Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #12 Christian Binford

12. Christian Binford Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 21
Position: RHP
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 217
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 30th Round of the 2011 Amateur Draft
From: Hagerstown, Maryland

2013 Rank: 21

Landon Adams (14): I was somewhat surprised when I cuddled up to my Baseball America 2014 Prospect Handbook and discovered that Christian Binford landed in the 10th spot on the Royals ranking. Despite having just back end starter potential, there is a lot to like in the Mercersburg, Pennsylvania native. 

At 6'7", Binford's fastball comes at a nice downward plane toward the plate. The heaviness of the ball does a good job soliciting ground balls and limited the number of balls hit into the air. This is evidenced by Binford's 49.2% ground ball percentage. Thanks to his ability to keep the ball on the ground, the former 30th round selection limited South Atlantic League hitters to a .252/.294/.341 line, which was the 12th best on the circuit for pitchers that logged over 100 innings. 

Of course, opponent OPS wasn't the only statistic in which Binford found himself among the league leaders. His 5.2 K:BB ratio ranked 4th in the league. His 1.19 WHIP ranked 7th. His 2.67 ERA ranked 7th. His 2.93 SIERA ranked 4th and His 2.66 FIP ranked 2nd. All of this while being the 10th youngest pitcher in the league to throw over 100 innings and the 4th youngest to throw 130+. 

Binford will open 2014 in the pitcher's paradise known as Frawley Stadium in the Carolina League. Look for him to continue to post eye popping numbers before eventually being testing in the second half in Northwest Arkansas.

Paden Bennett (14): Binford has moved up 9 spots on our Prospect Countdown from 2013 to 2014.  The reason is simple; Binford was an animal last season for Lexington.  Binford pitched 135 innings and logged 130 K's compared to just 25 walks with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.  Binford stands at 6'7" so he throws extremely hard right?  Wrong, at least not right now.  Binford sits in the low 90's right now but we could see a velocity increase at some point as he had TJ surgery a little over a year ago.  

The thing that stands out to me about Binford is his exceptional command.  Command for a young pitcher is a very valuable skill to have and Binford has it.  He also keeps the ball in the ballpark with a career HR/9 of just 0.41.  You put his command and keeping the ball in the ballpark together and you have something to be excited about.  I look for him to hit Wilmington at some point this season.

Joe Cox (10):  Binford just cracked the top ten list for me after a phenomenal 2013 season in which Binford led the South Atlantic League in FIP and was third in ERA.  Binford racked up 135 innings over 23 starts, following his small sample 2012 trend of limiting walks and home runs, and adding the ability to strike people out at a very good rate.  The 6’7 pitcher throws in the low 90’s with his fastball, which from all reports look to be his best pitch.  He is still just a bit over a year removed from TJ surgery, so there seems to be some upside on a potential velocity increase.  With a K/BB rate of 5.20 and an ability to limit home runs (8 HR allowed in 175 career IP) Binford looks like a prospect that could be on the rise.  While it seems that his stuff will limit his upside, he has dominated thus far at both levels he has seen.

Dan Ware (13):  Recently turned 21, Christian Binford moves up nine spots on our Prospect Countdown, thanks in large part to an astonishing season in 2013.  During his stint with Lexington, he compiled a 2.67 ERA in 135 innings on the mound, racking up 130 strikeouts and 25 walks, while allowing just 7 HR.  Those type of numbers can easily move you up on the prospect radar.

Binford most definitely will be a pitcher to keep your eye on in the coming months.  As Joe mentioned already, the Hagerstown native will not overpower you with high heat.  He'll sit in the low 90's, but considering his age and his 6'7" frame, he could always add 1-2 mph in velocity down the road.  The attribute that is most exciting about this young man is his exceptional command.  Binford's BB rates are off the charts.  Last season, his BB% of 4.5 was half of the South Atlantic League average, while his career BB% is sitting pretty at just 4.0%.  Not only does he limit his walks, but his career HR/9 of just 0.41 is another key ingredient to his success.

I'm expecting a very good season out of the 21 year old for the 2014 season.  He'll most likely join the Wilmington Blue Rocks staff.  With the Carolina League being very pitcher friendly, his BB and HR/9 rates, there's no reason why he can't have an even better season than last year.

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): You have to feel good about a scouting department that can land a potential big leaguer in the 30th round. Sure, Binford was considered a higher round talent, but the Royals made a priority to talk him out of going to the University of Virginia. 

So far, Binford has exceeded expectations. He is not overpowering, but should continue to get stronger as he grows into his 6-foot-7 frame. His body is ideal for an innings-eater and it appears that he can offer that. Binford was extremely effective over a long stretch from late April to early August last season. In fact, he did not allow more then two earned runs in an outing for 19 consecutive starts. Entering his 21st start of the season, Binford had a 1.87 ERA. While he stumbled in two of those final three starts (8 ER and 6ER sandwiched a solid 7 inning, 1 ER outing), there is plenty to be excited about for Binford's future.

Total Points: 73

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