- 7) Roberto Osuna – RHP – IFA 2011 – 2/7/1995 (17) – 6′ 2″, 230 lbs.
The Blue Jays turned heads when they signed Roberto Osuna out of Mexico for $1.5M (though likely 75% went to his Mexican team. Osuna, the nephew of former Major League reliever Antonio Osuna, had been pitching in the AAA-quality Mexican League and at the age of 16 was holding his own as the 2nd youngest player ever in the League that features former MLBers and players twice his age.
In his first season in the Blue Jays’ system, the young right-hander did not disappoint across two levels striking out more than a quarter of the batters he faced. Despite still being just 17 years-old, Osuna was promoted mid-season to the Vancouver Canadians of the college-heavy Northwest League.
He once again turned heads around the league with his debut for the Canadians on July 28th when he K’d the first 6 batters en route to 13 total in just 5 innings of work against Seattle’s 2012 1st-round pick Mike Zunino and the Everett Aquasox. Though the scouts had come mostly to watch the latter, they came back with great impressions of Osuna who K’d Zunino swinging in the 1st before walking him in the 4th. Osuna gave up a single moving Zunino to 3rd but then proceeded to strike out the side. Those were his only blemishes on a night when Zunino would not disappoint when he hit a game-winning 3-run homer later in the night.
Osuna has also been hailed for his great mound presence and an advanced feel for pitching which is probably aided by having a father (a veteran of the Mexican League) and an uncle (a long-time reliever for the Dodgers) to coach him during his early development.
- Already has good command of a sinking fastball which he throws between 92-94 mph and peaks at 96 mph.
- Michael Schwartze of MLBDirt.com and others have said that there isn’t much projection left in his frame
- Good arm-side run according to Schwartze
- Osuna could have a plus pitch when he reaches the Majors wrote Schwartze based upon good command and velocity for his age
- “Osuna’s best secondary pitch was his changeup. The pitch had almost splitter like movement. It had a good amount of drop with a little bit of fade. It was very deceptive and really fooled batters. He had a very impressive feel for it especially for how young he is. The pitch sat about 80-82 MPH.” (MLBDirt.com)
- Slider/Slurve/Curve? (SL)
- Osuna also throws a slider/slurve according to Schwartze which sits 80-83 mph
- When he was signed, Osuna threw a high-70s curveball which it seems the organization has moved him away from in favour of a slider which can be slurvy at times but “looks more like a slider than a curve to me” – (Schwartze)
- “He located it pretty well and generated a good amount of swing and misses. There were times where it caught a little too much of the plate and did not break consistently but it was still an impressive pitch and he had a good feel for it. He liked to throw it in 2 strike counts and threw it to both lefties and righties to both sides of the plate.” – (Schwartze)
- John Sickels of Minor League Ball believes he will have three above-average offerings in the fastball, change-up and slider
- He graded him as a C+ prospect prior to the 2012 season but by August had upped his status to a “strong B now, perhaps even a B+”
- Schwartze was impressed by Osuna’s “maturity, feel for pitching, and command” and thought he could move quickly for his age
Osuna demonstrated in 2012 that he was ready to face much older competition and considering his success, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start next year in full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts. While he would be a year ahead of Syndergaard/Sanchez in his development timeline, his already mature mind/body should allow him to succeed in the Midwest League in 2013.
In an interview with Jared Macdonald of JaysJournal.com, VP of Baseball Operations and Assistant GM Tony LaCava explained the organization’s strategies for developing teenage pitchers using a piggy-backing system:
Well piggybacking’s been done in the past in other organizations, especially with younger pitchers. It’s a way to get a five-month season out of pitchers who normally, if you just let them go full go, would run out of innings by, at the latest, mid-July. We’re trying to get them into a mindset of going five months which is a full minor league season — ultimately we want them to go six months — and to protect them during their teenage years where they’re being asked to do more and they’re still growing, they’re still physically growing. It’s our way of making sure we do the right things by them from a health standpoint. – Tony LaCava, May 7th 2012
It may be that Osuna will find himself as the partner of Daniel Norris, Taylor Cole, Javier Avendano or Griffin Murphy next year in a piggy-backing system in Lansing in order to coax a full-season out of his young arm.
Osuna should be a Major Leaguer before long even if his fastball doesn’t gain velocity as he matures with the potential for three plus-pitches. Osuna is currently looking like a solid #2-3 who should follow a year behind the development of Syndergaard/Sanchez. However, it is still a bit early to pencil him in for 200 innings annually, so don’t expect him to be competing for a rotation spot until 2015 at the earliest.