Andrew Painter could accomplish something pretty remarkable. He is heading into Spring Training with a legit chance to crack the Phillies roster. But the thing is, he is only 19 years old. He turns 20 on April 10th. But, if he does crack the roster out of Spring Training, that would leave 10 Phillies games before his 20th Birthday. There is a legitimate chance Painter makes his Major League debut before he turns 20.
The concept of putting a 19-year-old on the mound to face Major League hitters sounds absurd. But that is how good of a prospect this kid is. Painter dominated the Minor Leagues last year. 3 Levels of it. He started the year in Low A. Those hitters had no chance against him. In 9 starts he gave up just 17 hits. So they moved him up to High A. And the results there were not much different. He had an ERA under 1.00 across 8 starts. So they finally promoted him to AA. But his ERA got a bit inflated there. It went all the way up to 2.54. Across 26 starts at 3 levels he had a 1.56 ERA. In 103.2 innings, he struck out 155 batters.
Yea, Painter is pretty good. He isn’t getting this chance to make the roster because the Phillies are desperate. Painter is getting this chance because he earned it. The Phillies haven’t seen a prospect this good in a long time.
So what is the history of 19-year-old pitchers in the MLB? Is what the Phillies are doing smart, or does history say they are making a mistake? Let’s look at 9 other pitchers who made their debut before they turned 20, and how their careers panned out after making such an early debut.