Thomas “Tip” Fairchild isn’t going to top anyone’s list of Prospects to watch in the Astros organization, but there was a time when he was one of the more promising players in the system.
The Astros’ 12th-Round selection in the 2005 Rule 4 Draft – the same class that gave us OF (then-LHP) Brian Bogusevic, SS Tommy Manzella, RHP Chris Blazek, OF Eli Iorg, and C (then-3B) Koby Clemens – out of the University of Southern Maine, Fairchild is an unimpressive 6’2″, 200-pound right-hander.
In that 2005 year, he landed first in Tri-City, where he threw 58.2 mediocre innings, going 3-6 with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. But his 63 strikeouts and just 14 walks (though he did plunk six batters) raised a few eyebrows, and he was advanced to Lexington to start the 2006 campaign. There, he was used more-or-less full-time as a starter, and responded with a 1.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 98 strikeouts to just 19 walks in 109 innings.
That prompted his mid-season promotion to Salem, where he continued to throw well. In fact, at the end of the 2006 season, he led all Astros minor leaguers in wins (14), strikeouts (142), and innings (173), all while carrying the fifth-best ERA, with a 2.45.
2007 saw a promotion to Corpus Christi, and the understanding that Round Rock was within reach for him. Then he felt something in his throwing elbow during his first start with the Hooks.
One more tortuous start later, he was done for the season. That “something” that he’d felt had been a torn ligament, and Tip underwent Tommy John surgery that very year.
He spent 2008 back in Corpus Christi, getting shelled as he recovered from the surgery. He threw sixty-one and a third innings, mostly bad ones. But he seemed to be regaining his control and confidence as the year went on.
He was re-learning how to pitch.
2009 will be a watershed year for Fairchild. A player’s second year back from Tommy John surgery is generally regarded as the one during which they’re finally healthy enough to really be evaluated, at least physically.
So, though he’s fallen off of the organizational depth charts, keep an eye on Fairchild. He might turn back into being one to watch.