I want to see Pat Venditte in the major leagues.
As you may know, Venditte is the only ambidextrous pitcher in professional baseball. A 20th round pick by the Yankees in 2008 out of Creighton University, Venditte was sometimes dismissed as a novelty act in college, but he was good enough in the NCAA (2.86 ERA over four seasons in the high-offense metal bat era, 255/64 K/BB in 245 innings) to get drafted on his own merits.
And he's remained very effective in the minors, too, despite a torn right labrum in 2012, reaching Triple-A this year and performing decently for Scranton (4.18 ERA but 2.34 FIP, 29/9 K/BB in 28 innings).
Here, Venditte gives a scouting report on his approach from both sides:
Yeah, his best fastball is mid-80s, which will understandably make scouts extremely skeptical no matter what side you come from. But somehow, he's made it work for six years now. In 357 pro innings, he has a 2.45 ERA, a 407/95 K/BB and 284 hits allowed. His component ratios have remained steady and strong and he's still striking out a hitter-per-inning in Triple-A. He's doing something right.
Switch-pitching aside, Venditte deserves a shot in the major leagues on meritocratic terms alone. Many pitchers with similar (and worse) performance records get a cup-of-coffee as a bullpen arm at least, even some guys who don't throw hard.
Yes, of course, Freeing Pat Venditte would also be very cool. But that very coolness factor ultimately may work against him in a way, because there could be some hesitation in the average front office to promote someone unusual like this for fear of ridicule.
If you give a guy with a 97 MPH fastball but a bad track record a chance, nobody (except maybe some isolated bloggers) complains if he continues to stink because, hey, 97 MPH fastball. Baseball folk will not look askance if it doesn't work out, even if the guy has a questionable track record.
However, the guy who throws 87 (let alone 83), no matter how good his numbers, if you promote him and it doesn't work, the "I told you so, you dumb stathead" comments will flow. Nobody wants to look bad in the press or draw the criticism of colleagues. Add in extra weirdness like switch-pitching and, well, it's an uphill battle.
But it is a battle that I hope Pat Venditte wins. Maybe this will be with the Yankees; they obviously like him, they drafted him twice and didn't release him after he got hurt. Maybe it will be someone else. But even a handful of innings as a mop-up guy would be a victory, and it is one worth rooting for.
Yes, because it is cool, but mostly because baseball is allegedly a meritocracy, success should be rewarded, Venditte has simply been an effective pitcher all these years, and (most importantly) he may very well continue to get people out.