Results tagged ‘ Pedro Viola ’
Does he have a pulse left, as a prospect?
Not really, no; he’s still got the proverbial puncher’s chance as a left-hander with a mid-90′s fastball but he’s now 29 and is still what he was at 26. Viola is a Dominican who wasn’t signed until he was 23, partly because he was a non-prospect outfielder who converted to pitching late. As I’ve said before, he has a very funky delivery — while on the rubber, he’s facing the second baseman — with consequently bad control. He’s managed to get AA hitters out, but has a career AAA ERA of 7.30 in 74 innings, with a 58-83 BB/K ratio.
Actually, Viola does have some positives besides his fastball. He apparently hasn’t been seriously hurt, which is a good thing, and he’s equally effective — or ineffective — against both left and right handed pitchers. Of course, the latter hurts his chances of developing into a left-handed relief specialist, and the former won’t matter if he walks 7 batters a game.
He’s very frustrating to watch, since it’s clear to me that he won’t develop the control he needs to be a major-league pitcher. And when he focuses control, he gets hit hard. Every time he comes in to pitch, he slows the game down to a crawl and most of the time hurts the Tides’ chances of winning.
It’s hard to be sure, but I think Viola is eligible for minor-league free agency. I don’t know whether or not the Orioles will want him back.
Last Saturday’s 12-3 Tides loss to the Charlotte Knights feature one of the worst pitching performances I’ve ever seen. To set the stage, the parent Baltimore Orioles had burned through their pitching staff on Thursday, and summoned Saturday’s scheduled starting pitcher Zach Britton to start Saturday’s Orioles game. The Class A Delmarva Shorebirds were returning to the Eastern Shore from Kannapolis, NC, and made a stop in Norfolk, ejecting Zach Petersime. Petersime, who had been an emergency pitcher with the Tides earlier, made the start for the Tides.
You might think that the bad pitching performance would come from Petersime, who was really supposed to pitch three levels below the AAA Tides, and who had pitched less than 150 innings in his professional career. But Petersime rose to the occasion. He pitched three scoreless innings. In the fourth, Justin Greene hit a line drive to left center. L.J. Hoes ran to catch it, but just as he was getting there he lost his footing and the ball rolled to the fence; Greene reached third on a triple. One out later, Jose Lopez singled in Greene and Brent Morel doubled. With runners on second and third, Petersime was relieved by Pedro Viola.
And it was Pedro Viola who pitched terribly. Viola is a left-handed relief pitcher who can reach 95 miles an hour, but he has poor control and his pitches are straight. His delivery is out of the Al Hrabosky/Mitch Williams school — he turns his back on the batter before starting his delivery and looks at home plate by peeking over his right shoulder. While Hrabosky and Williams had some spectacular seasons, their delivery was hard to repeat and they weren’t consistent.
On Saturday, Viola pitched two and one-third innings. On the positive side, he did strike out five batters. On the negative side, he walked two, gave up five hits including two home runs, allowed a stolen base, and misplayed a return toss from the catcher. This led to six earned runs. But it wasn’t just that. Viola threw 57 pitches; 22 were balls and six were fouls, which led to some long counts. And Viola took a long time between pitches. It made for a very tedious two and one-third innings.
I have to wonder if some pitching coach, somewhere, has tried to work with Viola to adopt a more traditional, more repeatably consistent delivery. Maybe one has and found that Viola loses velocity when he used it. The Orioles are hoping that they can harness Viola’s powerful left arm and develop a relief ace, or at least a devasating lefty specialist. But when Viola’s not pitching well, it’s painful to watch.
Major-league opening day is March 31, and the Tides’ opening day is a week later, April 7. The impending cutdown of the major-league roster means that the minor-league rosters will be identified, and so I’ve been following the Orioles transactions in the small print of the newspapers. There’s really no difference between being “optioned” and being “assigned to minor league camp” — players on the 40-man roster are optioned and players not on the 40-man roster are assigned to minor league camp. Final team assignments won’t be made, in some cases, until the day before the minor league season begins.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have a pretty good idea about some of the Tides. For example, Matt Angle has been optioned to Norfolk. Angle had a good 2010 season for the Tides, and he plays center field, so it’s almost certain that he’ll actually end up in Norfolk. For other players, it’s a numbers game. Although Chorye Spoon pitched pretty well in the Eastern League, and would usually be promoted to the Tides this season, he may wind up back in the Eastern League if Norfolk has too many other starting pitchers for the Tides. (That happened to Jason Berken two years ago; he was promoted after about a week when a spot opened up.) On the other hand, guys like Pedro Viola and Pat Egan are organization roster filler, and will be assigned wherever there’s room. And, some players, both former prospects and veteran free-agent signings, may be released outright if their particular skills aren’t needed.
Why did the Orioles keep him on the 40-man roster at the expense of players like Justin Turner, Scott Moore, and Lou Montanez?
Viola’s a left-hander with an outstanding fastball. It’s believed that left-handers with outstanding fastballs are valuable commodities in short supply, and the Orioles obviously felt that he’d be claimed if they tried to remove him.
Viola DOES have an outstanding fastball, but he doesn’t have a breaking pitch or a changeup. His fastball doesn’t move; it comes in straight and flat. He doesn’t have terrific control or command; at some point in nearly every at bat he has to come in with a fastball down the pipe. So, he walks a lot of people and/or gets hammered. With Norfolk, he really did pitch down to his numbers.
The Orioles hope that Viola will refine his game enough so that, with his fastball, he can be a devastating relief pitcher. Even though he’s 27, that could still happen, and I understand that the potential upside of such a project is worth a spot on the forty-man. And I understand that the players the Orioles removed from the roster aren’t going to be stars. But I think that Viola’s got about a 2% chance of being useful. When a team becomes good, it needs to keep spare parts on its forty-man. I’d be willing to let some other team take the chance on Viola.
When you score pitch-by-pitch as many games as I do, anything and everything out of the ordinary becomes interesting. Take recently-acquired Tides relief pitcher Pedro Viola. The Orioles organization claimed Viola, a left-handed pitcher with a good fastball, on waivers from the Reds. In his first eight Tides appearances, he was ineffective. In his eighth appearance, he gave up one earned run in one inning, which lowered his ERA by almost half a run.
That got me to wondering — what had been Viola’s best appearance of the year? If giving up a run in an inning — an ERA of 9.00 by itself — can lower your season ERA, it’s a safe bet that you’re not helping many fantasy teams. But, particularly for a relief pitcher, one or two really terrible outings can blow a season’s ERA sky-high, obscuring the good outings. So how had Viola pitched?
The answer — he was consistent if nothing else. His best outing of the year had come on May 15, in Buffalo, in which he walked a batter in a third of an inning, but at least didn’t give up any runs. In all of his other outings, Viola had given up at least one run.
Which is why, last Saturday, when Pedro came in to pitch the ninth inning with the Tides trailing 9-2, I had a peculiar and possibly perverse fascination. When he walked the first batter on four pitches, I thought that he was holding true to form. But he rebounded, retiring the next three batters on a popup, strikeout, and forceout. I felt confident that I was one of the few in the crowd of 7942 who knew that Pedro Viola had completed his best Tides outing of the season.