The Braves received Vizcaino in the Javier Vazquez trade in December 2009. Back then he was just a young, relatively unheralded prospect coming off a solid year in short-season (New York-Pennsylvania League). In 2010, there was a near season-ending injury scare with a right elbow injury. However, he returned to finish out the year. Subsequently, scouts question his overall durability and workload capabilities. Throws a 92-to-94 MPH fastball (tops out at 96 MPH) with good life, a “hammer” curveball that is commanded with expertise – easily his best pitch – and an improving changeup (i.e. from below-average to average) with the potential for it to become a plus-pitch like his curve and fastball. If removing the injury concern, would be mentioned in the same breaths as Julio Teheran, Martin Perez, Jacob Turner, Shelby Miller, and Mike Montgomery amongst a few others.
Career Stats (inc. 2011): 9.3 K/9 | 2.3 BB/9 | 261 2/3 IP | 2.96 ERA | 1.12 WHIP | .5 Hr/9 | 7.8 H/9
2011 Stats (A+/AA): 9.2 K/9 | 2.8 BB/9 | 90 IP | 3.20 ERA | 3.08 FIP (A+); 3.04 FIP (AA) | 1.14 WHIP | .6 Hr/9 | 7.5 H/9 | .252 BABIP (A+); .313 BABIP (AA) | 73.4 LOB (A+); 72.4 LOB% (AA)
Recently, he has thrown three relief innings (7/16, 7/21, 7/23) to keep his innings in check. Career high for innings pitched has been 85 innings (’10) before this years 90 innings and counting. There is rumor that the Braves are going to promote him to Triple-A and possible to the majors come September. That seems like a pipe dream. It appears that the concerns raised from the injury to the right elbow has been alleviated with his performance in 2011. Statistically, his High-A stats — both traditional and advanced — were bolstered by an unsustainable BABIP (.252 BABIP), albeit they were not unfathomable. Upon his promotion to Double-A, his strikeout rate, walk rate, and ERA increased while his home runs per nine and decreased; his advanced metrics (FIP and LOB%) allude to expected results at each level. Simply stated, Vizcaino has pitched exceptionally well all year and hasn’t been based on luck. Two negatives, 1) his innings limit is nearing. 2) durability will always remain for the wiry built pitcher. However, his sheer talent indicates a number two starter on a contender or a number one starter for a cellar dweller. Easily could become a bullpen stalwart or stud closer with his one-two punch (fastball/hammer curve). ETA, 2012. I don’t think the Braves would push his innings-limit to the extremes this year. He’ll be the Julio Teheran/Zach Britton of 2012.
For how much the media has talked about Montero, a top 5 prospect for two years, I have avoided writing a Scouting the Unknown article on him as he really isn’t “unknown.” However, after two years of expectantly awaiting his call-up, much like Desmond Jennings’, I decided to go for it. Hopefully I can provide additional insight that isn’t as well known. What everyone should know, Montero is an exceptionally talented hitter, very possibly one of the best all-around hitters in the minors; has the ability to easily hit .300 with 30-plus home runs. Prior to Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, the qualifier wouldn’t have been necessary. Interestingly, and this is where I’d expect new information to be learned, his hitting mechanics have raised eyebrows. Mechanically his swing is atypical from the “prototypical” stud hitting prospect; swing isn’t always smooth, transfer and rotation have him using his front-foot to hit far too often. Has power to all fields, and good opposite field power. Scouts illuminate the fact that his strength and hand-eye coordination has been able to counteract this flaw to date. Could this be a reason for the loss of power in 2011? Has been able to adjust to breaking pitches well and recognize offerings in his young career. Beyond hitting, which has never really been the issue, is his putrid defensive skills. He has an above-average arm, with poor receiving skills and game managing aptitude is questionable. Lastly, scouts state he needs to learn how to develop pregame discipline; read: be more professional when taking batting practice and game preparation. He has been compared to potential future teammate, Robinson Cano, or with a positional comparison to Mike Piazza.
Career Stats (inc. 2011): .308/.367/.496 | 1741 AB | 187 XBH | 67 Hr | .188 ISO | 2/1 SB/CS | 314:149 K:BB
2011 Stats (AAA): .285/.346/.427 | 309 AB | 25 XBH | 9 Hr | .142 ISO | 0/0 SB/CS | 75:29 K:BB | .345 BABIP
This year at Triple-A hasn’t been quite as productive as 2010 when he slashed .289/.353/.517 in 453 at-bats with 58 XBH (21 Hr) and a 91:49 K:BB ratio. The power seems to be missing this year, easily his poorest professional season to date. He’s gone from a Brian McCann-like season to a Mauer-like season without any hearsay reasoning. There have been reports that he has been “uninspired,” “bored,” and “lacking energy” because he feels slighted by management for not having promoted him to the majors. A slight character issue? Possibly. At just 21 years of age, I’d blame pride and ego. There still shouldn’t be any large long-term concerns besides positional play and the Yankees rostering. GM Brian Cashman stated in the 2010-2011 offseason that Montero would get a chance to play in the majors in 2011. I think Montero’s defense and positional flexibility (must play 1B/DH, definitely long-term), Jorge Posada’s ego and the Yankees inflexible roster will make his 2011 debut around the time when school resumes (read: September). Of course, the Yankees could always use him as the centerpiece in a trade. In that case, the team he’s traded to would most likely promote him immediately. With July 31 non-waiver trade-deadline this weekend, if you see his name in an official trade, pick him up immediately for fantasy play. His best case scenario is a Mike Piazza clone, or to remove the positional eligibility comparisons, Edgar Martinez.