, Hader is often compared to White Sox starter Chris Sale. At 6-foot-3, 160 pounds, Hader has a slender, wiry frame that allows him to pitch downhill. Like Sale, Hader hides the ball well, giving the hitter very little time to see and follow the flight of the baseball out of his hand.
Being from Old Mill High School in Millersville, Md., Hader grew up around the Orioles.
In his senior year at Old Mill, Hader had 125 strikeouts on his way to a 10-0 record and 0.30 ERA. He also hit over .400.
Instead of attending Anne Arundel Community College in his home county as he originally planned, Hader signed a contract with the Orioles after he was selected in the 19th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
Hader was able to throw his fastball in the high 80s in high school. But that was then. Now it isn't unusual for him to throw in the 90s.
Hader began his professional career with the Orioles Gulf Coast Rookie League team. He was then promoted to Class A short-season Aberdeen. Combined, he allowed only 14 hits in 28 2/3 innings. All were in relief.
The eye-popping aspect of Hader's rookie season was the fact he struck out 48 batters while walking only nine.
Hader also throws a changeup at 79-83 mph and a slider/curve combination at 73-77 mph. His delivery is very deceptive. He knows how to finish his pitches with good extension and follow through.
Rick Peterson, the Orioles' director of pitching development, has worked with Hader to smooth out his mechanics and refine his delivery. Peterson introduced Hader to a long-toss program that was more advanced than anything he had participated in as an amateur.
This season, Hader had been pitching at Class A Delmarva, once again yielding fewer hits than innings pitched. In 85 innings, all as part of the starting rotation for the South Atlantic League team, Hader gave up only 67 hits. He walked 42 while striking out 79 and leaves the Orioles with an ERA of 2.65 and a WHIP of 1.28.
Hader is extremely effective against left-handed hitters. That may eventually lead to a role in the bullpen.
Hader is a projectable pitcher with the probability of gaining more weight and strength as he continues to mature. Because of his arm strength and good mechanics, the Astros may certainly elect to continue developing him as a starting pitcher.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.