Redleg Nation is taking a look at Edinson Volquez. Part 1 is here. The Reds traded Josh Hamilton for him and he’s earned a rotation spot for the 2007 Reds. So what can we expect from Volquez? We’re taking a look at his past to get an idea. Following the 2005 season, Volquez was considered one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. The 2006 season didn’t go as well for him.

Following the 2006 season, the folks at Baseball Prospectus weren’t too high on him in their 2007 book:

…Volquez has been unmercifully pounded at the big league level. He’s been so bad his PECOTA comps include Dennis Tankersley, who tanked, and an always-exciting Herm Wehmeier in this book. Volquez looked good at Triple-A last year, but that may not mean anything – there are, on rare occasions, pitchers who can’t pull it together emotionally. Think Salomon Torres, who did, albeit years later, and Scott Ruffcorn who didn’t.

That’s not exactly a vote of confidence. As badly as he pitched in the majors, this seemed to be a common theme in his reviews in the 2007 books: how would he recover emotionally?

Here’s Sickels of Minor League Ball on Volquez in his 2007 book:

Well, where do we start with this one? Volquez was very impressive in the Pacific Coast League last year, showing off a hot fastball in the 93-96 range, and a good changeup. His K/IP and H/IP were excellent. But his walk rate was too high, and he lost the touch on his breaking ball more often than he should. He was blasted in the American League, completely overmatched by major league hitters. Is this another example of the Curse of Arlington? Or can Volquez rebound? He has the raw ability, certainly, and he’s flashed the command. He’s still young. But it is hard to know how he will react to getting beaten about the head and shoulders so badly by big league hitters, and it isn’t like the Rangers have a great track record with similar pitchers. Frankly, I have no idea what to expect. Grade B

So Sickels had the same concerns BP did about how Volquez was emotionally and looking at his numbers in the majors, it’s understandable where they are coming from.

Baseball America dropped him down to third in the list of Ranger’s prospects. They didn’t mention concerns about his emotional makeup after his major-league trials, in fact mentioning his work ethic and makeup as a positive:

Volquez ranked as the Rangers’ top prospect a year ago on the strength of a fastball and changeup that each rated as the best in the system. But questions emerged about his ability to make adjustments after his disastrous big league stint in 2006. His career 9.20 ERA is the highest in baseball’s modern era for a pitcher with at least 10 career starts. Volquez still has the electric stuff that fueled sky-high expectations a year ago, with a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and an above-average changeup in the mid-70s. He always has been lauded for his makeup and work ethic, and he showed he can be effective at higher levels by holding his own in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League prior to his big league callup…If he can refine his curve and command, Volquez can earn a rotation spot in the spring and eventually emerge as a frontline starter. If he can’t, he soon could find himself in the bullpen.

Volquez’s prospect status took a big hit in 2006 based on his command problems at AAA and his terrible performance in the major leagues. There’s still hope after this because despite the control problems at AAA, he had a good strikeout rate and kept his ERA low in a hitter’s league.

So, once again, concerns about his command and breaking ball are mentioned but those are common concerns with most young pitching prospects. However, both BP and John Sickels mention concerns about where he is emotionally after having his head handed to him in the majors. As we’ll see in part 3, the Rangers had the same concerns and made a bold move in the way they handled him.

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4 Responses

  1. DevilsAdvocate

    Tune in next time for the exciting conclusion!

    This is pretty fun, actually. Kind of like Sickels’ “Prospect Retro” analyses, but more in-depth with the varying perspectives. And on a guy who hasn’t yet determined his career direction.

  2. Jared

    Sounds like Homer Bailey to me. Nice fast ball, too many walks. I hope people aren’t just high on these guys because they can throw hard and that there’s really something there.

    I read an interesting piece (which, unfortunately, I can’t remember who the author was or where I found it, but I may have found the link here) about how overused the radar gun is. It’s a metric that simply doesn’t tell you how good a pitcher is.

    Same with strikeouts, really. I’m frustratingly short on references in this comment, but I remember Doc Gooden saying he’d rather have every batter ground out on the first pitch than strike them all out.

  3. Dan

    Of course getting groundouts is more pitch-efficient, but two big things:

    1) Some groundouts are hits. All strikeouts are outs. (Well, OK, unless there’s something weird like a wild pitch.)

    2) If you’re looking for some statistical metric to help you project how good a young pitcher is going to be, K/BB ratio is a very good one. (Yes, yes, of course there are exceptions, but in general, good K/BB ratios indicate a better chance for future success.)

  4. Dan

    Oops… I meant some ground BALLS are hits… eesh. Where’s my editor?