Kansas City Royals prospect Jake Odorizzi is on a roll for Double-A Northwest Arkansas. In his last three starts for the Naturals, he has a 26/4 K/BB ratio in 20.1 innings, with a 1.77 ERA and just 11 hits allowed. How soon could we see him in KC?
Odorizzi was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the supplemental first round in 2008, from high school in Highland, Illinois. A tremendous athlete, he was a shortstop/pitcher as a prep and was also a star as a wide receiver. He passed up the University of Louisville to sign with the Brewers, performing well in rookie ball (3.48 ERA, 19/9 K/BB in 21 innings) and again in the Pioneer League in '09 (4.40 ERA but a solid 43/9 K/BB in 47 innings) as the Brewers brought him along slowly. They bumped up his workload with good results in 2010, resulting in a 3.43 ERA with an excellent 135/40 K/BB in 121 innings in the Low-A Midwest League.
Odorizzi was traded to Kansas City as part of the December 2010 Zack Greinke deal. He thrived at High-A Wilmington in the first half last year, posting a 2.87 ERA with a 103/22 K/BB in 78 innings (note the exceptional K/IP ratio), but had some rough spots after moving up to Double-A, where he posted a 4.72 ERA with a 54/22 K/BB in 69 innings, giving up 13 homers.
Returned to the Texas League to begin 2012, he's been quite good so far, with a 3.48 ERA but a 40/9 K/BB in 31 innings overall, with just 21 hits and two homers allowed. As mentioned above, he's been extremely impressive in his last three starts, with two 11-strikeout performances.
Odorizzi is a 6-2, 185 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 27, 1990. His overall level of athleticism is quite high, and he has an easy delivery that should help him stay healthy. He can hit 95 MPH but usually works in the 90-94 range; the fastball has very good movement, but he also throws strikes. His secondary pitches have gradually but steadily developed and he has a complete arsenal, with a curve, slider, and changeup. The curve and change are ahead of the slider. A fly ball pitcher, he showed some vulnerability to gopher balls last year but has kept that under control this season.
Odorizzi reminds observers of a young Greinke with his athleticism, easy delivery, and strike-throwing ability. His stuff isn't as good as Zack's and he doesn't project as the same kind of ace, but Odorizzi has a good shot at developing into a mid-rotation starter. He should reach Triple-A later this year and could be in line for a September major league trial if he continues to pitch well.