2009 Cardinals VSL Starting Pitchers

Josh Jones' detailed report on the nine pitchers who saw action as starters for the 2009 Venezuelan Summer League Cardinals.

Javier Avendano made 13 starts posting a 6-3 record and 1.79 ERA.  He allowed 59 hits, 24 runs (13 earned), hit three batters, walked 21, threw seven wild pitches, and struck out 60 over 65.1 innings.  Avendano had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 112-to-59 and a 1.22 WHIP.

 

The Cardinals' July 2, 2007 free agent signing was one of three main anchors in the Venezuelan starting rotation.  In four of his starts, he didn't allow a single run and three of them he only allowed one.  He struck out six or more in seven of his trips to the mound, including six of his first eight games.  Avendano pitched a limited four innings three times during the season. His best start came on July 19, when he pitched seven innings allowing three hits, no runs, one walk, and struck out six for his sixth winning decision.  His worst outing came on July 29, when he gave up seven hits, four earned runs, three walks, threw two wild pitches, and struck out two over four innings for his second losing decision.

 

Of course many Cardinals fans already know he received a promotion to the Gulf Coast Cardinals after the VSL season was completed.  Avendano will be a pitcher to watch when next season comes around.  After battling through some injuries during the 2008 season, he managed to bounce right back and prove he is worth the call to the States.  The 18-year old right-hander could follow a somewhat slower version of a path as Richard Castillo in the 2010 season, possibly being assigned to Batavia or even Johnson City.


Deimer Bier made 13 starts posting a 5-3 record and 2.29 ERA.  He allowed 50 hits, 20 runs (16 earned), three home runs, hit one batter, walked 19, had one balk, struck out 72, and picked one runner off over 63 innings.  Bier had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 52-to-86 and a 1.10 WHIP.

 

The Cardinals' July 2, 2007 signing was another anchor in the starting rotation along with Avendano.  He fell below five innings three times during the 2009 season, one being a one-inning rain delay.  Bier struck out five or more batters in eight starts including ten on July 8.  In six starts he didn't allow a run with two in a row coming on July 14th and 17th (total of eight innings).  The 18-year old right-hander had his best start on July 14th when he pitched seven scoreless innings and allowing two hits, one walk, and striking out nine.  His worst start came on June 3 when he was tagged with six hits, five earned runs, one walk, hit one batter, and only struck out two for a losing decision.

 

Bier will probably get a call to participate in extended spring training next season.  He's managed to find his big strikeout pitches that seemed to be missing in his first professional season after winter ball in 2007.  The much-improved starter could bring havoc onto the VSL in 2010 if assigned there for another season.


Carlos Oraa made 14 starts posting a 5-2 record and 3.04 ERA.  He allowed 65 hits, 25 runs (23 earned), one home run, hit two batters, walked 13, threw three wild pitches, had two balks, and struck out 48 over 68 innings.  Oraa had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 78-to-66 and a 1.15 WHIP.

 

The Cardinals' February 10, 2007 signing was another major member of the VSL starting rotation that dominated along with Avendano and Bier.  Oraa fell below four innings twice and touched the seventh inning once during the season.  The 19-year old right-hander didn't allow a run in three appearances and kept opponents to two or fewer in ten starts.  Oraa did miss some time in early-to-mid June most likely due to injury where he was out of action for 11 days and was skipped over for at least one start.  He struck out four or more in seven outings.  Oraa had his best start on June 28 when he pitched six hitless and scoreless innings and struck out a season-high seven for a winning decision.  His worst game was on July 15 when he was saddled with eight hits, four earned runs, two walks, and struck out two over 5.2 innings for the losing decision.

 

Oraa, who had been pitching out of the bullpen the last two seasons, made a great transition into the starting five.  His results signal that he may have been uncomfortable in the first two starts but settled right in afterwards.  This being his third-season completed in the league, Oraa may get a call to pitch during extended spring training.  He pitched great out of the bullpen and very well when in the rotation and could be a lethal weapon when needed in either role.

 

Sergio Nieves made 14 starts posting a 1-5 record and 4.22 ERA.  He allowed 77 hits, 43 runs (30 earned), four home runs, hit four batters, walks 17, threw four wild pitches, struck out 40, and picked off three runners over 54 innings.  Nieves had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 87-to-56, a 1.47 WHIP, had two pick off errors, and one throwing error.

 

The Cardinals' July 12, 2008 signing was not great but still a huge impact for the VSL rotation that did not have a full five set from the beginning.  He gave up two or less runs in eight appearances and struck out four or more in four outings.  Nieves picked off two runners in one game on May 27 and struck out a season-high five on June 30.  The 17-year old right-hander made his best start on July 6 going six innings and allowing seven hits, one unearned run, and struck out three.  His worst game came on July 28 when he was sacked with nine hits, seven runs (five earned), one walk, one wild pitch, and struck out two over four innings.  Nieves only fell below four innings during the season three times.

 

Nieves will probably see a return to the Venezuelan Summer League in 2010 and make another trip to the Parallel League during the winter.  He's still very young and has quite a bit to work on but will be someone to keep an eye on in the next year. 

 

Moises Colorado made 18 appearances (six starts) posting a 3-3 record, 4.33 ERA, and two holds.  He allowed 45 hits, 25 runs (21 earned), two home runs, hit two batters, walked 27, threw six wild pitches, and struck out 45 over 43.2 innings.  Colorado had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 38-to-44, kept all three inherited runners off base, and carried a 1.65 WHIP.

 

The Cardinals' May 15, 2007 signing did not begin the season as part of the rotation and did only was in that role for a month.  As a starter he gave up 22 hits, 14 runs (11 earned), two home runs, walked 18, hit one batter, threw five wild pitches, and struck out 16 over 20 innings coming between June 10-July 11.  He didn't allow a run in eight games and went beyond two innings five times as a reliever.  The 19-year old struck out four or more five times and didn't walk a batter in four games.  His best game came on May 24 when he pitched three scoreless innings giving up one hit and striking out a season-high six.  His worst outing came on June 17 as he gave up three hits, four earned runs, three walks, one wild pitch, and struck out three over 2.1 innings.

 

The left-handed pitcher will most likely stick around in the bullpen as a middle reliever or could also develop into a lefty specialist if groomed in that manner.  You may see him receive another look in extended spring training and possibly land on the Gulf Coast roster if he stays healthy like this past season.

 

Jose Weffer made ten appearances (three starts) posting an 0-3 record and 13.91 ERA.  He allowed 16 hits, 22 runs (17earned), four home runs, hit two batters, walked 20, threw five wild pitches, had two balks, struck out six, and picked off two runners over 11 innings.  Weffer had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 12-to-11, had a 3.27 WHIP, and assisted in one double play.

 

The Cardinals' July 2, 2008 signing just had a real horrible season where he couldn't get anything to work for himself.  Weffer made it out of the second inning only twice and really struggled with his control all season.  As a starter, he gave up seven hits, nine earned runs, one home run, nine walks, hit two batters, had two balks, struck out five, and threw out two runners for an 0-2 record.  The 17-year old lefty had his best game on June 6, as a starter, pitching three innings and allowing one hit, no runs, two walks, one balk, struck out four, and picked off two runners.  His worst came on July 24 (as a starter) when he coughed up five hits, seven earned runs, one home run, four walks, and one balk for a losing decision.  Weffer also missed roughly ten days in June, due to a possible benching.

 

Weffer will most likely get a chance to regain some of his confidence during another winter in the Parallel League.  Last winter he pitched very well and caught my attention as a possibility for the 2009 rotation.  I still think as soon as he calms down and gets the butterflies out he'll come back stronger and much more mature next season.

 

Dail Villanueva made seven appearances (three starts) posting an 0-1 record and 3.86 ERA.  He allowed 15 hits, nine runs (seven earned), hit three batters, walked ten, had one balk, struck out four, and picked off three runners over 16.1 innings.  Villanueva had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 25-to-15, a 1.53 WHIP, and committed one pick off error.

 

The Cardinals' 2009 free agent signing began the season in the VSL rotation and was moved to the bullpen in June.  In his three starts, he pitched 11 innings giving up 11 hits, five runs (four earned), eight walks, hit two batters, one balk, struck out two, picked off two runners, and committed one error.  He pitched a season-high 4.2 innings on May 30 and went four tow or more frames four times during the season.  His best game came on May 25 when he allowed one hit, one earned runs, one walk, hit two batters, and struck out two over four innings. The 19-year old lefty had his worst outing on May 19 as he pitched 2.1 innings and gave up three hits, two earned runs, and walked three.  His season was cut short after he failed a mandatory drug test on June 23.

 

The move of Villaneuva out of the rotation was a questionable move in my book since he was thriving in that role in the beginning of the season.  He may not have been a big strikeout guy, but he kept the ball in play for the defense behind him.  If rules do not change for the Parallel League regarding suspended players, look for him to get plenty of time on the mound during the winter. 

 

John De Aguas made 15 appearances (two starts) posting an 0-2 record, 1.42 ERA, one hold, two saves, and one blown save.  He allowed 22 hits, 11 runs (five earned), hit three batters, walked 14, threw one wild pitch, had one balk, and struck out 24 over 31.2 innings.  De Aguas had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 22-to-43, let three of ten inherited runner score, had a 1.14 WHIP, and committed one pick off error.

 

The Cardinals' 2009 free agent signing was completely dominant out of the bullpen as a middle reliever reminding me of former Cardinal David Brito.  De Aguas had an unearned run streak that ran from the beginning of the season until his very last outing of the year (spanning 28 innings) and didn't allow a run for his first four games (five innings).  As a reliever, he went beyond the one inning mark nine different times and extended it to three innings twice.  The 17-year old left-hander struck out two or more seven times including a season-high five on June 27.  As a starter, he pitched 8.2 innings allowing ten hits, six runs (five earned), four walks, and struck out five.  His best outing was on July 25, going five innings and giving up two hits, one unearned run, one walk, and struck out four as a starter.  His worst game came on July 31 when he was tagged with eight hits, five earned runs, three walks, and struck out one over 3.2 innings for the losing decision.

 

The team made another questionable move taking him out of the bullpen mix to fill the rotation hole left by suspensions and rough performances.  He pitched great in his first start, but was hammered in his second.  De Aguas seems to fit better coming out of the pen where he was racking up almost perfect numbers as a top reliever in the league.  Could we see the same move in the next year? I wouldn't rule it out depending how the rotation sets.

 

Ramon Ulacio made 14 appearances (one start) posting a 1-2 record, 6.48 ERA, and two holds.  He allowed 31 hits, 21 runs (18 earned), three home runs, hit two batters, walked 11, threw six wild pitches, had two balks, and struck out 19 over 25 innings.  Ulacio had a ground out-to-fly out ratio of 46-to-21, let four of five inherited runners score, and had a 1.68 WHIP.

 

The Cardinals' January 27, 2009 signing was used mostly in middle relief and made his only start on July 18 after two great performances out of the pen.  He didn't give up a run in five games and pitched more than two innings four times during the season, including stretching it out to six twice.  The 18-year old right-hander had his best game on July 10 when he pitched six scoreless innings and allowed two hits and struck out one.  His worst outing came on May 26 when he couldn't collect an out while giving up three hits, four earned runs, hit one batter, and tossed away a ball for a wild pitch.

 

Ulacio will probably see a return to the Venezuelan Summer League in 2010 and a possible trip through the Parallel League during the winter.  There seems to be some starter potential (obviously the team saw it during the season) depending how he grows over the off season and keeps the ball down on the ground so the defense can turn the plays needed. 

 

 

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