18. Breiling Eusebio (339 points, 28 ballots)
Breiling Eusebio flew under the radar in a heralded 2013 Latin America signing class, but the $100,000 November signee is the only one of those players who made this list, and he’s the highest to debut on this edition of the PuRPs list. The 21-year-old lefty starter spent his first two years as a professional in the Dominican Summer League, posting a K/9 rate above 9 in both seasons and a 1.88 ERA in his second campaign there. Eusebio came stateside in 2016 with Short Season A Boise, where he was pitching against hitters who were on average 2.2 years older. In 631⁄3 innings over 13 starts, Eusebio had a 5.26 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, and 6.0 K/9 rate—nothing notable outside of his youth.
Eusebio really only garnered national scout attention this season. He repeated in Boise in 2017 as a 20-year-old, where in three starts he struck out 22 in 17 innings, allowing 10 hits and three earned runs. That was enough for the Rockies to bump Eusebio up to full season ball. Eusebio made eight starts with Asheville, throwing 401⁄3 frames with a 4.46 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, and 6.9 K/9 rate against competition that was 1.9 years older on average. Again, the numbers aren’t remarkable but the context is quite positive. Unfortunately, Eusebio’s breakout season was cut short in mid-August by injury, calling into question which level he will start at in 2018.
Here’s some video of Eusebio in Spring Training in 2017 courtesy of FanGraphs:
Kyle Glaser of Baseball America told the story of Eusebio’s breakout in Late July 2017, including some video of him in Asheville:
The issue for Eusebio wasn’t stuff, or his control in the purest sense. The problem was his lively fastball had so much movement he had trouble ensuring it ended up over the plate, even if his delivery and release point were clean.
This year, after extensive work in extended spring training, he’s figured it out.
Eusebio ranged from 90-95 mph with his fastball in his latest outing and sat 93-94. At times his fastball went straight, at others it cut, and at others it ran. But in all cases, it was in the strike zone and miserable for hitters to try and get a read on.
The other weapon Eusebio has developed is a dastardly changeup. Thrown consistently at 81-83 mph with identical arm speed as his fastball, the pitch drew foolish swings throughout from baffled Grasshoppers batters. Most importantly, it was consistent, another developmental step Eusebio has taken.
His upper 70s breaking ball lacks bite and rarely finds the strike zone, and his fastball command is liable to come and go. As such, he has a 4.64 ERA and .282 opponent average with Asheville even after his latest outing.
But the southpaw’s potential is evident. With as much improvement as he’s shown this season, it’s unlikely he remains under the radar for long.
Eusebio has the best fastball/breaking ball combination of any left-handed starter in Colorado’s farm system. He deals at 91-95 mph with ground-ball-inducing sink on his heater and pairs it with a hard curveball. He also shows promising feel for his changeup.
Eusebio has a compact delivery and repeats it easily. He’s making strides with his control but will need to refine his command to succeed against more advanced hitters. He projects as a possible No. 4 starter and perhaps more than that if his stuff continues to improve.
Finally, Baseball Prospectus placed Eusebio among their top 20 Rockies prospects. Here’s Steve Givarz on Eusebio:
Eusebio has progressed without much fanfare or notoriety until this past season. This season his heater spiked into the mid 90s, sitting in the low 90s as a starter. With new velocity came new bite and action for his curveball, a hard offering in the high 70s that fooled both lefties and righties alike. The change is somewhere between nascent and usable, but he is still 21 and shouldn’t be a big sticking point right now. There is still projection in his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame, giving more hope that he can take the ball in the rotation every 5th day. This profile is a ways out, with lots of potential hiccups between now and big-league stardom, but we have said that about a lot of guys and I will take my chances with Eusebio over others.
There’s some disagreement between scouts among which of Eusebio’s secondary pitches is more advanced, but the overall consensus is that Eusebio is an arm to watch for Colorado entering 2018. Eusebio could conceivably start the year in Lancaster, though I think a repeat engagement in Asheville to begin the year is more likely. Eusebio will be Rule 5 draft eligible at the end of the season, so it will be a big year for him to nail down a 40 man roster slot.
A back-end starter prospect who is far away right now, Eusebio seems to have the potential for more in him. I ranked Eusebio 27th on my list because he will likely be almost out of minor league options when he is ready for a big league debut. That makes me one of the lower voters on him, but I too am excited for what Eusebio can bring to the organization.