Diamondbacks Prospect #47: P Emiliano Fruto

In August, the Arizona Diamondbacks exchanged slugging first base prospect Chris Carter for right-hander Emiliano Fruto. Carter ranked as the 9th best prospect in the system last year, while Fruto checks in at #47 this winter. What gives?

Vitals:

Name: Emiliano Fruto
Nickname: Cabeza Grande
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
DOB: 6/6/1984
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 235 lbs
B/T: R/R

History: There has never been any doubt about how William Christopher Carter would turn out.  That Stanford product had been ready to hit major league pitching in 2006, if not sooner.  His defense at first base was poor, however, and he showed no range whatsoever upon every outfield experiment in which Carter participated.  The Diamondbacks already had a young, rope-hitting first baseman with little value outside his bat: a guy named Conor Jackson.  Ironically, the Boston Red Sox wound up with Carter, and they have even more star players blocking Carter's ascent to the big leagues than the Diamondbacks did.

Emiliano Fruto has as much upside as Chris Carter, but none of the certainty.  There's no doubt that Fruto has the stuff to succeed, but his control is erratic, to put it gently.

"I need to practice a few of my mechanics and throw the ball better," Fruto admitted. "Sometimes I throw the ball too high or too far back on home plate, you know, and I need to practice the mechanics of my arm."

It isn't a question of attacking the zone with Fruto - if it were, there's no way that the Arizona Diamondbacks would have been interested in him, and certainly not for a prized prospect such as Carter.  This big Columbian pitches as aggressively as anyone, but just can't execute consistently.

"I like to attack the hitters, and when I go in I know it's my responsibility to make the big pitch and pick up my teammates," Fruto said while he was in the Nationals organization.

Normally, a 23-year old with Fruto's stuff would remain a hot commodity, no matter what his command was like.  But Fruto has played professional baseball for seven years with three different organizations and has yet to display even cursory improvement in commanding his pitches consistently.  So while Fruto has plenty of time to develop before his natural abilities begin to erode, one can't help but think that if Fruto were going to ever reach his potential, he would have shown more than he has by now. 

Year Team Age Org Lvl W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO
2001 Az Marin 17 Sea Rk 5 3 5.84 12 12 0 61.2 73 45 40 3 22 51
2002 Wisconsin 18 Sea A 6 6 3.55 33 13 1 111.2 101 57 44 6 55 99
2003 Inl Empire 19 Sea A+ 7 8 3.78 42 4 7 78.2 80 43 33 5 38 83
  Tacoma 19 Sea AAA 1 0 0.00 1 0 0 4.0 1 0 0 0 2 2
2004 SanAnton 20 Sea AA 3 3 5.66 43 1 1 68.1 77 47 43 6 37 56
2005 SanAnton 21 Sea AA 2 3 2.56 40 0 12 66.2 56 22 19 6 22 63
  Tacoma 21 Sea AAA 1 2 13.09 9 0 0 11.0 11 17 16 1 11 12
2006 Tacoma 22 Sea AAA 1 3 3.18 28 0 10 45.1 33 23 16 1 21 55
  Seattle 22 Sea MLB 2 2 5.50 23 0 1 36.0 34 24 22 4 24 34
2007 Columbus 23 Wan AAA 3 9 5.26 18 16 0 87.1 78 52 51 6 59 68
  Tucson 23 Ari AAA 0 1 2.45 6 0 0 11.0 8 3 3 0 10 14
Minor League Totals 29 38 4.37 232 46 31 545.2 518 309 265 34 277 503

Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

Makeup: Fruto was listed at 170 pounds when he signed with the Mariners out of Columbia, and perhaps 30% of that was in his giant-sized head, earning him the nickname "Cabeza Grande."  Soon thereafter, he piled on weight like it was Christmas-time year-round.  Fruto's weight is now down to around 235, making him an imposing figure on the mound.


Don't be completely fooled by his appearance, however.  This Columbian is extremely fast and athletic for his size.  Think of Carlos Zambrano without the ability to take the ball out of the ballpark regularly.

Cabeza Grande also compares to Big Z in terms of mound demeanor. Both pitchers get wild and emotional when on the mound.  They are dominant when focused, easy targets when rattled. Off the field, both pitchers are fun-loving jokesters.  Fruto has been known to juggle soccer balls and dance like a maniac.

"I like to keep everyone loose and have a good time out on the mound," Fruto once told Scout.com. "Some like it, and some don't.  They think I'm nuts, but I am who I am. That's the way I've always been."

Pitches:  Fruto boasts three major league quality pitches when he his both focused and mechanically sound.  His fastball can hit the mid-90's out of the bullpen, but normally sits between 91 and 93 MPH when he's used as a starter.  He throws a changeup that knocks more than 10 MPH off the fastball, and is thrown with nearly the same arm motion, deceiving even seasoned hitters. 

"My fastball and changeup are good," Fruto boasted.  "That's why when I start pitching I use my fastball for the first three or four innings, then I throw my changeup.  As a starting pitcher, you throw five or six innings, and the same guys come up to the plate four or five times. So they might hit one of my balls, but will miss the other."

Fruto also throws a power curve that darts both horizontally and vertically, but he throws it for strikes with even less regularity than his straight offerings.  

Prediction: Despite wielding those three plus pitches, Fruto is best suited for the bullpen.  He loses focus too easily to have long outings.  Whether he can make it in the bullpen is also in question at this juncture, though he still has the potential to be a future closer.  At the very least, Fruto will always have a role as a clubhouse jester.

Major League Clone: Hector Carrasco

ETA: Fruto actually pitched during four stints with the Seattle Mariners in 2006.  Surprisingly, the cellar-dwelling Nationals did not find cause to bring him up last year before trading him to the Diamondbacks.  The 2008 Diamondbacks should be contenders, and it's just too much of a risk to put Fruto into meaningful games until he can exhibit more consistency.  2009 should feature his occasional appearance in Sedona red, while 2010 could see Fruto as a regular bullpen contributor.  If he hasn't improved his control by then, he won't play 2011 in the Diamondbacks organization.          

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