previously on obscure relief pitchers of interest:
i got no intro this time. just a pitcher.
first-round pick as a starter out of northeastern by the cardinals back in 2006, seen as one of those "safe" college pitchers that never actually seem to be safe or work out at all. or maybe that’s just me.
was on the young side for a college pitcher, pitching at baseball-age 20 after he signed that year. but never really panned out as a starter. plugged along through the cards system from ’06 until last year, with unremarkable K rates (7.5 or 8 per 9), too many walks, nothing about him ever jumping off the page.
cards bumped him off their 40-man this spring and he got claimed by the rockies, who immediately converted him to relief. (i assume this is done by putting the guy in one of those big fluid chambers like they did with luke skywalker in empire strikes back.) similar to dude from the last writeup, brayan villarreal, this is his first year pitching out of the pen and it seems to really agree with him so far. after 20 innings in AAA this year, basically all of his peripherals have gone from boring to awesome. his K rate’s jumped from 7 or 8 to 11.5. walks dropped to a manageable 3.2 per 9 (ok, that might not be "awesome", but it’s improved, and good enough). and he did it in colorado springs, which of course is a really horrible place to pitch.
that’s all in a small sample, of course, but small samples own. the rockies have called him up a couple of times and the early major league returns are just as good. the only other major league data on him is from 22 innings he threw for the cards two years ago, but PITCHf/x says he’s gained a mile on the fastball, from 93 up to 94, and his whiff rate (SwStr%) has doubled from a lame 5 to a solid 10. uncannily, his K/9 has also doubled from 5 to 10.
so what is he. 6’5″ righthander with, as noted, good velocity (94 doesn’t sound exciting because everybody in prospecting always talks about how their guy "touches" 97, but a 94 average FB by PITCHf/x data is actually very good; only the truly elite velocity guys are doing better) who appears to throw harder and miss more bats out of the pen than he ever did as a starter. so the tools are there. the rockies, whose bullpen is a little bit messy right now, already seem to be inching him towards high-leverage work; he got a hold the other day. he’s not likely to hunt down rafael betancourt like the predator in "predator" and take his job within the next three weeks. he still has to get past matt belizzle and josh roenicke in the RHP setup pecking order before he can get close enough to betancourt even to contemplate harpooning him with a wrist sword or shooting him with a triple laser or coating himself with cold mud and hiding on the warning track waiting for betancourt to step out of the bullpen with his guard down. but he might be up for good, depending on how the roster machinations work out, and he looks like he could be a pretty good arm, which makes him interesting, even though he’s obscure.* http://twitter.com/wilymotown