We had a choice to make Saturday night to either watch Clearwater’s starter Austin Wright pitch live against the Lakeland Flying Tigers or watch starter Julio Rodriguez pitch on MiLB-TV in a Reading game against the Harrisburg Senators. We chose to stay in and watch Julio since Harrisburg is the only team carrying MiLB-TV games in the Eastern League. We will not have too many chances to see Reading play this season. Baseball Betsy and I had not seen him pitch other than in the minor league camp since last June in the Florida State League All Star game and a game around the same time at my favorite little Stadium up the road in Dunedin.
Rodriguez intrigues me. When he pitched against the Dunedin Blue Jays last year when he was with Clearwater his fastball was sitting at 88 mph and his curve ball was registering 68 mph on the scoreboard. Can a pitcher win in the major league when he can’t hit 90 mph consistently with his fastball? It’s Julio’s curve ball separation that is the key. Few pitchers I have seen have a 20 mph differential between an effective breaking pitch and the fastball. Most curve balls come in in the mid to low seventies. Julio’s effectiveness is that his breaking pitch is in the high sixties and is a good mix of speed with his below average fastball.
I still can’t decide if Julio will make it or not on a major league mound. Saturday night in Harrisburg he went six innings, gave up five hits, three run, one earned, struck out three and walk two. The play by play announcer said his fastball registered 86 mph on the scoreboard and his off speed stuff was between 67-73 mph. He may not have enough velocity to pitch effectively as he moves up the system when he faces better hitters.
However, velocity is not everything. I remember watching Jamie Moyer pitch in spring training at Dunedin several years ago and his cut fastball sat at 82 to go with his slower breaking pitchers. The word is that his fastball in his first start of this season for the Rockies was 75 mph. To be an effective pitcher in the big leagues it is movement and command rather than velocity that are the keys.
In Sunday’s start for Cole Hamels against the Mets his cut fastball was sitting at 89-90 mph in the game. The cutter and change up were deadly effective pitches for Cole in his 10 strikeout, seven inning performance to get the win. Cole’s fast ball and his curve ball have become his secondary pitches that he does not use often. When he does the results are usually not good. They said the two run home run he gave up in the first inning of Sunday’s game was a fastball he left out over the plate.
On of the reasons I was torn between watching Rodriguez or Wright on Saturday night was Wright threw a backup cut slider much like Vance Worley throws when I saw him pitch in his first start of the season. He is interesting to watch. From a left hander like Wright that pitch was moving back towards the outside part of the plate to a left handed hitter or away from a right handed hitter. Wright went on to win his second game of the season pitching six innings. He had a similar pitching line to Rodriguez giving up only one earned run but struck out six.
The Phillies have had success drafting pitchers both with college backgrounds and young teenage arms. Hamels and Kyle Kendrick were drafted out of high school. Vance Worley and Mike Stutes were drafted out of college. It will be interesting to follow the development of teenage drafted guys like right handed starters Trevor May and Julio Rodriguez with Reading and the left handed college drafted starters Adam Morgan and Austin Wright with Clearwater to see how many of them make it to the Show.