February 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves, Prospects
Earlier today, Keith Law’s rank of the top-100 prospectsand top-10 prospects per team were released. He ranked Arodys Vizcaino first, which is the first time this has been done by any major publication this year. In fact, in the aggregate ranking I compiled earlier this week, Teheran was ranked first by every writer.
Here is a comment Law had about Vizcaino:
He will pitch at 92-96 mph as a starter and touched 98 in relief for the big club, with some late life up in the zone. His main secondary pitch is a very hard curveball, breaking down hard at slider velocity with two-plane action and depth. He has good arm speed on his changeup and was much more effective against left-handed pitchers in the minors last year, even though he comes from just under three-quarters and gives those batters a longer look at the ball. He accelerates his arm very quickly and gets on top of the ball well but doesn’t get great extension out front.
The fastball and curveball are deadly, which is why it is so easy to project Vizcaino as a late-inning reliever. His fastball velocity was the fifteenth fastest on average last year, which speaks to how hard the young Dominican can throw. The curveball is certainly a plus pitch as well. While the vertical movement is not tremendous for a curveball, he throws it at a high velocity and has solid command over it. Although the velocity is high on the curveball, it is not exactly slider velocity as Law states. Sliders are typically around 7 mph slower than a fastball while curveballs are usually close to 12 mph behind. Vizcaino’s curveball is about an 82 mph pitch, which is about 13 mph off his fastball velocity.
Where I get confused a bit in Law’s report is the changeup. Jonathan Mayo did not mention the pitch in his report, Goldstein called it a below average pitch before last season, Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally said it had potential in 2010 but noted flaws in it, and Newman has also talked to a scout that called him a “sure fire bullpen arm.” It is doubtful that scouts would not be calling Vizcaino a bullpen arm if his third pitch was as good as Law suggests.
I had not read anywhere last year that his changeup developed to where it was “much more effective against left-handed pitchers in the minors last year.” Law obviously meant left-handed batters, but I am uncertain of the accuracy of the rest of the statement as well.
How many times did he see Vizcaino pitch last year? If he saw that the changeup develop in the small amount of appearances he saw, why would he not simply say how or why he thought the pitch improved?
This was not an in depth scouting report, and maybe we can contact Keith and see if he can expand upon his reasoning. Still, I am unsure of how much the pitch has developed. Of the 317 pitches he threw for the Braves last year, just seven were changeups. That is taken from a small sample size, and as a reliever with his two-pitch arsenal he does not need to throw the third pitch frequently. However, if the pitch had developed as Law stated, it probably would have been thrown more frequently than on 2% of his pitches.
While I am unsure if the pitch actually has developed, I do understand that there is certainly room for it to reach a quality level. If the Braves do need Vizcaino to start in 2013 or later, moving him from the bullpen to the rotation is an option. The big key will end up being the changeup, and it will be hard for him to develop it if he is not throwing it more than one or two times per 100 pitches. My expectation is that either the changeup becomes a more common pitch in his arsenal this year, or he ends up being a reliever long term.