For those who missed it last month, the Braves signed and added 27-year-old RHP Luis Vasquez to the 40-man roster. Vasquez, who was previously in the Dodgers organization, is a very intriguing pick up in my opinion.
Originally, he entered the Dodgers system as a 21-year-old. After six seasons, he was unable to crack the major league level because of control issues and various injuries. Literally hours after he he was released into free agency, the Braves picked him up and then added him to the 40-man roster two weeks later.
There are a couple of reasons I find him interesting. Prior to 2013, Vasquez has a 162:160 strikeout-to-walk (15.8% K, 15.6% BB) in five minor league seasons. Obviously, those numbers support why, despite a live arm capable of hitting triple digits in the past, he was never able to make the big leagues. Then last season, in 35 innings, his strikeout rate jumped to 29.3% while his BB% inched up to 17.8%. It is a very small sample to make any sort of judgment, but you have to wonder if this could translate past the upper minors. After lowering his arm slot, the sidearm slinging righty possesses a mid-90’s fastball & slider combo that could present a tough matchup for righties if he can find a way to tame his control issues.
The front office, scouting department and Roger McDowell have done a terrific job finding castaway and undervalued relievers and turning them into cheap bullpen options that have collectively been one of the best in the game. This will be a tough task to fix a seasoned minor leaguer, but at this point I wouldn't put it past the Braves staff to continue to tinker around and find something that works.
Do I expect Vasquez to be a staple in the Braves bullpen in 2014? I wouldn’t bet on it. But it wouldn’t surprise me if some time in spring training with McDowell helps him enough to where he could make an impact in the bullpen at some point in the season. Historically, the Braves have loved these types of pickups as Mike Newman tweeted out below. I wouldn’t any stock into his winter league numbers, even though they are quite good thus far (13.2 IP, 17K/3BB).
Keep an eye out for him come spring. There are plenty of "if’s," both injury and stuff wise. Don’t expect the next David Carpenter, Jonny Venters or Eric O’Flaherty to walk through the door, but don’t be surprised if the club can turn him into a valuable bullpen asset in 2014.
An AL scout said #Braves right-handed reliever Luis Vasquez was one of the best pitchers he saw in the Dominican Winter League this year.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) December 3, 2013