After a bit of controversy last week over Josh Vitters and my gut feeling hazing my views and opinions, I want to say that this week isn’t going to be any less controversial. Matter of fact, Villalona may cause me to say some nice things about Vitters and his game. As Grey keeps you informed of all the other action via trades and the lackluster free agent pool at your disposal, let’s keep our minds focus for the years ahead. Maybe, just maybe the foggy crystal ball will crack and all its futuristic knowledge can inform us about the next Braun … or you know, at least keep us away from work a few minutes longer.
Lastly, before we get started, I want to inform everyone as the fall approaches that my life is going to be a bit more crazy and filled with time consuming research papers, projects and presentation because I am currently finishing my degree. With that said, I will still be writing these articles and throughout the winter writing a new feature. Due to time constraints and a HUGE internship, some comments may take quite some time before I am able to respond to your deepest of questions. Enough blabbering. Let this shindig roll.
Pat Venditte | RP | New York Yankees | DOB: 6/30/85 | 6-1 | 180 lbs | Bats/Throws: R/S | Unrated according to Baseball America
The Cube: Control (91) | K-Rating (96) | Efficiency (100) *Cube ratings only from 2008
No, there isn’t a typo in his profile. I am sure many of you remember ESPN and other news outlets rave over this ambidextrous pitcher from Creighton University a couple years back. Everything from: “There hasn’t been a switch pitcher since the 1800′s,” to, “What happens if there is a switch batter? Do just do a battle of the batters box?” (There is actually a Venditte Rule that has been put into place by the umpires.) Yes, there were tons of “what ifs,” and nothing really about his game (kind of like the Bryce Harper stories – he hits 500 feet home runs in batting practice and all about his family, little about his actual game. With that all said, Venditte was pitched in Short Season last year and thrived and this year in A and high-A he has thrived yet again. Sure, he may be 24 and still has a bit of novelty surrounding him, but I think the Yankees have something here (as much as that pains me to say).
Drafted by the Yankees in 2007 in the 45th round he decided to go back for his senior year and improved his k-rating to 10.5 K/9 which was a full strikeout more than in his junior year. This helped him move up 20 rounds in the draft, along with several other factors too, to be taken by the Yankees again. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but his control and average breaking stuff make him a marginal prospect and why he isn’t rated by Baseball America. From his (natural) right side he throws a fastball and a curve. His fastball sits between 88 to 91 mph. I couldn’t find much about his curve other than that he throws one. He throws mainly fastballs from his right side using the curve to keep hitters honest. From the left side he throws predominately sliders from a three-quarter arm slot, as opposed to his over-the-top arm slot from the right side, that sits around 78 to 81 mph with an occasional fastball. Interestingly, the grip for his curve is the same for his slider with only the arm slot changing. How has he fared so far:
08 (SS) 11.57 K/9 | 2.76 BB/9 | 32 2/3 IP | .55 HR/9 | .83 ERA | .7 WHIP | 23 SV
09 (totals) 12 K/9 | 1.3 BB/9 | 60 2/3 IP | .3 HR/9 | 1.63 ERA | 1.02 WHIP | 22 SV
09 (A) 11.74 K/9 | .59 BB/9 | 30 2/3 IP | .29 HR/9 | 1.47 ERA | .85 WHIP | 20 SV
09 (A+) 12.3 K/9 | 2.1 BB/9 | 30 IP | .3 HR/9 | 1.8 ERA | 1.2 WHIP | 2 SV
Those are some really strong numbers. In 93 innings he is averaging 11.9 K/9 while being a control freak (1.8 BB/9). He is able to keep the ball in the park and it looks like they are grooming him to be a closer or a late inning setup man. He wont be in the majors for at least another year as he hasn’t even touched AA. Look for him to be promoted to AA to start the year in 2010 and if he keeps this up he may make the majors in late ’10. Honestly, this next promotion will determine a lot about his ability. With such a dominating year under his belt, I would expect, almost assume, that Baseball America has him ranked in their top 30, albeit in the lower third. He is a darkhorse to make the team out of the 2010 spring training camp, unless the Yankees use their money to overpay for bullpen help. Keep your eye on Venditte, it will definitely be fun to watch how he progresses.
Angel Villalona | 1B | San Francisco Giants | DOB: 8/13/90 | 6-3 | 230 lbs | Bats/Throws: Right | SF #3 ranked prospect according to Baseball America
The Cube: Power (83) | Speed (8) | Contact (21) | Patience (7)
Another extremely young player with tons of hype. This reminds me of last week. Villalona is considered their best hitting prospect behind Buster Posey and the Giants best power hitting prospect in over a decade. Talk about a drought. The Giants should thank Bonds for some stopgap power plug for all the years people feared the Giants lineup (or maybe it was just Bonds; yeah, let’s go with that). Signed out of the Dominican at the ripe old age of 16, Villalona is almost a whole year younger than Vitters (351 days to be exact). Villalona started as a third baseman but has moved over to first base as of last year. He has soft hands (as opposed to rough callous hands. Has anybody else ever question the use of “soft hands” before? Seriously, there has to be a better, less feminine way to describe having soft hands [sorry for the tangent]) , a strong and accurate arm (we are talking about a first baseman, remember that), more agile than his body would display and he has towering power – however it’s still undeveloped. As a runner, well Bengie Molina might finally have a running partner for his morning jogs, granted Villalona did lose 40 pounds as the year progressed in 2008. Lets take a look at his stats so far:
07 (totals) .278/.338/.434 | 212 AB | 5 HR
07 (R) .285/.344/.450 | 200 AB | 5 HR | 21 K% | 7 BB% | .165 ISO
07 (SS) .167/.231/.167 | 12 AB | 0 HR | 16.7 K% | 0 BB% | .0 ISO
08 (A) .263/.312/.435 | 464 AB | 17 HR | 25.4 K% | 3.7 BB% | .175 ISO
09 (A+) .267/.306/.397 | 292 AB | 9 HR | 25 K% | 3 BB% | .130 ISO
And for fun, lets compare Villalona and Vitters career totals for later reference (you have to type in their names with that link):
Vitters – .286/.320/.451 | 758 AB | 23 HR
Villalona – .268/.316/.424 | 968 AB | 31 HR
For a 16 year old, those are pretty good numbers in 2007. The strikeout rate is doable and the walk rate looks good. Too bad that the walk rate is cut in half the next two years and he is striking out more than desirable. As he matures in the next few years as a hitter and his body gets a chance to gain more muscle, I would expect his ISO to improve. The walks on the other hand may not come so easy. He will definitely have to improve his plate discipline and pitch selection to become more successful at each stop throughout the rest of the minors. It is also important to note that on July 8, 2009 he pulled his left quad (technically the quad is four muscles, just bear with me) and hasn’t played since. I have pulled/strained my quad before in football and let me tell you, it doesn’t just go away. It nagged me all season, and just when you think it has healed you take one quick step and it’s back. I think the Giants are just taking the cautious route with the injury. There is no use in rushing back one of your top prospect when he is just 19.
Speaking of such a young age, Villalona should be criticized as much as I did last week with Vitters. They both have poor walk rates, similar in age and are playing at the same level in the minors as of this year. As with Vitters, Villalona needs to be more selective at the plate. However, Villalona has more power potential than Vitters. Being compared to Miguel Cabrera and Andres Galarraga is a lot to live up to, but Villalona probably won’t hit for the high average of Cabrera. I am thinking more a Carlos Pena type player. He will probably be in the minors for another season or so with a possible call up middle to late 2010.