San Francisco Giants right-hander Yusmeiro Petit takes the mound this afternoon against the Colorado Rockies. He missed a perfect game by one batter in his last start, settling for a complete game one-hit shutout, and has been very effective in 26.1 innings overall with the Giants this year, posting a 2.05 ERA with a 30/4 K/BB ratio. Petit is best-known as a cautionary tale of how lower minor league pitching statistics can be misleading, but he's still just 28 years old, there is still time for him to be something more than just a trivia question. Let's look at his past with a Prospect Retrospective.
Yusmeiro Petit was signed by the New York Mets out of Venezuela in 2001. He made his North American debut with Kingsport in the Appalachian League in 2003, posting a 2.32 ERA with an outstanding 65/8 K/BB ratio in 62 innings, followed by a 20/2 K/BB in 12 innings over two starts for Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League. His fastball had just mediocre upper-80s velocity, but his slider and change-up drew strong reviews and his command was outstanding. I gave him a Grade C+ in my 2004 book, writing that we needed to see him at higher levels.
Petit opened '04 with Capital City in the Low-A South Atlantic League, posting an outstanding 2.39 ERA with a 122/22 K/BB in just 83 innings, allowing only 47 hits. He blew away High-A St. Lucie with a 1.22 ERA and a 62/14 K/BB in 44 innings with only 27 hits, then finished with a 16/5 K/BB in 12 innings for Double-A Binghamton, finishing the season with 200 strikeouts and just 41 walks. Scouting reports indicated that his fastball kicked up into the 90-93 range, which was enough considering that his slider and change-up were devastating against inexperienced hitters. Entranced with the strikeouts, I gave him a Grade B+ entering 2005.
Returned to Binghamton for '05, Petit continued to dominate with a 2.91 ERA and a 130/18 K/BB in 118 innings, allowing only 90 hits. He was less effective in three starts for Triple-A Norfolk, posting a nice enough 14/6 K/BB but giving up 16 runs and 24 hits in 15 innings.
I kept him rated with a B+ but included a number of caveats in my reports, noting that he was an extreme fly ball pitcher which could result in home run problems, and that scouts had mixed opinions about him. He was also carrying a lot of weight on his body, up to 230 pounds on a 6-0 frame by this point. He was traded to the Marlins in the Carlos Delgado deal. I warned that he would probably struggle if rushed and needed Triple-A time.
Petit split 2006 between Triple-A and the majors. He performed decently at Albuquerque considering the environment, posting a 4.28 ERA with a 68/20 K/BB in 98 innings, but got killed during his major league time, posting a 9.57 ERA and giving up 46 hits in 26 innings, although he threw strikes at least with a 20/9 K/BB. Scouting reports turned sharply negative, his velocity dipped out of the 90s into the 86-88 range, and there were a lot of "I told you sos." The velocity drop was a serious concern and I lowered his rating to Grade C+. although at age 22 he still had time to fix things.
Traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the spring of 2007, he spent the next few seasons bouncing between Arizona and Triple-A. The home run tendencies were a problem but he did post slightly better-than-league ERAs with the Dbacks, 104 ERA+ in 2007 and 107 in 2008, but he never moved far enough ahead of replacement level (0.2 WAR both seasons) to solidify a hold on a job. A rough 2009 season (3-10, 5.82 ERA) was enough for Arizona to pull the plug. By 2011, he was exiled to the Mexican League.
The Giants picked him up as a free agent and he was excellent in the PCL in 2012, posting a 153/36 K/BB with a 3.46 ERA in 167 innings for Fresno. His ERA rose to 4.37 this year, but he maintained the sharp K/BB with a 99/13 in 93 innings this season, and as you know he's been great in the majors thus far.
So, what do we have here?
Petit is still just 28 years old. His fastball tops out just under 92 MPH these days, but he can locate it. He still has the slider and change-up, and he uses more curve-type slower breaking balls compared to earlier in his career. He's still deceptive when everything works, and it has worked pretty well the last two years in the difficult Pacific Coast League. He still posts excellent K/BB ratios and collect his share of strikeouts.
On the negative side, he is still an extreme fly ball pitcher who is vulnerable to home runs when he makes a mistake, and he will never throw hard enough to have a big margin for error. Petit is basically the same pitcher he has always been, just more experienced now.
Environment can make a big difference. The Giants seem like a great organization for him; certainly San Francisco and the NL West in general (except for Colorado) is a good place for a pitcher with his combination of strengths and weaknesses. And it isn't like he hasn't had success before: he had some good moments back in his Arizona days.
Can Petit become something more than a Quadruple-A fill-in guy? Maybe. He won't be any sort of dominator, but when the stars are right, Petit can make it work for awhile. Although I wouldn't make a huge fantasy investment based on 26.1 innings, it is possible he could run off a good season or two where he throws strikes and keeps the ball in the park often enough to help his team win. Stranger things have happened.
Carson Cistulli at Fangraphs put together this complete look at Petit's arsenal, including video. Check it out.