ANAHEIM, CA: Starting pitcher Jerome Williams (R) #57 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim is congratulated by catcher Chris Iannetta #17 after pitching a complete game shutout against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, California. The Angels defeated the Twins 4-0. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
This game was notable for a few reasons.
One, it was Buck Showalter's 1,000th managerial win.
Two, it was Brian Matusz's first win of the season, as he tries to rebound from last season's fiasco.
And three, it extended the Orioles' push toward mid-season relevance, as they're now 15-9, just a game behind the first-place Rays.
All of those reasons could, in the hands of the proper scribe, be the beginnings of a fine piece of baseball analysis.
I'm going to ignore all of them, though, and focus instead on the eighth- or ninth-biggest story in the contest: the major-league debut of a(n almost) 25-year-old pitcher named William Douglas Mitchell, but better known as D.J. Mitchell.
Mitchell pitched the ninth inning, gave up a couple of hits but escaped with a perfect earned-run average. I had never heard of D.J. Mitchell until Tuesday night; had you? Probably not unless you're a serious Yankees fan, or a serious prospect hound (I am neither, as you know).
Last year, Mitchell was the Yankees' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. But over the winter, Baseball America ranked him as just the 15th-best prospect in the organization (and their fifth-best pitching prospect). But he got off to a fine start this spring with the triple-A Empire State Yankees, and got the call.
A couple of batters into Mitchell's appearance, broadcaster Michael Kay said this:
This is the next wave of Yankee pitchers. Phelps, Mitchell, and Warren. So we've seen Phelps; he's starting against K.C., in K.C., Thursday. Now Mitchell. Warren's still down there...
A lot of people ask, "Well, what about the Killer B's?" Well, they're not ready. Banuelos has been hurt. Betances has not pitched well. Both of them are not putting up glittering numbers. So it's a work in progress; they're still very young.
Again according to Baseball America, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances entered this spring as the Yankees' two best prospects. But they've both been killed in triple-A ... while Mitchell (No. 15 Yankee prospect) and David Phelps (20) have thrived. I'm not sure why Kay mentioned Warren in the same breath as Mitchell and Phelps, as Warren's been terrible so far (if not as terrible as Banuelos and Betances).
None of this means the Killer B's won't wind up being as good as advertised, and better than Mitchell and Phelps; both B's are much younger than Phelps, who's good enough to start against the Royals in a pinch, but isn't thought to have a high ceiling.
My point is that when it comes to young pitchers, you just don't know. You don't even close to know.
And here's another, far different but no less instructive sort of example.
Also Tuesday night, Jerome Williams threw a shutout.
Williams once was an excellent prospect. Well, more than once. Then a Giants farmhand, Williams was ranked as the No. 19 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2001 season, then again a year later, and fell to No. 50 a year later. He debuted with the Giants that season, 2003, and pitched effectively: 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA, and on the 27th of June he tossed a shutout against the Athletics.
That was almost nine years ago. During those nine years, Jerome Williams threw exactly zero shutouts. During those nine years, Jerome Williams pitched for the Long Beach Armada in the independent Golden Baseball League, and for the Lancaster Barnstormers in the independent Atlantic League. He pitched other places, too. Usually not real well. Which is how he wound up in the Golden Baseball League. But he got back to the majors with the Angels last season, and last night he finally got that second shutout.
Is Jerome Williams this year's Ryan Vogelsong? Probably not. We're not blessed with a Ryan Vogelsong every year. But Williams does remind us, just in case we need yet another reminder, that there's no more surprising beast in all of sports than the pitcher. You can only guess when they will fail, or when they will succeed. The best teams seem to be just slightly better at guessing than the worst teams.