FutureBacks Prospect Profile: Jason Neighborgall

FutureBacks Prospect Profile: Jason Neighborgall

In the third round of the 2005 draft the Diamondbacks selected a Scott Boras client who has been described as 'a sure thing,' a 'train wreck,' an 'enigma,' and 'the best arm in the draft.' D'Backs Director of Scouting Mike Rizzo calls Jason Neighborgall 'a steal' and IN A FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT FutureBacks.com profiles a pitcher who throws 100mph, but sometimes doesn't know where the ball is going.

Name Jason Neighborgall
Age 22
Position Pitcher
Bats/Throws Right/Right
Height/Weight 6'5"/205
'05 Club Missoula Osprey

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."

Jason Neighborgall Win/Loss ERA Innings Pitched K/BB HR Allowed

Rookie Level Missoula Osprey

(Pioneer League)

1-2 11.12 22.2 29-45 1

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."

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