Andrew Painter, the Phillies' most exciting pitching prospect since Cole Hamels, was at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday to collect the Paul Owens Award as the outstanding pitcher in the organization's minor league system for 2022.
Owens, the late, great World Series championship executive and Phillies legend, would have loved Painter.
"Big right-hander," he might have said as he marveled at Painter's considerable talent.
Just 19 years old and a little over a year out of high school, the 6-7, 225-pound Painter climbed from Low Class A ball to Double A this season and dominated all the way.
It's quite possible that he's right back at Citizens Bank Park next year -- pitching for the Phillies at age 20.
He didn't sound intimidated by the prospect.
"If they're ready for that," he said with a smile. "It's whatever they do. I just do what they tell me to do and be ready whenever they are.
"Whether that's Double A, Triple A, or here throughout the year, it's going to be the same thing. Pitching every sixth day. Just worry about that."
Painter was the Phillies' top pick in the 2021 draft out of Calvary Christian High School in Fort Lauderdale. He has pitched 109⅔ innings as a professional and struck out 167 of the 422 batters he's faced. That's nearly 40 percent. At three levels this season, he allowed just 67 hits and 18 earned runs while striking out 155 and walking just 25 in 103⅔ innings. Painter does all this with a four-pitch mix, including a high '90s fastball, a wipeout slider, a knee-buckling curveball and an improving changeup.
Painter still has ground to cover in the development process, but the big-league comparable that educated eyes have used is Justin Verlander. Not bad.
Dave Dombrowski, the Phillies' president of baseball operations, made Painter an untouchable at the trade deadline. Ditto for 21-year-old Mick Abel and 23-year-old Griff McGarry, two other power arms that pitched at Double A and beyond this season. All three are likely to be in big-league spring training camp in February. All three could make it to the majors next season. Dombrowski has indicated as much, citing his past willingness to bring young pitchers to the majors quickly, provided they show a readiness. Earlier in his career, Dombrowski brought 21-year-old Josh Beckett to the majors. Later, he brought 20-year-old Rick Porcello to the majors.
Back in spring training, director of player development Preston Mattingly talked about the importance of Painter, Abel and McGarry staying healthy all season and building a workload. Abel pitched 108⅓ innings, struck out 130, walked 50 and gave up 94 hits between High Class A and Double A. Painter and Abel are done for the season. McGarry is with Triple A Lehigh Valley, working as a reliever because the big club wanted to see him in that role. The late-season shift from starter to reliever will prevent him from getting to 100 innings. He has struck out more than 13 batters per nine innings this season.
Painter acknowledged that his first full season of pro ball went by quickly. He's eager to see what's next. He will spend the offseason trying to add strength to his lower body and working on his arm care.
"It's about work ethic," he said. "Starters here are going 150 to 200 innings, so to be able to go through that workload, you have to be able to sustain that."
Painter will spend the winter working out at Cressey Sports Performance near his South Florida home. Interestingly, Verlander also works out there.
"I like Verlander," Painter said when asked if he models himself after any particular big-leaguer. "Who doesn't?"
Slugging first baseman Darick Hall won the Paul Owens Award on the position-player side. He's in the midst of a 27-homer season at Lehigh Valley. He also hit nine homers in the big leagues.