Name: Jake Odorizzi
Notable 2011 Stats: 2.87 ERA, 2.15 FIP, 4 HRA, 22 BB, 103 K, and 40% GB% in 78 1/3 IP with Wilmington (High-A);
4.72 ERA, 5.09 FIP, 13 HRA, 22 BB, 54 K, and 30% GB% in 68 2/3 IP with Northwest Arkansas (AA);
3.73 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 17 HRA, 44 BB, 157 K, and 35% GB% in 147 IP total
Why He’s This High: Odorizzi had a huge first half of the season, completely dominating the Carolina League with nearly 12 K/9; that came on the heels of a big 2010 in the Brewers organization, where he punched out over 10 batters per nine in Low-A.
The righthander continued to maintain a good K/BB ratio in Double-A at age 21, and he’s kept his walk rates below 3.00 BB/9 each of the last three years. He has an easily repeatable delivery that allows him to spot pitches well, and his short, quick arm action creates some deception.
Odorizzi has the makings of three average or better pitches in his low-90′s fastball, big overhand curve, and fading changeup. He’s still somewhat projectable and could grow into another tick of velocity as he matures. He’s an athletic pitcher who’s big enough that durability shouldn’t be much of a concern, and he threw 147 innings this season to back that up.
Why He’s This Low: The significant blemish on Odorizzi’s season is that he struggled to keep the ball in the park in Double-A, which led to an elevated ERA and FIP. Certainly, the Northwest Arkansas ballpark isn’t the easiest place to pitch, and the Texas League itself is known as the most hitter-friendly of the three Double-A circuits, but the problem runs deeper than that. Statistically, Odorizzi’s groundball rate dropped from a decent 40% in High-A to a very dangerous 30% in Double-A. From a scouting perspective, Odorizzi’s high arm slot and lack of fastball movement make it easier for batters, particularly lefthanders (who hit nine of the 13 HR he allowed in Double-A) to launch the ball when he misses his spot.
The drop in his strikeout rate (11.83 to 7.08 K/9) from High-A to Double-A also is concerning. We shouldn’t overreact to it–a similar thing happened to Brad Peacock last year, and then he came out in 2011 and absolutely dominated Double-A–especially for someone this young, but that does cast some doubt on how much of a strikeout pitcher he’s going to be in the big leagues. While all three of his offerings show glimpses of being plus pitches, none of them is a reliable swing-and-miss pitch against upper-level batters.
Conclusions: What you think of Odorizzi depends on what you think about his Double-A struggles. On one hand, the jump to Double-A takes some adjustments, and it’s particularly tough to move to the Texas heat in midsummer, shooting past your career high in innings pitched, and seamlessly adapting to the higher quality of opponent. On the other hand, Odorizzi wasn’t the flashiest pitcher to begin with, and the Texas League hitters exposed some serious weaknesses in his skillset.
At his age, Odorizzi has plenty of time to adapt–he turns 22 just before Opening Day this year, and he could make it to Kansas City at some point during the season if he can revert to early-’11 form. It would take some dramatic steps forward for him to become an ace, but he could be a legitimate #2 starter if his command improves and he can avoid the long ball.
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