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Prospect Retro: Mark Buehrle

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Jason Gage

Accountant By Day, Sports Analyst By Night

In honor of Mark Buehrle's perfect game, Seven Costanza of our sister site, FutureSox.com, decided to write-up a prospect retro which highlights Buehrle's earlier years. 

Mark Buehrle's early baseball career was far from prestigious as he was cut from his high school team during his sophomore year and later went on to attend Jefferson Junior College in Hillsboro, Missouri.

Mark was drafted by the White Sox in the 38th round of the 1998 first year player draft, but the Sox did not sign him initially and instead decided to follow him for the year to see if his talents warranted a professional contract. Buehrle performed a lot better at Jefferson College in 1999 and was ranked as the 5th best draft prospect in the state of Missouri by Baseball America, coming in just ahead of one Albert Pujols. Mark didn't make it as far as the 1999 draft however as the White Sox decided to snap him up on May 21, 1999 for a low 6 figure signing bonus.

Buehrle made his professional debut for the Burlington Bees of the Midwest League (Low-A ball) and put up some very good numbers including by far the best K/9 rate of his career (8.3) along with an eye popping 1.5 BB/9 and 5.69:1 K:BB ratio (you're looking for a K:BB ratio above 3:1 for elite prospects), however Mark's ERA didn't match the peripherals due largely to an inflated H/9 rate, and this caused many prospect evaluators to be skeptical of his ability. Still, he ranked as the 10th best prospect in the White Sox system coming into the 2000 season by Baseball America due to his advanced command and five pitch repertoire including an 88-90 mph fastball, two types of sliders, a curveball and changeup. He was noted as a potential fast riser due to the advanced nature of his game.

Mark's 2000 season couldn't have gone much better, he was fast-tracked to Double-A to start the year where he pitched brilliantly, posting a 2.28 ERA and 0.944 WHIP with an again eye popping 1.3 BB/9, he was later named the Southern League Pitcher of the Year despite only spending half of the season in the Minors. Mark soon found himself pitching out of the White Sox bullpen and he made his Major League debut on July 16th, 2000, pitching one inning of relief against the Milwaukee Brewers. Buehrle finished with a 4-1 record, a 4.21 ERA and a 1.442 WHIP in his 28 Major League appearances. Despite the successful season there were still things not to like about Buehrle's game, the low K/9 rate for example and the reports of fringe-average stuff meant that many of his naysayers remained skeptical, but that all changed the next season.

Buehrle's transition back into the rotation as a fulltime starter in 2001 was seamless, as he won 16 games with a 3.29 ERA and career best to date 1.066 WHIP. Mark never looked back from there and currently he's on a streak of 8 straight seasons of 200+ innings pitched with 10+ wins and only two of those years has he not had an ERA in the 3's. He's been the model of consistency, a four time All-Star, a World Series winner, the owner of a no-hitter and now a perfect game but for whatever reason, outside of Chicago, he's been one of the most unappreciated pitchers in baseball.

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