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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Billy Traber

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 9/18/79, Age: 22, Height: 6’3’’, Weight: 190, Bats: L, Throws: L. Acquired: Mets - Drafted in the 1st Round of the 2000 Draft (Loyola Marymount Univ.). 2000 Stats: DNP - Signed 9/1/00. 2001 Stats: (High-A - St. Lucie) 6-5, 2.66 ERA, 102 IP, 85 H, 2 HR, 23 BB, 79 K; (AA - Binghamton) 4-3, 4.43 ERA, 43 IP, 50 H, 4 HR, 13 BB, 45 K; (AAA - Norfolk) 0-1, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K.

Billy Traber is a five-pitch lefty for the Indians that was included in the Roberto Alomar trade with the Mets. His initial signing was delayed last season when a physical turned up some old damage to the MCL in his pitching elbow, so Traber ended up missing out on the 2000 season. (and an extra $1.66 mill.) He really mirrored Brandon Claussen of the Yanks on his rapid ascent through the system this year: same build, same age, similar levels of success. Traber tore through the FSL, alternatively dominated and struggled in the Eastern League, and had one serviceable start for Norfolk at AAA. Even at three levels, the Mets limited him to 152 innings, and the elbow problems have not resurfaced at this point. Traber has three plus pitches in his arsenal: a fastball that he throws between 88-93 mph, a "slurvy slider", as a Mets’ scout termed it, and a nasty splitter. Traber also throws a different curveball (without nearly as much break) and a changeup, both of which need some polish at this point. Billy has excellent control, which is unusual for a fastball/split-based pitcher, at least in the youthful part of their career. In fact, his combination of velocity, control, and penchant for working the bottom part of the strike zone is nearly unprecedented in a lefthander. He hasn’t been nearly as impressive statistically as many pitching prospects thus far, but that combination of skills lends itself to a very high ceiling.

The Indians have two good, young pitchers in Baez and Sabathia, one horse in Colon, one old (and not-so-effective) lefty in Finley, and one enigma in Jaret Wright. Traber will likely start 2002 in AAA for the Injuns, and could very well take Finley’s or Wright’s spot in the rotation sometime during the year. If, as I suspect, the Indians are not in the playoff race in ’02, they may let Traber maintain his rookie status for 2003. Either way, I’d expect him to be taking a regular turn for Cleveland 16 months from now. His ceiling is extremely high, but his likely peak level of performance might be similar to a latter-stage Ron Guidry (after a few mph disappeared from the fastball): fewer strikeouts than in the minors, more homers, but still very few walks. In Cleveland’s rotation of the future, that may only be good enough for the #3 or #4 position, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be a solid major leaguer.


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