Sunday, July 29, 2012

Importing Mexican Gold

Importing Mexican Gold
(or Roberto Osuna’s debut in Vancouver)

            We all know that the Blue Jays system is as stacked as any other in major league baseball.  We know about the trio of pitchers dominating in Lansing, we know about the likes of Travis d’Arnaud, and Anthony Gose knocking on the door to the major leagues in Las Vegas, but its always exciting to see the newest studs begin to emerge down at the lower levels.  Saturday in Vancouver was one of those days, with the debut of Roberto Osuna.

            When the Jays signed Osuna (the nephew of former Major League reliever Antonio) less than a year ago it generated a lot of buzz.  At the time Osuna was the 4th ranked international free agent by Baseball America, and unlike most kids his age, had already pitched professionally (getting into 13 games as a 15 year old in the Mexican League).  Osuna is almost the direct opposite of the prior year’s prized Mexican signee, Luis Heredia.  Heredia when he signed was all upside, a 6’6 projectable monster, who had yet to fill into his frame. Osuna on the other hand, was much shorter (now 6’2), but already filled out (listed at 230 lbs). 

            The Jays potentially raised some eyebrows by skipping Osuna over the Gulf Cost league and started him in the Appalachian league, where he was stellar, registering a 1.50 ERA, and striking out a batter an inning in his 7 appearances.  After just 24 innings, the Jays continued his aggressive push, and promoted him into the college heavy Northwest league. 

As luck would have it his debut Saturday night was as glamorous a pitching matchup as you could ever expect to see at such a low level.  On the mound opposing him, was the only pitcher rated higher than him in the international market in fellow 17 year old Venezuelan Victor Sanchez.  These are the only two 17 year olds in the league, and despite Sanchez having quite a respectable start, with 6 innings pitched, 8 strikeouts to 0 walks (despite 5 runs), Osuna blew him out of the water.  In his 5 innings of work, he struck out 13 of the 19 batters he faced (which set a Vancouver Canadians record), walked just 1, and only allowed 1 hit. 

To put into perspective just how astounding this performance is, the lineup that Osuna mowed down has just 2 batters under the age of 21.  The first 7 outs that Osuna recorded were via the strikeout, including a strikeout of the #3 pick in the most recent draft in polished college catcher Mike Zunino.  To put it frankly its absolutely absurd that the best performance in the league this year, was put up the youngest player, in his debut at that level.  You just don’t see that type of thing happen very often, and when you do, its usually worth getting excited about.  

When the Jays spent $1.5 mil on Osuna, they were paying for a polished pitcher for his age, one who had been the star of youth Mexican teams, and good enough to play in the veteran laden Mexican professional league.  So as a result its not surprising that they’ve promoted him as aggressively as they have, however to see him excel this early in his career against this type of competition is very promising.

Lastly, and potentially the most exciting aspect of Osuna’s breakthrough performance is unlike some other systems around baseball that would be living and dying with the development of a 17 year old kid, the Jays don’t have that problem at all.  Osuna simply adds to the overflowing depth the Jays already have on the mound up and down their system.  Whether it’s the crop that we’ve already seen in the majors of Drew Hutchinson, Kyle Drabek & Henderson Alvarez, the next wave that’s currently in Lansing of Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard & Justin Nicolino, or the one just emerging at the lowers levels featuring Daniel Norris, Kevin Comer or Osuna himself things look incredibly positive for Jays fans moving forward.  

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