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Rookie Review: Gustavo Chacin

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Gustavo Chacin (AP photo)

Rookie Review: Gustavo Chacin

Gustavo Chacin was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela in 1998. He made his North American debut in '99, appearing in 15 games for Medicine Hat in the Pioneer League, posting a 3.09 ERA and a 50/23 K/BB in 64 innings, allowing 68 hits. That's Grade C performance, decent numbers, not wonderful, but credible for a guy making his pro debut. He wasn't considered a top prospect at that point.

Moving up to full-season Dunedin in '00, he went 9-5, 4.02 in 21 starts, with a 77/64 K/BB in 128 innings, allowing 138 hits. The W-L was good, but his other numbers were mediocre, or worse; his strikeout rate was well below average. I did not put him in the 2001 book. He still rated as a Grade C prospect, his best attribute being age-relative-to-league.

Moved up to Double-A in '01, he went 11-8, 3.98 for Tennessee, with an 86/39 K/BB in 140 innings. His control improved, but his ratio set remains just fair-to-middlin. I put him in the 2002 book with a Grade C rating, noting that he was young for the level and could develop into an interesting pitcher.

Chacin returned to Double-A in '02, but did not pitch as well, going 6-5, 4.66 in 35 games, 13 starts, with a 68/59 K/BB in 120 innings. His control deteriorated, while his other component ratios remained stagnant. I dropped him from the 2003 book due to space considerations. He would still be a Grade C prospect.

Back to Double-A for '03, he had another mediocre season, used mostly in relief: 4.41 ERA, 55/29 K/BB in 69 innings. His K/IP ratio improved significantly, although his other numbers remained about the same. This was his third year in Double-A, with no real signs of progress. Still a Grade C guy, at best. It looked to me like he had topped out in Double-A.

Chacin broke through in '04, going 18-2 in 27 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, with a 123/52 K/BB ratio in 153 innings. This was legitimate improvement, although his K/IP still remained below Eastern League average. I put him in the '05 book, bumping his grade up to Grade C+. I have to admit I was suspicious about him; how much of his improvement was real, and how much was because he'd spent four years in Double-A? I wrote that he was "a decent prospect, but not an outstanding one."

I thought there was a good chance Chacin would fall flat on his face if pushed into the Majors this year, but he has proven me wrong.

He is currently 11-6, 3.44 in 25 starts for the Jays. His component ratios are not that hot: 88/56 K/BB in 147 innings, 151 hits allowed. But you have to respect what he has done this year. His splits are pretty consistent: he's pitched as well at home as he has on the road, has been steady from month-to-month, with no sign yet that the league is catching up to him.

Will it? What do you guys think?