|Video: Napoli Beaned, Homers into Fifth Deck in 7-Run 11th Inning for Red Sox||Struggling Season Continues for Xander Bogaerts||Report: Patriots Trade Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay||Red Sox Have Decisions to Make and Money to Spend this Off-Season|
Daniel Bard projects as a late inning blow-the-hitter-away relief pitcher. When you can throw a fastball at 100 mph, batters are going to miss. The question has been: will it blow away major league hitters? This year Bard has made steps towards answering that question with a resounding “yes.” With Bard likely starting the year at AAA, he’ll only be a strong performance away from being mentioned for a call up.
In 2007, Daniel Bard looked like a 2006 first round bust. As a starter he struggled finding the strike zone, walking 78 in 75 innings. In the Hawaii Winter League, the Red Sox converted Bard to a reliever. For the Honolulu Sharks, he pitched 16.2 IP with a 1.08 ERA. Although he still had control troubles (8.1 BB/9), this was the start of a turn around for Bard.
In 2008, Bard began at High-A ball in Greenville and absolutely dominated in 15 games. Over 28 innings he struck out 43 batters and only walked 4 while maintaining a 0.64 ERA. After the performance he earned a promotion to the AA Portland Sea Dogs.
In AA his control problems reemerged but it didn’t stop him from being effective over 31 games. With a BB/9 4.71, he managed a 1.99 ERA, largely helped by his opponent batting average against of .179. Besides his walks he was exceptional. His K/9 was 11.6 and he had only 3 HRs against in 49.2 IP. The stellar numbers ended with the Red Sox naming Bard the Minor League pitcher of the year.
Baseball America, who named Bard to the Minor League All-Star 1st Team as a RP, said, “He was unhittable when his stuff was down in the zone, and he was the league’s hardest thrower, regularly hitting 99-100 mph. Even with his velocity, he has to keep his fastball and hard slider down because his delivery lacks deception.”
Sox Prospects‘ view on Bard:
Live arm with a smooth delivery, although he needs to work on keeping a consistent release point. His fastball looks effortless, and consistently hits 97-98 with decent command but minimal movement. When he reaches back, he can apparently hit 101 mph on the gun. Two-seamer shows a bit more break and sits in the low-to-mid 90s. Secondary pitches are decent, but need a lot of refinement, including: (1) a high 80s cut fastball; (2) an 84 mph slider; and (3) a circle change with some downward movement. Previously Bard’s breaking pitch was a high 70s slurve, but it was converted to a slider with more velocity in mid-2008. Needs some improvement on keeping all of his pitches down in the zone. Struggled through major control issues throughout the entire 2007 season, particularly with his slurve Has a strong frame and a mature demeanor, but has some confidence issues. Bard took well to a bullpen role in the Hawaii League in 2007, and was converted to a full time reliever in 2008. He changed his delivery by lowering his arm slot prior to the 2008 season, adding a little bit of life to his fastball.
Bard has closer stuff, but not the control to be effective under pressure. He’ll be a perfect candidate for an opportunity in 2009. Like Masterson, Bard could be the help the bullpen down the stretch.
If Bard can maintain his walk rate, the sky is the limit. Bard is still just 23 and has room to develop. Luckily, he only needs to work on his control and his naturally dominant stuff will there.
Potential Career Year Numbers: 80 IP, 75 K, 2.85 ERA, 1.22 WHIP