From young minor league prospects to rookie big-league talent, Prospect Press will be providing an inside look at baseball's best talent for years to come. Today's Prospect Press focuses on Kansas City Royals pitcher Jake Odorizzi
ranked righthanded pitcher Jake Odorizzi as the top overall prospect in a depleted Milwaukee Brewers organization entering the 2011 MLB regular season, which only happened because they finalized their annual prospect list just before his departure to the Kansas City Royals as part of the Zack Greinke
trade in December of 2010. With Kansas City, Odorizzi placed fourth in Baseball America
's 2012 rankings of the Royals club, and he lived up to that ranking with an excellent minor league performance this year and a big league promotion last month.
As a professional, Odorizzi has drawn comparisons to former Royals ace Greinke, due mostly to his easy delivery, good athleticism, and a solid mix of fastball and slow curve. While the mile-per-hour measurement on Odorizzi's fastball is mainly in the low 90s, he gets good sink and pinpoints it fairly well, though he has struggled with walks when he tries to be too perfect with its placement. When not throwing his fastball, Jake tosses an equal mix of a low-80s changeup and a low-70s curveball, and he often relies more on the latter.
The 22 year-old Illinois native began his 2012 campaign at Double-A Northwest Arkansas before working his way up to Triple-A Omaha, and in 26 total games (25 starts) this year he posted a 15-5 win-loss mark with a 3.03 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, and 135 strikeouts in 145 1/3 innings. He made a pair of big league starts for the Royals in late September but recorded just 7 1/3 total innings and went 0-1 with 8 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts, and 4 earned runs allowed.
While Odorizzi was (briefly) a top organizational prospect, he doesn't profile as an ideal staff ace or a particularly dominant major league hurler, though all-star level potential is certainly there. So far, his minor league career has resulted in a 1.23 WHIP, 2.85 walks per nine innings (BB/9), and a 3.22 strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) rate which, while certainly solid, doesn't match up with some of the gaudy stats from minor league prospects with higher ceilings. However, even in games where baserunners are plentiful, he is still able to post fair stat lines and limit bad outings by not allowing many home runs (he surrendered just 43 long balls in 480 2/3 minor league innings) and inducing ground ball outs.
This effectiveness was most evident during the best glimpse at Odorizzi's professional baseball future this summer, namely in the 19 outings (18 starts) he made for Triple-A Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. His 11-3 record and 2.93 ERA were quite impressive, particularly when one considers that the PCL is traditionally a very hitter-friendly league, but his 88 strikeouts in 107 1/3 innings don't jump out. His ability to limit runs and take 11 wins in 19 Triple-A outings shouldn't be overlooked, but it would be premature to expect elite or even near-elite numbers from him in the major leagues.
Overall, Odorizzi profiles best as a number two starter with inning-eating potential, though he may become a de facto staff ace after the hugely disappointing 2012 minor league campaigns from fellow Royals pitching prospects Mike Montgomery
and Chris Dwyer
, both of whom regressed horribly after promising 2011 seasons. Jake has three pitches (fastball, slow curveball, changeup) that could all be above-average as continues to mature, and if he can consistently control his walk numbers and continue to keep home runs off of the score sheet, he could be a vital member of the Royals starting rotation as early as opening day of 2013.