We’re less than a week away from introducing over thirty new players to the Rockies organization, some potentially critical to the future success of this team. To highlight the importance of the draft, five players drafted last year made our Top 30 Purps list last time around, and all things considered, that class was not considered to be a rather strong group. This puts the organization at a crossroads of sorts, as many low ceiling guys from last year’s draft populate these lists, it highlights a lack of high end talent being pumped into the organization through the American route. Is this the draft that can help balance the talent profile, and can you find high end talent at the bottom of round one, and who the heck is this Odorizzi guy? I hope to outline such questions over the next several days. Can this draft save the franchise, or better yet, does it need to?...
Chapter One: Mea Culpa Jake Odorizzi
The first thing I realized when constructing this post is that I haven’t given Odorizzi his fair shake at our first pick. There are a lot of quick hits on Odorizzi that can scare you: He’s very slender at 6’3 and 170 lbs., he doesn’t consistently push his fastball into the mid 90’s, and as MILB’s Mayo suggests, he may not have the mound presence of a frontliner. High schoolers are a pretty big crapshoot, but it seems the best gambles are always the ones with MLB ready bodies (6’4 210 lbs.) and big fastballs (94 mph consistently). Odorizzi just isn’t this guy. Despite the height, I don’t believe that Odorizzi has the typical high school projection. The hips are narrow, as are the shoulders. There’s room to make it to 200 lbs. but any more won’t be of the athletic variety.
Yet how important is frame in this case? One is a matter of adding enough strength to hold velocity longer and perhaps increase it. To that regard, I think he has that type of growth potential. What about durability? Well, Odorizzi’s clean, fluid mechanics suggest that the health of his pitching arm won’t rest on the muscle upholding it but the less strain he places it under while pitching. There are various YouTube videos of Odorizzi pitching, as well as one at ESPN, showing the mechanics of Jake’s delivery. The importance here is that he lacks violence in his motion, while still pitching at a good arm slot and maintaining plus arm speed. If I had a complaint, it would be that he doesn’t seem to follow through as much (shorter stride), which may hinder his velocity and deception. However, you could also make the case that the shorter stride (not a short stride ala Tyson Ross), keeps the arm motion a little more fluid, he still finishes with his weight balanced above his plant foot and doesn’t seem to add any extra strain on his shoulder.
Okay, enough small mechanics talk, how about the stuff? There’s really not a tremendous amount of information available on Odorizzi’s off-speed stuff, and I believe there’s only one video clip of his slider and one of his curveball on MILB.com’s draft reports. When I went back and gave Odorizzi a fair shake at catching my interests, the first thing that caught my eye was the life on his fastball. I’m a sucker for a good running, sinking heater (It’s why Aaron Crow’s my favorite ’08 draft pitcher) and apparently, so is Odorizzi, as this article suggests. Baseball America’s report on Jake had his velocity improving into the 91-93 mph, up 2-3 ticks over last summer, which I consider a very positive sign, and various reports have him topping 95 mph, so the heat is there for a first round HS-er. The ESPN clip on Odorizzi also shows plus arm side life on a fastball thrown almost over the top, and the ball explodes 2/3rd of the way down. The breaking pitches are intriguing on two counts. The first is that both have plus potential. Mayo’s video shows a sharp 1-7 break on the curveball. Since it’s thrown almost over the top, it’s not likely to freeze batters as much as a curve with more of a "hiccup" in its break. From what I can tell, the slider may just be a harder variation of the curve, similar to Taylor Buchholz. Mayo worries about Odorizzi’s bat missing potential, and while he’s having no problem this spring, it could be a case of Odorizzi not developing and implementing his slider and four seam much in the summer circuit last year. Bottom line, the repertoire is pretty extensive and promising, with four potentially plus pitches and a delivery that gives the pitches the perception of more life.
Bottom Line Comparison: Homer Bailey
That’s certainly high praise, but let me put this in the right perspective. Odorizzi’s build is similar to the Texas fireballer, and while he doesn’t have the same power, the life on his pitches is similar, and he has pretty good polish for a HS-er. It’s hard to compare upside with a player who hasn’t even reached his yet, but Jake’s ceiling isn’t near Homer’s, but when you adjust Bailey’s down to its present level, they look like fairly solid comps. Like Odorizzi, Bailey has questions about mound competitiveness, but both have potential to throw strikes with all of their pitches. Basically, Odorizzi’s ceiling is likely in the region of Bailey’s most likely outcome. I see Jake as a solid number two-three starter with a good power repertoire but not dominating strikeout totals. For the 25th pick, that isn’t all bad. Bottom line for organization skeptics, Odorizzi already has fluid mechanics and strike throwing ability, which means there’s little for the Rockies to iron out. After mixed/poor results with Roe, Jimenez, Morales, etc., that should be welcoming to most.
All told, everybody who’s anybody (or however that phrase goes) believes the Rockies will select Odorizzi, so why might as well get the introduction out of the way. Getting past my high school pitching concern, I’ve gone from skeptic to believer in three days. Maybe I’m just drinking the kool aid, or maybe, just maybe, this kid’s simply a darn good gamble at the end of round one.