Let’s Get to Know Nathan Eovaldi


I’m halfway through writing a “reasons to watch the rest of the season” post, and included in it is a look at what prospects we might see recalled when rosters expand on September 1. There’s the usual assortment of A.J. Ellises and Jamie Hoffmanns, but I also mentioned the slight possibility that some of the outstanding arms currently residing at AA Chattanooga could get a quick look.

Well, that “slight possibility” may have just gotten a little larger, based on this tweet from ESPNLA’s Tony Jackson, who generally knows what he’s talking about:

Educated guess on my part, but I’m predicting Nate Eovaldi will start next Tuesday night against Phillies.

Maybe Jackson’s right about Tuesday, and maybe he’s not, but it’s as good an excuse as any to take a closer look at Eovaldi, who is enjoying something of a breakout season in AA and is expected to challenge for a spot on the 2012 Dodgers.

First, Eovaldi’s superficial line:

Year Age Tm Lev ERA G GS IP H R HR BB SO WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9
2008 18 2 Teams Rk 0.84 7 0 10.2 7 1 0 3 11 0.938 5.9 2.5 9.3
2009 19 Great Lakes A 3.27 26 16 96.1 95 48 2 41 71 1.412 8.9 3.8 6.6
2010 20 3 Teams A+-Rk 4.30 20 18 98.1 108 52 3 37 72 1.475 9.9 3.4 6.6
2011 21 Chattanooga AA 2.62 20 19 103.0 76 41 3 46 99 1.184 6.6 4.0 8.7
4 Seasons 3.30 73 53 308.1 286 142 8 127 253 1.339 8.3 3.7 7.4
Rk (2 seasons) Rk 2.25 11 4 24.0 16 7 0 7 25 0.958 6.0 2.6 9.4
A (1 season) A 3.27 26 16 96.1 95 48 2 41 71 1.412 8.9 3.8 6.6
AA (1 season) AA 2.62 20 19 103.0 76 41 3 46 99 1.184 6.6 4.0 8.7
A+ (1 season) A+ 4.45 16 14 85.0 99 46 3 33 58 1.553 10.5 3.5 6.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/2/2011.

If there’s one thing that stands out there to me, it’s his apparently impressive ability to keep the ball in the park, having allowed just 8 homers in over 300 innings. That doesn’t necessarily mean it translates to the bigs – I don’t have to remind you the varying level of competition he faces in the lower leagues – but impressive nonetheless.

Eovaldi didn’t make Kevin Goldstein’s Top 20 Dodger list at Baseball Prospectus – in the comments, he referred to him as a “middle reliever” – though when I asked him if his 2011 had changed his opinion at all, Goldstein replied, “absolutely“. Eovaldi’s step forward this season has really turned heads, as Mike Newman of Scouting the Sally has been gushing about him all year. In June, he posted this scouting report from an April start:

  • Excellent size; Eovaldi looked closer to 210 lbs. than his listed weight of 195
  • Well-proportioned frame; Size through the quads and shoulders; Athletic pitcher’s frame
  • Fluid delivery with good pacing; Generates easy velocity
  • High 3/4 arm slot; Limits movement on his fastball
  • 94-96 MPH 4-seam fastball
  • 4-seamer lacked movement; Worked pitch in-and-out effectively
  • Maintained velocity throughout the start; Still touching 95 MPH in the 5th
  • 91-92 MPH 2-seam fastball; Some arm side run
  • 84 MPH slider; Best breaking ball; Used as out pitch
  • Pitch featured late cut; Depth improved throughout the course of the game
  • 78 MPH curveball; Threw sparingly; One CB was thrown behind RHH to backstop; Below average offering
  • 83-84 MPH Changeup; Threw sparingly; Slowed arm action

From a velocity standpoint, Eovaldi nearly matched Rubby De La Rosa pitch-for-pitch. As impressive as that statement is, Eovaldi’s fastball lacked the movement to make the offering elite. Add to this a plethora of breaking pitches in need of further refinement, and Eovaldi is on his way, but not ready for Los Angeles yet. As one of the youngest pitchers in the Southern League, he has plenty of time to improve and become more than a fastball/slider pitcher.

He followed that up with this report on July 19 at RotoHardball:

Since the pick, Eovaldi has admittedly had a couple of shaky starts, but I attended one of those starts in which he was clearly working on his secondary pitches which lag behind his potent four seam fastball. After a first inning which saw Eovaldi work 94-96 MPH, touching 97, he spent the rest of the game throwing 2-seam fastballs, sliders, and changeups, often throwing four or more of the same pitch consecutively. And although I prefer watching prospects work on mixing pitches effectively throughout a game as they would in the big leagues, I can also see the value in forcing a pitcher like Eovaldi to attack hitters with secondary pitches he may not have complete confidence in. Strike out a hitter like Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt (Eovaldi’s opponent in the outing) using a “baptism by fire” approach can do wonders for a pitcher’s confidence.

At minorleagueball, John Sickels ran an “Alternate Universe” draft in May, trying to see where high schoolers drafted in 2008 may have fit in the 2011 draft if they’d went to college:

Nate Eovaldi, RHP: 11th round pick in 2008 by the Dodgers, bought away from Texas A&M for $250,000. Erratic track record but has a live arm, power sinker, and is pitching well in Double-A this year. I’d mark him as a third-round candidate in the 2011 class.

When neither Goldstein or Sickels included Eovaldi in their top 20 prospects before the season, it’s hard to think that Eovaldi has “star” written on him, though he may profile as a solid mid-rotation starter if his 2011 progression is for real. Sounds like we may see for ourselves sooner than later.

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The lineup for tonight’s game in San Diego, which just started a few minutes ago, may pique your interest:

Gordon SS, Blake 3B, Miles 2B, Kemp CF, Rivera RF, Loney 1B, Navarro C, Gwynn LF, Kuroda P

That’s right; Andre Ethier is out, and Aaron Miles is hitting third. Joe Block reports that there’s nothing wrong with Ethier, saying:

Mattingly said Ethier getting routine day off, since he seemed frustrated last night and his poor numbers vs Latos

Ethier has three hits in 16 PA against Latos, which doesn’t seem like a large enough sample size to matter. While I don’t mind Ethier getting a breather now and then, it does seem very odd to do so against a righty, when Ethier’s struggles against lefties are so well chronicled.

Rubby de la Rosa Is Hurt, Because of Course He Is


Suddenly, trading Trayvon Robinson for filler might no longer be the worst thing that happened on Sunday afternoon.

Tony Jackson:

Rookie right-hander Rubby De La Rosa faces the possibility of season-ending elbow surgery after an MRI exam on Monday revealed a sprained ulnar-collateral ligament. A team spokesman said De La Rosa and the medical staff presently are considering a handful of treatment options, one of which would be surgery.

Dodgers medical-services director Stan Conte said De La Rosa reported tightness in his elbow immediately after leaving the game, but that he initially had felt it while throwing a pitch in the third inning. De La Rosa saw team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who recommended he undergo an MRI exam.

Oh, you just knew throwing 103 pitches in four innings wasn’t going to end well, right? I wasn’t watching the game all that closely – as you might remember, I was trying to figure out what the hell a “Tim Federowicz” was at the time – but clearly the results weren’t there, with four walks, two homers, and a wild pitch, and Don Mattingly is later quoted in Jackson’s article as saying his body language “looked different”.

I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure we can count the number of guys with serious arm injuries who have “considered other treatment options” and didn’t end up with surgery on one hand. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Carlos Monasterios just spent three months trying to rehab what was initially termed “elbow inflammation” before finally submitting to the knife last week.) And if you’re getting surgery on your ulnar collateral ligament, that is almost always Tommy John surgery, depending on the severity. Some will point out that de la Rosa reportedly has a “sprained” ligament and not a “torn” one, but that’s semantics: a sprain is a tear.

If de la Rosa does end up with Tommy John surgery – and again, that’s not confirmed, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but it sounds overwhelmingly likely – the timing means that we won’t see him back in Dodger blue until late 2012 at the earliest, or more likely not until 2013. Considering everything else we’ve had to put up with this season and on the heels of Kenley Jansen‘s cardiac concerns, that seems like an unnecessary punch in the gut, but I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by anything at this point.

I also imagine some will feel this vindicates Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to stay, as the Dodgers would be looking at a rotation that included both John Ely and Dana Eveland right now if Kuroda had been traded and then de la Rosa was injured. It’s an easy fallback, though I don’t really agree: 2011 was cooked a long time ago anyway, so it doesn’t really make much of a difference to me if they’re losing 3-1 games with Kuroda, or 6-1 games with Ely.

A few weeks ago, I looked at how far the club would let de la Rosa go, considering he was nearing his career high for innings pitched. At 100.2 combined this year, he didn’t even match 2010′s 110.1, though there’s evidence that MLB innings are more stressful than MiLB frames. Either way, I find it hard to blame the Dodgers for their handling of the young pitcher. He threw 100 pitches or more just three times, and only once did he go above 113; even on Sunday, he was still hitting the upper 90s and got six of the twelve outs he  managed via strikeouts. Though we probably will never know for sure, the injury likely happened during de la Rosa’s tough outing on Sunday, and there wasn’t really anything that anyone could have done about it. Young pitchers get hurt, unfortunately. It happens.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that Tommy John surgery is nearly routine at this point, with an overwhelming success rate. Just to cherry-pick two recent examples from Washington, Jordan Zimmermann had his procedure in early August of 2009, returned to the bigs in late August of 2010, and has been one of the club’s best starters this year; Stephen Strasburg went under the knife in late August of 2010, and has reportedly been hitting 95 in bullpen sessions with a small chance that he sees MLB time in September. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s in no way the death of a career like it was for decades, or even the risky procedure it was up until the last 10 years or so.

Of course, it would have a huge impact on the 2012 Dodger rotation, which is already questionable at best behind Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. But that’s a question for another day. For now, let’s hope for the best for young Rubby De La Rosa.

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Unrelated, but all of the trade deadline craziness on Sunday pushed July just past June as the month with the highest traffic in blog history, which means that the top two have come in the last two months. Thanks for reading, even despite all of the off-field garbage and on-field disappointment.