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Friday Rockpile: Juan Nicasio's Quest for the Right Stuff

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In Juan Nicasio's MLB career, he has shown above average velocity, control, and strikeout ability. What is he missing to become a rotation anchor?

Christian Petersen

Radar guns are a big deal to young pitchers. They accompany any scout to a game and can vault a prospect from unknown to landing on a lot of radar screens with a few extra digits. Reports of Eddie Butler hitting 99 in Grand Junction proliferate and automatically breed hope for big things. There is a lot of distance between Butler and Coors Field right now, but there is not a lot of difference between Nicasio and Coors.

Yesterday, Nicasio hit 98mph in a dominating outing against the Reds. Oddly, that doesn't carry the luster of a young unproven prospect throwing heat, but it is significant. Starting pitchers don't often reach that level. Injury and a late call up have kept Nicasio off qualifying leaderboards, but if he did rank,he would have ranked 7th in MLB in each of the last two years in fastball velocity. The names ahead of him are all fearsome, quality pitchers: David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer.

Nicasio also carries the uncharacteristic ability to locate that blazing fastball. His control, while regressing a bit in 2012, is above average for an NL pitcher throughout his career, and his strikeout rate is above average. With superb velocity, control and strikeout stuff, why does Nicasio have a 4.65 career ERA?

If OOTP rankings were accurate, he would rate highly on velocity and control, middling on stuff and low on movement. His heat is vulnerable when straight and consistently in the zone. His goal is to develop his secondary stuff, and if he does, he could vault to another level. He knows that's the idea:

"I've been working a lot on my slider. The slider is good right now, but I'm still working on my changeup." -Juan Nicasio (Denver Post)

As he showed yesterday, putting those elements together makes him doubly tough. He allowed hits on 37.6% of batted balls in 2012. Rick Porcello led all MLB qualified pitchers at 34.4%. Nicasio has survived despite being completely incapable of keeping hitters guessing. I am eager to watch him more than any other pitcher in 2013 to see if he can take that step with secondary stuff.



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