Monday, January 28, 2013

Prospects! part 9: Vancouver Canadians - Pitching

The Ace: Taylor Cole
Top of the Lists: Roberto Osuna
The Big Arm: Daniel Norris
Photo: Sheri Sommerfeld, Vancouver Courier

The biggest thing working against Taylor Cole is his advanced age for Short Season ball of 23.  He was only drafted in 2011 (29th round) but missed a couple years of development due to a Mormon mission.  According to Marc Hulet (of Fangraphs), Cole has lost quite a bit on his fastball (which is now in the 87-90 mph range).  He has a below average fastball but an above average curveball but absolutely dominated the Northwest League in 2012. The numbers are jawdropping: In 12 regular season appearances and 66 1/3 innings, Cole gave up 6 runs, 36 hits, 17 walks and struck out 57.  ERA: 0.81.  WHIP: 0.80.  Cole will certainly be pitching in full season ball and Hulet gives him a maximum projection (with better fastball command) of a back end starter or middle reliever.
Photo: Toronto Sun

If you could pinpoint the fasting rising Blue Jays prospect in 2012, it would no doubt have to be Roberto Osuna (current ranking - #3).  Osuna still isn’t 18 years old yet, but has held his own in the Mexican League as a 16 year old (equivalent of AA to AAA) and seriously outclassed hitters in Rookie League Bluefield and Short Season A Vancouver.  John Sickels and Marc Hulet has him as the #2 remaining prospect in the Jays system (Minor League Ball and Fangraphs respectively) and an author on Baseball Prospectus calls him a “Personal Favourite” while Jason Parks’s ranking has him at the #4 remaining prospect.  Why all this love for Osuna (especially after the Jays gave him $1.5 million as an international free agent)?  He only throws with slightly above average velocity (Hulet says 93-95 mph) but features at least 2 other plus pitches (slider and “splitterish changeup”).  In addition to his excellent repertoire, he is already showing incredible command.  I can see Osuna getting piggybacked to start the season in Lansing.  Oh, don’t forget his first appearance in Vancouver this year.  5 innings pitched – 1 hit, 1 walk, 13 strikeout.  Drool away, Jays fans.
Photo: Allen Greene

Looking strictly at the numbers from 2012, Daniel Norris (current ranking: #2) had a very rough year which, I think the Blue jays organization is looking at as being a learning experience for their young left-hander in his first year of professional ball.  However, he had a very strong strikeout per 9 inning ratio (9.07 K/9 over 2 levels) and had a very high BABIP of .367 and a very respectable FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) rate of 3.81.*  Norris turns 20 this April, so his rough first year puts him behind the rate of development that the Lansing 3 had, but it is thought that he is still refining his rough mechanics and when he gains consistency there, his numbers, on the surface, will improve.  Scouts love his stuff -- he throws in the low 90s and has a good changeup that improved a lot during the season.  Once he improves his curveball, he should be one to watch in 2013.  It will most likely take another year with poor overall numbers for Norris's stock to fall. 

* BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play.  It is thought that pitchers have very little control over their BABIP because they don't really control what happens after the ball leaves their hand.  League average is usually around .300 (give or take 10 points), so a .367 BABIP means that he was unusually unlucky.  FIP is read much like an ERA.  The lower the better, and league average is around 4.00 or so.

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