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The Tenth Anniversary of Jesse Foppert, Amazing Pitching Prospect

There's a Hansel-hot pitcher right now for the USF Dons who started his college career as a corner infielder. His name is Kyle Zimmer, and if he keeps pitching like he has been, he'll probably go toward the top of the first round this year.

It sounds like a great story. Except the circumstances behind it made Baseball America invoke the name of Jesse Foppert.

Foppert didn't have a long pitching track record and still went out in the second round, as our scouting report at the time read in part, "The 6-foot-5, 215-pound righthander has touched 94 mph, though his heater loses its movement at that speed. He gets better life on his two-seamer. His slider has the potential to be a plus pitch, and he shows the makings of a reliable changeup."

Just reading the headline -- "Kyle Zimmer's Rise Evokes Memories Of Jesse Foppert" -- made me spit out my coffee. Then before each paragraph, I'd take another sip and start reading before I swallowed, just so I could spit it out again. It's been ten years since Foppert was the best pitching prospect in baseball. Ten years since he was supposed to come up and lead the carriage himself, helping to the Giants to their first World Series championship since moving to San Francisco.

Year Age Lev ERA G IP BB SO BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2001 20 A- 1.93 14 70.0 23 88 3.0 11.3 3.83
2002 21 AAA-AA 3.46 25 140.1 56 183 3.6 11.7 3.27
2002 21 AA 2.79 11 61.1 21 74 3.1 10.9 3.52
2002 21 AAA 3.99 14 79.0 35 109 4.0 12.4 3.11
Provided by View Original Table Generated 2/25/2012.

Instead, he became the go-to pitcher when talking about how young pitchers are combustable. It's either him or Ryan Anderson -- guys who couldn't even enjoy the brief success of Mark Prior. The thing Foppert reminds me of most, though, is how fortunate the Giants were to have Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner come up in rapid succession. After Ainsworth/Williams/Foppert, I'm glad the Giants didn't get wary of trying to build a team around pitching.

Ten years ago, Foppert pitched a televised game in Pac Bell Park against the Mariners. I don't think I'm exaggerating too much when I write that it's on the top-20 list of the most-anticipated games in my life. I recorded it. I planned to study it.

Foppert was ordinary. The cognitive dissonance made my teeth rattle. Turns out he was pitching on half a tendon, but while the game was going on, I kept looking for the pitcher who lead the minors in strikeouts the previous season. Couldn't find it. Attributed it to nerves.

(Wasn't nerves.)

So raise a glass to what could have been if it weren't for the human body being a total jerk. I wasn't planning on thinking about Foppert today, but Baseball America wrote that piece about Kyle Zimmer. If Zimmer is really good, he could win the Jesse Foppert Award again this year. That has to be a proud and conflicting moment, I'd wager.