Name: Arodys Vizcaino
Notable 2011 Stats: 2.45 ERA, 3.08 FIP, 3 HRA, 10 BB, 37 K, and 44% GB% in 40 1/3 IP with Lynchburg (High-A);
3.81 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 3 HRA, 18 BB, K 55, and 49% GB% in 49 2/3 IP with Mississippi (AA);
1.29 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 1 HRA, 0 BB, 8 K, and 53% GB% in 7 IP with Gwinnett (AAA);
3.06 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 7 HRA, 28 BB, 100 K, and and 49% GB% in 97 IP total in minors;
4.67 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 1 HRA, 9 BB, 17 K, and 35.4% GB% in 17 1/3 IP with Braves
Why He’s This High: Vizcaino was already a capable MLB middle reliever in 2011–at age 20. He struck out nearly a batter per inning in his late-season stint with Atlanta, showcasing a mid-90′s fastball and hammer breaking ball.
Vizcaino is a surprisingly polished pitcher given his inexperience, and control has never really been an issue for him–he walked just 2.6 batters per nine innings in the minors. When you’ve got a pitcher with this grade of velocity and this good of a breaking pitch pounding the strike zone, it’s almost impossible for him to fail.
For somebody who touches 98 mph with his fastball, Vizcaino has a very quiet delivery that enables him to spot his pitches well. He does tend to fly open somewhat in his motion, but plenty of pitchers of this type have far more troubling mechanical issues.
Why He’s This Low: Vizcaino has the talent and track record to place a good 20-30 spots higher on this list. The question for me is what role he’ll be used in, not whether he’ll succeed at it.
Like former Braves pitching prospect Neftali Feliz, Vizcaino is a relatively small pitcher who was rushed up to the majors to fill a bullpen role. I downgraded Feliz due to his role uncertainty the year he came up (2009), ranking him 42nd; many readers were outraged, saying it was merely a temporary move and that he’d definitely start in ’10. Obviously, Feliz has yet to make that move, and there are plenty of other recent examples (Joba Chamberlain, most famously) of teams being extremely wary of moving impact relievers back to the MLB starting rotation.
Given Vizcaino’s lack of size, he’s a prime candidate for the organization to “play it safe” with. Furthermore, it’s quite possible that the Braves, who have a ton of young starters around, simply keep him in the bullpen just because he fits best there on their team. And if Vizcaino hits the free agent market in 2018 without having ever started an MLB game, would there be a team pragmatic enough to move him to the rotation? Would he even want to start by then?
If he is going to start, Vizcaino will need to show he’s durable. His small frame does cause concern, as does the fact that he’s never thrown 100 innings in a season, let alone 180 or 200. He also needs to come up with more of a changeup–he barely used the pitch in relief.
Conclusions: Vizcaino has a ton of talent, but it’s significantly less valuable to be the next Sergio Santos (1.6 WAR in 2011) than the next Matt Garza (5.0). It remains to be seen whether he’ll get the opportunity to be the latter, and he’ll need to put the standard durability/third pitch concerns to rest if he does. He’s an extremely talented pitcher who could be a bigtime #2 starter, but the bullpen looms as a big threat to his potential value.
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