On September 7 2011, Guillermo Moscoso was on the verge of no-hitting the Kansas City Royals. The right-handed pitcher, born in Maracay, Venezuela, threw in perfect fashion through six and two-thirds innings. He then walked his fellow countryman, Alcides Escobar, on the sixth to dismiss the perfect game. He kept the no-hitter going with one out in the top of the ninth, but Alex Gordon singled to break Moscoso’s bid.
The way that game unfolded seemed to mirror the career of the 28-year-old righty: a promising prospect full of potential and showing signs of being ready for Major League work, but, in the end, tending to fizzle and coming back to either Triple-A or bullpen work.
Moscoso is now a part of your Colorado Rockies, being his third organization in the United States after the Rangers and Athletics. Now a part of a team full of young and mostly untested hurlers, his 142.2 frames pitched in the Bigs give him an edge over his competitors. As of now, he looks like a locked-in name for the starting group, but Coors Field could become a huge test for his abilities. Moscoso might be one of the riskiest experiments for the Denver nine in 2012.
Moscoso has always been a big enigma for those who try to analyze his pitching: his control can be remarkable, allowing 2.7 BB/9 innings last season; however, his strikeout and groundball ratios are alarming. And we can’t even wonder what would happen to a guy with a tendency to allow flyballs (his xFIP is 5.02, according to Fangraphs, complete with a 55.5% fly ball rate) at 20th and Blake.
What’s even more baffling to Venezuelan baseball observers is the fact his appearances in the Venezuelan Winter league with Leones del Caracas have been outstanding: in 2010, Moscoso had a 2-1 record with a 3.32 ERA in 21.2 innings, pitching as both reliever and starter. (He didn’t pitch in his native country last season after throwing 133.1 frames for the A’s. He was protected by the Extreme Fatigue clause present in the Winter League agreement, which regulates how players in organized baseball in the States can perform in the Caribbean.) The righty has failed to replicate his good performances both in Venezuela and the Minor Leagues into Major League production, and there is a solid case his "mainstream" numbers last year were enhanced for playing in Oakland, a classic pitching-friendly ballpark.
That is why you can imagine Moscoso working in ways to keep the ball away from being put into play, which is, striking out and getting more grounders out of batters. He has not been able to do that in Texas and it certainly wasn’t the case in Oakland, despite the first impression you might get by reading his baseball card.
There’s a worst-case scenario to imagine: Moscoso makes the rotation because of his service time and MLB experience, compared to many other starters in the Rockies mix for this Spring, only to implode by mid-May. Probably a little time in Colorado Springs might help him. Speculation aside, this is certainly a high-stakes gamble for Dan O’Dowd in 2012.