D-backs Prospect Profile: P Esmerling Vasquez

At this time last year, Esmerling Vasquez ranked as one of the most promising right-handed pitchers in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Unfortunately, he hasn't been the same pitcher since partially tearing his labrum in his final AFL appearance last season.


Name: Esmerling Vasquez
Born: Tenares, Dominican Republic
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
DOB: 11/7/1983
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 160 lbs
B/T: R/R

History: Esmerling Vasquez had always been considered a solid prospect, but it wasn't until his breakout 2007 season that he ranked as one of the very top prospects in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.  His 10-6 record, 2.99 ERA, and vast improvement from the previous season led both FutureBacks.com and the Mobile BayBears to name Vasquez as the 2007 BayBear Pitcher of the Year.  The Arizona Diamondbacks went one step further, naming him as the organizational Pitcher of the Year. 

Vasquez continued his success in the Arizona Fall League that year, compiling a 3.25 ERA over eight bullpen games.  Unfortunately, that eighth appearance would prove disastrous.  After successfully fielding a pop bunt, Vazquez landed awkwardly, partially tearing the labrum of his throwing shoulder.

04 Missoul 20 3 2 3.52 19 0 5 30.2 22 15 12 1 21 33 1.40
  Yakima 20 0 0 6.35 5 0 1 5.2 10 6 4 1 0 7 1.76
05 SBend 21 6 4 3.64 53 0 3 71.2 63 33 29 2 47 79 1.53
06 Lancstr 22 4 9 5.89 34 18 0 117.2 129 89 77 9 51 115 1.53
07 Mobile 23 10 6 2.99 29 29 0 165.1 125 61 55 11 60 151 1.12
08 Tucson 24 3 6 6.72 24 15 0 83.0 79 68 62 11 73 57 1.83
Minor League Totals 26 27 4.54 164 62 9 474.0 428 272 239 35 252 442 1.43

Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

"It's unfortunate that he hurt himself on such an unusual play, but we are optimistic that after his rehab program he will be good to go," Arizona director of player development A.J. Hinch said at the time.

Rather than face the surgeon's knife, Vasquez indeed opted to rehabilitate it through a strengthening program.  That program continued nearly one month past spring training.  When Vasquez made his 2008 debut on April 28, he struggled, to say the least.  He plunked four batters and walked two in three innings of work.  Two weeks later, Vasquez suffered an infection in his leg, but battled through it.

The control issues remained, even after the organization moved him into a bullpen role in July, and even into his first two Winter League Starts in his native Dominican Republic.  It's unclear how much his command is affected by the physical issues and how much of the problem is confidence at this point, but you have to think that surgery is still an option for this still-promising pitcher.

"I think he'll be fine," Jack Howell, Hinch's right-hand man, recently told FutureBacks. "He definitely went through some ups and downs, and his downs were really down." 

Makeup: Understandably, Vasquez was a little frustrated by his setback.  When he got the chance to pitch again, he was beaming with excitement.  Vasquez loves to play the game and has an excellent work ethic, as evidenced by his rehab work last offseason.  Hopefully, his mentality is enough to conquer the control problems he is enduring.

Mechanically, Vasquez throws from a low-three quarters delivery.  His slender build had never caused him arm trouble in the past, but it could have something to do with his current troubles after the freak injury.

Pitches:  Fastball, Slider, and Changeup

Vasquez whips a fastball anywhere between 88 to 95 miles per hour, but it usually rests in the low-90s.  His low arm angle gives it a good deal of late movement.  It isn't the sort of pitch that dominates good hitters, but combined with his secondary offerings, it provides Vasquez with a very balanced arsenal.

His breaking pitch is either a slider or a power curveball, depending upon whom you ask.  There is a consensus on the fact that it is an impressive pitch, as it has helped him subdue right-handed batters to a .230 batting average over the course of his career.

Vasquez also wields a plus-changeup that helps keep left-handed batters honest.  It is one of the better straight changeups in the system when it's working.  

Major League Clone: Ramon Ortiz

Prediction: Vazquez still has a lot of upside, but he turns 25 on November 7th, assuming that his date of birth is accurate.  He has a lot of physical issues and confidence issues to overcome in a short amount of time.  It wouldn't be wise to bet on him becoming an impact major leaguer at this point. 

ETA: If Vasquez does figure things out, he still won't be asked to contribute at the big league level before 2010.  He needs a full season of success in the minors post-surgery before he can face major league hitters.        

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