06/07/2004 1:32 PM ET
Mets take Humber with top pick
Rice right-hander taken with third overall selection
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
|Philip Humber is one of three Rice pitchers taken among the first eight picks. (Courtesy of Rice University)
NEW YORK -- There was little surprise when the Mets announced that they had chosen hard-throwing right-hander Phil Humber with the third pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Sure, there was some speculation that Long Beach State's Jered Weaver might be a target or even Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew. But when it came time to make the third overall selection in the draft, New York opted for the safe bet and went with the ace from Rice University. It was the Mets' highest selection since choosing Paul Wilson with the top overall pick in 1994.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Humber, a Carthage, Texas, native, went 13-4 this season for the 2003 NCAA champions, posting a 2.27 ERA in 20 games (15 starts). Most impressive, however, were his 154 strikeouts in 115 innings. He finished his college career with a 35-8 record after taking the loss Sunday in the Owls' NCAA Tournament Regional loss to Texas A & M.
Rice teammates Jeff Niemann (fourth pick overall to Tampa Bay) and Wade Townsend (eighth pick overall to Baltimore) were also on New York's radar screen but Humber appears to be the most physically sound of the three and could be ready to pitch in the Major Leagues by the end of next season, though the Mets have never been known to rush their prospects.
"It's something that probably won't ever happen again," Humber said of he and his rotation mates going in the top eight. "Three guys in first round, in the top eight. That's an amazing deal. It's neat to be linked with those guys. There's a little prestige in being first but I don't know if I'm more excited about that or being drafted in the first place."
Much of what happens with Humber now will depend on how quickly he signs. Because he has already logged so many innings this season, it's difficult to imagine him pitching much more or at a particularly high level this summer. Atlanta-based Mike Moye, whose clients include Florida's Josh Beckett and Houston's Lance Berkman, will represent Humber, who just finished his junior year.
"I think coming out of a program like this, Rice is the pinnacle of college baseball," Humber said. "It prepares you for success down the road. I know college baseball is a little lower level than minor league baseball but I gained a lot of experience here.
"It's been kind of an emotional roller coaster. Yesterday was my last game played at Rice, probably. But the sun came up today and I couldn't have asked for a better situation that being drafted by the Mets."
Humber, who was drafted out of high school by the Yankees, and his family were listening to the draft on MLB.com and the emotions started to flow when his name was called.
"Everyone was sitting in living room, listening on the Internet and when you hear Carthage, Texas, New York Mets, the tears are flowing," Humber said.
He has reached double digits in victories during each of his three seasons with the Owls, jumping right into the rotation as a freshman. He has a fastball that averages in the 94-95 mph range but has gone as high as 97 or 98 on the gun. Humber's split-finger is also effective and his drop-off-the-table curveball is the perfect complement for his heat.
"I feel like I have the best curve in the country," said Humber, who grew up watching Nolan Ryan in Texas. "I haven't seen a better one. I feel like I have the stuff to get guys out anywhere. The curve, with the amount of break and sharpness, it's really hard and late.
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-4 W: 220
Born: 1982-12-21 Class: SR
LARGE FRAME. BROAD, SLOPED SHOULDERS. STRONG, DURABLE, OVERALL BUILD. MORE DEVELOPED LOWER HALF. BODY TYPE SIMILAR TO KEVIN MILLWOOD. NO WINDUP, HIGH 3/4 DELIVERY. PLUS ARM STRENGTH. COMFORT ZONE 91-93 W/ RUN & SINK WHEN DOWN. CB, ML OUT PITCH W/ BIG, TIGHT, SHARP 11-5 BITE. CHANGEUP W/ SINK & DECEPTION. OTHER PITCH, SPLIT, W/ SHORT DOWN BREAK. BIG, STRONG, DURABLE WORKHORSE W/ PITCHABILITY & MOUND PRESENCE. STUFF FOR QUALITY RHS AT ML LEVEL.
"A lot of times, guys will have a good curve but can't throw it over consistently. It makes it a challenge for the hitters."
Rice coach Wayne Graham, who briefly played for the Mets as a third baseman in 1964, likened Humber to St. Louis ace Matt Morris in terms of release point and general ability.
"He has a chance to do a lot of things," Graham said. "The main thing is that he has to learn to pitch inside. He'll be able to do that against wooden bats a lot better. Once he starts using the whole strike zone, the chance to pitch in the big leagues is there."
New York has generally opted for pitching during director of scouting Gary LaRocque's tenure. Humber marks the sixth pitcher chosen with its top pick in the last eight drafts. The Mets chose Aaron Heilman with the 18th pick in 2001 and Scott Kazmir with the 15th pick in 2002.
What makes this pick unique, though, is that so many people had a hand in scouting Humber. The Mets have had someone, whether it was LaRocque, director of amateur scouting Jack Bowen or superscouts Al Goldis and Bill Livesey at every one of Humber's outings since mid-March. New York pitching coach Rick Peterson even watched videotape of Humber and provided his input.
"They all had the opportunity to share in the season that Phil Humber had," LaRocque said. "We used all our experience for these initial picks."
Humber was named to the 2004 Louisville Slugger All-America team as selected by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and to the 2004 USA TODAY/Sports Weekly All-America team. He is also one of 10 finalists for the 2004 Dick Howser Trophy, the top player in college baseball. The National Collegiate Baseball Writers will present the trophy to the winner on June 18th.
In addition, Humber is one of 10 college pitchers who were named semifinalists for the inaugural Roger Clemens Award. The list voted upon by the Division I head baseball coaches and selected national media. The winner will be announced on July 15th in Houston.
"Humber matured a lot as a college pitcher," Yankees senior vice president of player personnel Mark Newman said. "His fastball improved. We liked him in high school and did try to sign him, but we drafted him fairly low and couldn't meet the kind of bonus demands he had. He's a good pitcher, and the Mets, we think, are going to be very happy with him."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.