Its not a surprise for me to log on and see people ranting about Antonio Bastardo, and of course you only have to go back to last summer to see this lesson, which will be explained again, in the case of Tyler Mach. I had a few posters vocally ranting about Mach needing to be promoted to Clearwater, because he was clearly a better prospect than I was giving him credit for. This was when he was hitting a ridiculous .400+ after a weeks of the short season. Of course he cooled down dramatically, and now he’s still MIA and pondering retirement. Of course those calls about how off base I was, and how I was “disrespecting his prospect status” have died down. Now it looks like history is getting ready to repeat itself with Antonio Bastardo. So, again, I ask you to be patient, and here’s why…
As you know, if you’re a baseball fan, baseball is a funny game. A guy can look completely dominant for one game, for 3 games, maybe even for 2 months, but he can just as easily come undone. Just look at Kyle Kendrick. He went from relatively under the radar prospect to the big leagues, and posted an ERA under 4.00 despite having very poor peripherals. And this season, when everyone panned me for saying I thought he was going to really regress, he’s largely struggled and gotten knocked around in all but one of his starts. The latest guy to be anointed as the “disrespected prospect” is Antonio Bastardo. Bastardo came on the scene last year at Lakewood, posting big strikeout numbers, and no one really knew what to make of it. I gave him his due, I wrote him up in my Top 30 and placed him at #24. I stressed his downsides, I explained why, but people still assume that I don’t like him, or don’t think he can succeed. Thats not the case, but it looks like I’ll have to explain it all again.
I don’t want this to seem like a completely negative piece, so I’ll even start with the positives on Bastardo. Last season, his first full season, he struck out more than a batter an inning at Lakewood (9.67/9) and also was tough to hit, allowing only 6.22 H/9 in 91 innings. He also kept the ball in the park, allowing only 3 HR in those 91 innings. Past the numbers, he has good velocity for a left handed pitcher, ranging anywhere from 87 up to 92, depending on the day and the report, and it appears he also has some deception in his delivery which adds a tick or two to his fastball. Kevin Goldstein likes his changeup and says its a very good pitch (no scouting grade, but we’ll try and get that), while Baseball America seems less enamored with it. But that could have changed from this past season.
But Bastardo is not without his negatives. First, his stature. The common conception is that shorter pitchers have a tougher time “staying on top of their pitches”. This basically means throwing on a downward plane. It makes sense to think about this practically. If you are 6’6, you’re naturally going to be throwing on a more downward angle than someone 6 or 7 inches shorter. Its easier for a guy like Roy Halladay, who is 6’6, to throw downhill and get sink on the ball than someone like Roy Oswalt, who is only 6’0. This is more important when it comes to throwing a breaking ball, which is easier to “get under” and leave up in the zone. This doesn’t mean Bastardo can’t be effective, it means he might have less of a margin for error, and must really focus on “staying on top” of the ball and keeping the ball down. Last season at Lakewood his groundouts to air outs ratio was 0.76, and this was largely a result of a line drive rate of 17%, which is very high. His 3 percentages were; 43% groundballs, 39% flyballs, 17% line drives. That’s not a dominant ratio, and pitching in Lakewood, a very pitcher friendly park, kept lots of those fly balls in the park. This season, he’s given up 2 HR in 12 innings at Clearwater and 0 HR on the road in 18 IP. His air outs to groundouts ratio is 0.40 this season, which is even “worse” than last season. Minorleaguesplits has not updated their 2008 database yet, so I can’t give you exact percentages yet. But this is something that is going to be worth watching. He’s also 22 and pitching in A+, so he’s older than the average prospect. But older prospects should be dominating their level, and he is.
The thing with Bastardo is simple. He’s dominating at A+ right now, and he should probably move to Reading. But the jump from A ball to 2A is the biggest jump in the minors outside of short season ball to a full season league. Is he ready for it? Probably, but we also need to realize that this is one month’s worth of baseball. Last season he walked 42 guys in 91 innings (4.14/9), more than you want to see. This season, he has improved that number to 10 in 30 innings, or 2.98/9, and thats a step in the right direction. Bastardo has improved his stock this season, but its one month. To compare him to pitchers like Joba Chamberlain or Tim Lincecum is ridiculous, and really unfair to everyone involved. He does not offer the complete package that a guy like Savery or Carrasco does. That isn’t to say that he can’t be a big leaguer. That isn’t to say he can’t be an above average starter, and that isn’t to say he won’t end up being a better big leaguer than any other pitcher in our system. It means that he’s not there yet, and we need to be patient. Right now, it appears that he is a 2 pitch pitcher, with a great fastball and a good changeup, but without a reliable breaking ball. This may change, it might not, but we have to see how he does against more advanced competition before anointing him the next Cole Hamels.
Last season, it was Tyler Mach. Lots of people were quick to tell me how wrong I was. I just don’t want to have to constantly explain why I don’t think Bastardo is the second coming of Steve Carlton. He’s pitching really well right now, lets just leave it at that and forget the “disrespect” concept. Everyone, especially me, is pulling for him to succeed, lets enjoy his success and see what happens next.