Philadelphia Phillies relief prospect Ken Giles is a player who makes a scout sit up in his seat and take notice. That's exactly what I've done when I've watched Giles pitch in the Arizona Fall League.
Giles can be classified as a raw talent with tremendous upside as a power pitcher at the back end of the bullpen. Not unlike other pitchers capable of throwing at 97-98 mph, he has work to do to command and control his pitches. The right-hander has been inconsistent from appearance to appearance. Giles can strike out the side or issue several walks at a time.
Inconsistency with command is common in young, developing pitchers. Scouts and team personnel project the player's end result at full baseball maturation. So while command issues can be frustrating, baseball history is loaded with pitchers who were wild in their formative years but became stellar as they developed. I see that pattern as a high probability with Giles.
At the age of 23, Giles' power arm allows baseball personnel to be patient with his command development. It takes time to command such great velocity.
I believe Giles is the type of pitcher who will become a prominent closer. But patience will be a key component before success is consistent. He missed time pitching in high school due to elbow tendinitis. Giles entered New Mexico Junior College before regaining his health and pitching form at Yavapai Junior College in Arizona. Yavapai offers an extremely competitive program with good coaching and good facilities.
Giles appeared in 23 games at Yavapai, all in relief. He threw a total of 38 innings and struck out 67 hitters. Giles had a 1.18 ERA while intriguing scouts with a fastball that hit 98 mph consistently.
Not knowing for sure if his performance at Yavapai would carry him to a professional baseball contract, Giles made plans to attend the University of Arizona. His transfer plans were not necessary, however, as the Phils selected Giles in the seventh round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
Giles is aggressive on the mound. He confronts hitters and doesn't waste time. Giles takes the ball and goes about trying to be overpowering. There are times when he tries to throw too hard and he loses his command.
During the Arizona Fall League, I've seen Giles touch triple digits. He has been tracked at Surprise Stadium throwing 100.9 mph.
Mechanically, Giles has moments when his body is in sync and he finishes his pitches well. He has the ability to get the lower half of his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame into his motion. When Giles uses his entire body, and not just his arm, he is more effective.
If Giles continues to pitch at the back end of the bullpen, he can be very successful using his high-velocity fastball and a quality slider. Those two pitches, once further refined, can be all he needs. I have not seen Giles throw anything other than those two pitch types.
Giles has spent parts of three seasons pitching in the Phillies organization. He has compiled 152 strikeouts in 112 1/3 innings pitched. That's impressive. The rose begins to wilt, however, when Giles' 72 walks are factored into the equation. He has an average of 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Conversely, his walk rate is 5.8. That's far too high. Factoring in hits allowed, Giles has a 1.46 WHIP to date.
This past season, Giles returned to Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he finished the 2012 season. In 25 2/3 innings, he pitched to an ERA of 6.31 and a 1.63 WHIP.
Giles was limited on the mound due to oblique injuries. That's one of the reasons he is pitching in the Fall League -- he missed valuable time in his development.
Giles has the power arm for success. Because the potential exists, he has to continue to learn to pitch and not throw.
Ultimately, if he solves command and inconsistency issues, Giles could become a pitcher in the mold of current Phils closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter.