For those that have never had the pleasure of visiting, this is what you need to know about Lubbock, Texas. It’s quite possibly the flattest place on Earth and the wind blows every day. Some days are windier than others, but it is never still. Sometimes gnarly dust storms blow into town, making for a particularly miserable time. Despite the constant airstream, Lubbock is a nice place to live. Texas Tech University infuses life into the town. The student body is down to earth and always up for a good time. Plus, there are pretty girls everywhere; I married one of them. What Lubbock lacks in scenery, it makes up for in other areas. The music scene is excellent and there is always a quality restaurant or bar just around the corner.
As you would expect in a West Texas town, football is king. Red Raider football games are huge events and the local high school teams are popular. However, there is decent baseball to be found in Lubbock as well. Texas Tech always fields a respectable squad and has produced quite a few major league baseball players over the years. Dallas Barden and Josh Bard are two former Red Raiders that are currently playing in the Bigs. On the high school level, Lubbock Monterey is a Texas powerhouse, winning state four times and appearing in the semi-finals fourteen times.
In last year’s draft, the Rockies picked Chad Bettis, a former pitcher for Monterey and Tech. While I was attending law school at Tech, Chad was pitching for Monterey. Now, I really wish I had gone to see him play. As a second round pick, Bettis was one of the highest drafted Tech players ever. He has the potential to be one of Lubbock’s all-time great baseball players.
In high school, Bettis was a standout. He was recognized as his district’s MVP and earned All-State honors. He was drafted by the Astros in the eighth round of the 2007 draft, but chose to attend college instead. That draft was a disaster for Houston and losing Bettis to Tech was part of the reason. However, Red Raider and Rockies fans are very glad that he didn’t sign with the Astros.
Chad struggled his freshman year at Tech, but still led the team in innings pitched. After that season, he was selected to pitch in the Cape Cod League where he made the most of his opportunity. Against some of the best young talent in the country, he threw 43.2 innings with a 2.68 ERA. He struck out 39 hitters and allowed only one homerun.
In 2009, Bettis emerged as one of the better pitchers in the Big 12. He started the season in Tech’s rotation, but was moved to the bullpen, where he excelled as the team’s closer. He went 6-1 on the season with 7 saves and a 3.59 ERA. That following summer, he served as the closer for the USA Collegiate National Team and yet again rose to the occasion. While with Team USA, he held opposing hitters to a miniscule .100 batting average. Last year with Tech, Bettis was an occasional starter, but mostly the closer. He was second on the team in appearances and innings pitched, while leading the Red Raiders in ERA and strike-outs.
The Rockies believe Bettis has the tools to be an excellent reliever, but are giving him a chance to prove that he can be a big league starter. He made twelve minor league starts last year and pieced together a dominant debut season. He started the year with Tri-City and made nine starts, winning four of them. He was so successful with the Dust-Devils that, before the season ended, he was promoted to Asheville, where he made three starts for the Tourists. On the year, he pitched 67 innings with a 1.07 ERA and 56 strike-outs.
Bettis has solid mechanics and a smooth delivery. His best pitch is his fastball. As a starter, he routinely throws in the low to mid-nineties, but can crank it up higher when he comes out of the bullpen. His fastball has movement on the end of it and he has decent control. His secondary pitch is a slider. At times it can be filthy, but occasionally he will overthrow it. That’s something that he will learn to correct. Additionally, Chad is working on a change-up, but still needs time to develop the necessary touch and command to throw a good one.
Expectations for Chad are high. According to Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, he is one of the Rockies’ ten best prospects. I agree. Whether he will be a starter or reliever depends on his development of the changeup. If he can get a handle on the delicate pitch, he will have a tremendous arsenal for a Major League starter. If his change-up doesn’t develop, his big-time fastball and dangerous slider will serve him quite well as a reliever.
The Rockies will probably have Bettis start next year with Modesto, although he could skip High A and go straight to Tulsa if he has a good enough spring. Potentially, Modesto will have Tyler Matzek and Bettis as their top two starters. That will make Nuts’ games a high priority for any minor league scout. The California League is very tough to pitch in and will serve as a great test for Matzek and Bettis. Good luck to both of them next season. Wreck ‘em, Chad!
Topics: Asheville Tourists, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Big 12, Cape Cod League, Chad Bettis, Colorado Rockies, Dallas Braden, Houston Astros, Josh Bard, Lubbock Monterey High School, Modesto Nuts, Red Raiders, Texas Tech University, Tri-City Dust Devils, Tulsa Drillers, Tyler Matzek, USA Collegiate National Team, West Texas