MMN Prospect Time Machine: Philip Humber

By Matt Musico

September 1, 2013 No comments

philip-humberThis week’s prospect time machine takes a look back at a pitcher who was once regarded as a highly touted prospect, and helped bring Johan Santana to Flushing before the 2008 season. A native of Texas, Philip Humber ended up attending Rice University for his collegiate years, and immediately found success. He was put into the starting rotation as a freshman, and put together an 11-1 record, 2.78 ERA, and 130 strikeouts in 110.2 innings pitched. That performance earned him the National Freshman Player of the Year award from Collegiate Baseball, as well as All-America honors from multiple outlets.

He continued to be an important piece of the Owls’ starting rotation, helping them win their first national championship (in any sport). Humber pitched for three seasons with Rice, and in 354 innings pitched, he compiled a 35-8 record, 2.80 ERA, and 422 strikeouts. The New York Mets decided to select him with the third overall pick in the 2004 MLB draft, and he was considered the “safe” pick. New York passed up on Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew, and would have selected Justin Verlander if the Tigers didn’t take him with the second overall pick.

Could you imagine our rotation with Verlander in it? Sheesh. What could have been.

Humber ended up agreeing to a five-year deal in January 2005, officially making him a New York Met. The majority of his first season in professional ball was spent in High-A with St. Lucie (14 of 15 starts), and he struggled to a 2-6 record, 4.99 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 70.2 innings pitched. He went to Binghamton for one start, and allowed three runs on four hits, two walks, and two strikeouts in four innings of work. He ended up needing Tommy John surgery after experiencing elbow pain from bone spurs, which had to be fix with UCL reconstruction.

That rough season took him off the Baseball America map temporarily; prior to 2005, he was ranked as the 50th best prospect, but wasn’t ranked before 2006. He responded with a season the Mets were expecting out of him: 5-3 record, 2.83 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 79 strikeouts in 76.1 innings pitched. Outside of one start in the GCL, he split his time between St. Lucie and Binghamton, which led to much better results.

That solid performance even allowed him to see some big league time, as he made his MLB debut on September 24th, 2006. He appeared in two games as a reliever, not giving up a hit and striking out two in two innings pitched. He was back on the radar for Baseball America, ranked number 73 on the top prospect list before the 2007 season. He would spend most of the season with Triple-A New Orleans in the PCL, pitching to an 11-9 record, 4.27 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 120 strikeouts in 139 innings pitched. He appeared in three more big league games (one start), but didn’t fare nearly as well, posting a 7.71 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in seven innings.

Before the 2008 season rolled around, the Mets struck a deal with the Minnesota Twins to send Humber, Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Deolis Guerra to the Twin Cities to acquire an ace in Santana. Each of those players sent by New York in the trade were currently in the organization’s top-10 prospect list.

Humber hung around with Minnesota for the next two seasons, but didn’t see much time in the big leagues, mostly spending it down in Triple-A. He joined the Kansas City Royals for a season, but it was the same story as it had been with the Twins. His first real chance to pitch and be a full-time member of big league rotation was in 2011 with the Chicago White Sox. He had a decent year (although he slowed down in the second half), but experienced his most success, pitching to a 9-9 record and 3.75 ERA in 163 innings pitched.

The White Sox brought him back for 2012 as their fifth starter, and his second start of the year was one he’ll never forget. He threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history on April 21st, 2012 against the Seattle Mariners, effectively making every Mets fan cringe because they still hadn’t seen a pitcher throw a no-hitter while wearing Orange and Blue.

However, New York fans got rewarded for their patience, as Johan Santana gave a memorable, 134-pitch performance on June 1st, 2012 to give the Mets their first-ever no-hitter.

The rest of the 2012 season went downhill after that for Humber. He finished the year with a 5-5 record, 6.44 ERA, and 1.54 WHIP in 102 innings pitched. He found a home this season with the Houston Astros, but has split time between the majors and Triple-A. He currently owns a 0-8 record with a 9.00 ERA and 1.91 WHIP in 42 innings pitched.

It’s a shame things haven’t worked out for Philip so far like he was hoping. I really thought that perfect game was the moment when everything “clicked” for him, but that hasn’t been the case. Hopefully, he’ll have a strong finish to the year and he’ll be able to hook on with the Astros, or another team, next year to try and find his 2011 form again.