Past and Future: If you're looking for a kid to root for, both
for the organization's sake and his own, Neighborgall is the kid. Why?
We'll start with why the organization is rooting for him.
"I've talked to [Missoula pitching coach] Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and we
both agree, you watch this kid and for three or four innings he looks like a #1
Major League starter," says Diamondbacks Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo, "and
then the wheels would fall off."
Neighborgall was taken in the seventh round by the Red Sox back in 2002 as a
high school senior, but the Scott Boras client was looking for a monster deal,
and when the Sox declined he went to Georgia Tech. There Neighborgall
showed an insane arm, touching 100mph in one inning relief stints, but control
was a problem.
That's actually an understatement. At Tech he had 110 walks in 101
innings pitched, and when the Diamondbacks took him in the third round (81st
overall) and shipped him to the Rookie Level Pioneer League things only got
worse, as he walked 45 in 22.2 innings. Confidence has to be a problem,
but mechanically there's a lot of work to be done as well.
Still, Rizzo has never had a second thought about using his third round pick
on an unfinished product.
"To me the upside dwarfed the downside with Neighborgall. You're
talking about a 6'5" guy with an 80 fastball [the Major League scouting scale
is an 80-20 scale, 80 being the best], and an 80 curveball. He was a
Friday night starter at Georgia Tech, in a good baseball conference, and while
some people were scared away because of who was representing him, to see him
there in the third round, that's a roll of the dice I'll take every single time.
If we can fix this kid he becomes the steal of the entire draft."
Rookie Level Missoula Osprey
Pitches: The fastball would have been enough, finding kids who
can hit triple digits on the radar gun just doesn't happen very often, but
Neighborgall features three above average pitches. As a starter that
fastball still runs up there in the 95-97 range, Rizzo rates his breaking ball
an 80 as well because it breaks both down and away to right handers, and his
change up is above average as well. If his mechanics can get straightened
out those three pitches mean two things, he can dominate, and more to the point,
he can start.
ETA: Rizzo refers to Neighborgall as an "exciting experiment"
meaning there is absolutely no timetable on him. The Diamondbacks gave him
a signing bonus more in line with a second round pick than third, so the dollar
investment is there, and the time to develop will be too. Neighborgall
figures to have almost constant attention this fall in Instructs, and barring a
break through he will likely stay in extended Spring Training and start the 2006
season in the Northwest League with Yakima next year. Of course if that
break through occurs there is very little holding him back. His raw
ability is the best of any pitching prospect in the Diamondbacks system, and
once his mechanical and confidence issues are figured out the Diamondbacks
figure him to rocket through the minors.
He's a bit of an 'all or nothing' prospect. If he figures it out, he
could be in the Majors as quickly as late 2007, if he doesn't, he might never
progress past short season leagues. Rizzo knows that, but again, that arm
was just too good to pass up.
"We've scouted him for a long time, known him for awhile. We need to
tweak his delivery, we need to teach him the mental part of pitching, but if
this kid gets the confidence he had in high school back, there's almost no
ceiling to what he can do."