Name: Jeurys Familia
Notable 2011 Stats: 1.49 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 1 HRA, 8 BB, 36 K, and 49% GB% in 36 1/3 IP with St. Lucie (High-A);
3.49 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 10 HRA, 35 BB, 96 K, and 40% GB% in 87 2/3 IP with Binghamton (AA);
2.90 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 11 HRA, 43 BB, 132 K, and 43% GB% in 124 IP total
Why He’s This High: Familia is a big power pitcher who blazed through two levels in 2011 and should be set to open 2012 in Triple-A as a 22-year-old. In 2008-09, he failed to capitalize on his strikeout potential, and in 2010 he had control issues, but 2011 was the season he put both elements together, striking out well over a batter per inning and maintaining a solid walk rate.
Familia boasts two plus pitches in his fastball and power curve. The heater comes in in the low-to-mid-90′s, and the breaking ball is devastating on righthanders with late, sharp break. Here’s a quick look those two offerings in action:
Familia has a durable frame that suggests that he could be a workhorse. He could be poised for a Michael Pineda-esque debut season in 2013 provided everything goes well in Triple-A this year–he could even be up in mid-2012 if he dominates the IL.
Why He’s This Low: There are three issues with Familia that keep him out of the top group of MLB pitching prospects.
The first is that, as I mentioned above, he’s only shown the ability to both get strikeouts and avoid walks for one season out of four. It’s certainly a positive sign that he managed to take that step, but it’s by no means a guarantee that he’ll be able to hang onto those gains. Just look at Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Chris Archer for examples of guys who curbed control problems for one year at the High-A/AA levels before backsliding bigtime. Familia must show that he can keep his gains before we can erase his previous track record from evaluations of his potential.
The second issue is that he doesn’t have much of a changeup. As Pineda showed in 2011, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to succeed, but it would certainly be helpful to see him get a better third pitch to help him with lefthanders; without one, he has less of a chance to end up as a true front-of-the-rotation guy.
Perhaps the most concerning problem, though, is Familia’s delivery.
What a mess. I don’t think there’s a single pitcher on this top 100 list whose delivery worries me more than Familia’s. In terms of his command, it works fine–he’s able to keep a decent line to the plate–but all of his velocity is generated purely from his arm, as his lower body is a complete afterthought in his motion. I don’t often predict injuries for pitchers, but it’s tough for me to imagine somebody doing that for 200 innings a year for three or four seasons and not having some sort of major breakdown.
Conclusions: Familia is fairly close to the majors, and he’s got two very dynamic pitches that could probably give major league hitters trouble right now (in a bullpen role, at least). Still, there are some major concerns with his consistency and durability, as he’s never thrown 140 innings in a season and has only put together one statistically excellent campaign. His upside is certainly enticing, but there are a fair amount of warts here. I can see Familia as sort of a righthanded Francisco Liriano–a pitcher who occasionally dazzles but often frustrates.
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