The Gulf Coast League Nationals had their share of pitching prospects make progress in 2012, as the youngsters look to move up to short-season Single-A Auburn or low Single-A Hagerstown. We will take a look at several of their prospects in a couple of installments this week.
The Nationals worked very hard to teach the prospects to pitch to contact, emphasizing from the beginning a philosophy of putting the ball in play and not allowing walks.
Pitching coach Michael Tejera, rehab pitching coordinator Mark Grater and pitching coordinator Spin Williams "hammered that philosophy home", according to then-GCL Nationals manager Tripp Keister, now the skipper for Hagerstown. The GCL Nationals were tied for the least amount of walks in the league (145 with the GCL Rays).
Keister said what made the pitching staff more impressive is that with the GCL Mets dropping out, they had to face the same hitters almost every day, so they had to work through their tendencies to continue to deceive the hitters. They ended up playing every other team in their division 20 times (10 home, 10 away) in the 60-game season.
Here is a look at a few of the GCL Nats pitching prospects, with more later this week:
Right-hander Daury Vasquez: Vasquez went 4-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 11 games (9 starts), with a team-leading 52 2/3 innings pitched, allowing just 24 earned runs. The 19-year old Dominican pitched the entire season.
"He really worked on his secondary stuff and command of his fastball," said Keister. "He continued to get better. He has a big frame and a projectable body at 19, a college freshman. Excited about what he can be in the future."
Right-hander Kevin Dicharry: He pitched in the middle and end of games, going 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA in 16 games, earning four saves with 22 strikeouts and only four walks in 25 1/3 innings. He was a workhorse, pitching through the college baseball season at Texas and then into GCL competition.
"He stayed healthy," Keister said. "I am anxious to see how he comes back. He was at the University of Texas, so at the end of the season he has had a long go of it. I know he is working hard in the offseason. He probably profiles as a reliever at this time. Dicharry has a good changeup, locating his fastball and has a breaking ball. Changeup would be his best secondary pitch. He did a nice job at the bullpen."
Left-hander Joel Barrientos: The Dominican posted an impressive 4-1 record with a 3.00 ERA over 14 games with four starts. Barrientos tossed 45 innings, striking out 42 batters and yielding only 17 walks. He went 3-1 in his final five games of the season.
"Barrientos was an 18-year old kid (until Aug. 16) coming over to this country for the first time," Keister said. "He began his work in extended spring training. He is left-hander with a long, lean, projectable body. With the game on the line, with runners on, he would pitch well. He has a fastball curveball and changeup. He would mix his pitches well. He did a nice job. He is an interesting kid who came over here and got better."