On Monday August 10th Red Sox manager John Farrell had surgery for a hernia. The following friday Farrell held a press conference before his teams game. In the conference he announced that he had a "very curable" form of lymphoma with tears in his eyes.
That same Friday that his dad announced he had cancer, John's son Luke took the mound against the Corpus Christi Hooks. Luke held the Hooks to just one run over six innings while striking out four and walking two.
Six years ago Farrell himself underwent a similar ordeal his father (when John was the Red Sox pitching coach) is now undertaking to cure his illness. Luke's illness wasn't cancer but instead was a golf ball sized tumor in his neck. Luke was suffering from soreness several months after having his tonsils removed. A CAT scan and MRI revealed the tumor in the left side of his neck. Farrell and the doctors were unsure of how serious the tumor was (if there is such thing as a less serious tumor) as it could be anything from a benign tumor to perhaps Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Luke and his parents decided to get a biopsy and possibly remove it. One issue though was the proximity to his carotid artery which forced the doctors to stop surgery after nearly 9 hours. Five days later Farrell underwent a second operation but another issue arose. The doctor would attempt to access the tumor through the original incision or he would have to go through Luke's jaw. If the latter option was chosen Luke would have had his jaw broken, several teeth removed, and a tracheotomy. Fortunately the original incision was acceptable.
The tumor was removed, but as always that's only the first step to recovery. Farrell mostly slept as he was constantly on pain killers and ended up losing 25 pounds, dropping his weight from 200 lbs to 175. Luke's brother Jeremy was an 8th round pick by the Pirates in 2008 out of the University of Virginia. He invited Luke to stay with him in the baseball offseason to rebuild his strength, add weight, and begin pitching again. Luke was just a few months away from attending Northwestern University on a baseball scholarship.
Luke was somewhat back to strength his Freshman year at Northwestern, but had a rough season. He made just four starts (11 relief appearances) and posted an 11.00 ERA with 13 walks and 13 strikeouts over 18 innings. His sophomore season would go better though after Luke worked hard in the offseason, harder than his previous one. Farrell would throw 81 innings with a 3.33 ERA with twice as many strikeouts as walks.
In 2011 Farrell would then go play summer ball in the prestigious Cape Cod league for the Wareham Gateman as a reliever and starter with mixed results of a 4.45 ERA. Before pitching a playoff game for Wareham, Farrell followed up with a routine exam.
After his surgery in 2009 the doctors told Luke his tumor wouldn't come back, ever. However it did return and Farrell was forced to have surgery again. This time he was at risk of being paralyzed or possibly losing use of his throwing arm. The surgery was successful a second time but it was coupled with radiation therapy which weakened Luke more than the original surgery, but he again fought back to return to the mound and his commitment to Northwestern baseball.
He would again struggle in his post-surgery return, posting a 6.10 ERA as a part time starter/reliever. His always fringey command took a step backwards, but Farrell managed to strike out nearly nine batters per nine innings but walked 4.5 per nine.
The capstone of his college season would come early in the season as he pitched a complete game shutout against Michigan at Wrigley Field in April. In his senior season Luke would was the Saturday starter on an underwhelming Northwestern team, but would put up the best numbers for the Wildcats rotation. He compiled a 2.13 ERA over a career high 84 innings, calming his walk rate down to 2.77 BB/9 with an 8.54 K/9.
The Royals would draft him 174th overall in the 6th round of the 2013 draft.
Results have been mixed so far for him, being unable to sustain success consistently through different levels, bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen. The walks have been better recently but he's also 24 years old with an underwhelming strikeout rate in AA, but a decent ERA/FIP.
In his junior year of high school Luke's fastball ran between 79-82 MPH with a low-70's curveball and slower changeup. Now Luke is more 90-92 MPH with the occasional 94 MPH, introducing a cutter more often while improving his curveball in both velocity and shape.
The legend goes that growing up around his baseball dad, Luke learned his curveball from Josh Beckett, his cutter from Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, and his changeup from Curt Schilling. That might not be a tall tale, but it's a little bit more anecdotal than actual.
Farrell recently turned 24 years old and that certainly puts him above the average age of true prospects in AA but if you believe in development age then Farrell could be as young as 21 or 22 years old. There's no doubt Farrell had a setback in his development and it thankfully wasn't due to an arm injury that brings future scare and doubt to staying on the mound.
This past winter I ranked Farrell as the Royals 30th best prospect and with a bit of good results and some attrition Farrell moved up to 21st on my midseason list. It's tough to envision Farrell as a reliable mid-rotation starter for the Royals, but there's a shot he could be a back end 5th guy or a reliever in the majors (assuming a hole eventually opens). He's a prospect of some manner, but not quite a top prospect yet and still in wild card status.