Name: Mike Belfiore
Draft: 45th Overall, 2009
Position: Left Handed Pitcher
Weight: 200 lbs
History: A two-way player at Boston College, Mike Belfiore fared much better as a hitter freshman year and much better as a reliever in his sophomore season. As the demand for a left-handed pitcher is much greater than the demand for a right-handed hitting first baseman, it was clear that Belfiore's professional future would be as a pitcher. Mikio Aoki, Belfiore's coach at Boston College, was one of many who thought that Belfiore would be ideally suited as a starter, given his sturdy build and four-pitch repertoire. Nevertheless, Aoki needed him as a closer more than as a starter this season. As a result, Belfiore continued to pitch out of the bullpen, putting his team's needs over his own.
The maneuver wound up working out very well for both Belfiore and Boston College. After leading the Eagles to their first NCAA Championship appearance in 42 years by striking out 11 batters per nine innings pitched, Belfiore earned a 45th-overall selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the June Draft.
"It was probably the most unbelievable moment of my life, just being drafted," Belfiore told FutureBacks.com shortly after his selection. "I actually had no idea how interested the Diamondbacks were."
One of the reasons Belfiore moved up the draft boards was a famous - or perhaps infamous - outing in which he tossed 9 2/3 scoreless innings of relief during the final game of the season, a 25-inning marathon. He allowed just three hits that day, striking out 11 and throwing 89 of his 129 pitches for strikes.
"That's what convinced all the scouts that I could [succeed as a starter]," Belfiore figured.
In fact, some organizations might have been scared away by the sudden workload, but Belfiore said he felt no ill-effects after that game.
"[My arm] felt no different than after any other start," he insisted. "Obviously there was some soreness, but it wasn't too bad."
Erring on the side of caution, the D-backs eased Belfiore into the Pioneer league by using him as a reliever in his first three games. Those did not go well, as the southpaw allowed six hits and four runs (three earned) in 3.2 innings. Nevertheless, the organization stuck with the plan of moving him into the rotation, and it paid big dividends. Belfiore struck out nearly a batter per inning and had a 1.82 ERA over 11 starts.
Makeup: Belfiore combines the electricity of a power arm with the command and varied arsenal of a finesse pitcher, plus gets his fair share of ground ball outs.
"I have pretty good command, but if you look at my stats, I have a lot of strikeouts," Belfiore noted.
One caveat with Belfiore's rookie performance is that if you look at his stats, you also see a lot of unearned runs. There is something to be said for a pitcher who can get out of a jam, even if it is one created by his defense. Belfiore's 1.82 starter's ERA would actually have been 4.14 had all the runs he allowed been earned. His overall ERA would jump from 2.17 to 4.50.
Belfiore has shown a lot of good mental attributes already, however. His ability to put his team over himself - both by working out of the bullpen and by risking his arm to get his team into the postseason - speaks volumes about the type of player that he is. Having spent so much time as a batter, Belfiore may have a better idea about pitch sequences and what works against hitters than the typical pitcher who stands at the plate with his bat on his shoulders, looks at three pitches, and heads back to the dugout.
Also, Belfiore has battled against some of the best amateur players around, giving him the confidence to attack the strike zone.
"I learned how to compete against the best competition," Belfiore said of his time at Boston College. "I faced guys like Dustin Ackley, Buster Posey, all those kids. Now I trust myself that I can go against the best."
"I'll probably just keep doing what I've been doing until it doesn't work anymore."
Pitches: Fastball, Slider, Changeup, Curve
Coming out of high school, Belfiore's fastball topped out in the mid-to-upper-80s. He has since improved that offering to the 89-93 mph range. He tends towards the lower end of that spectrum as a starter, but he has good enough command of the pitch for it to remain an above-average offering.
His out-pitch is a big sweeping slider that ranges between 81 and 84 mph. It only needs a little more polish and consistency to become a legitimate big league pitch.
Belfiore sometimes features two other offspeed pitches, a curveball and a changeup. The changeup comes in a tick below the slider, and Belfiore has quite a nice feel for it considering how infrequently he has needed to use it. He has used the slow curve even less often, although Belfiore is confident that he can throw either pitch for a strike.
Major League Clone: Scott Olsen
Prediction: After seeing the dichotomy between Belfiore's results as a reliever and as a starter in Missoula, anyone would have to conclude that his future is indeed as a starting pitcher. The fact that he can handle the bat makes the decision to keep him in the rotation even more obvious. He profiles a bit like a Micah Owings, someone who can pitch at the back end of a good rotation or in the middle of a thinner rotation, and someone who wins more games than his ERA warrants by helping himself at the plate.
Timetable: Belfiore threw fewer than 80 innings in college and made just one collegiate start, so he is obviously going to need to work a few minor league seasons before he is ready to become a major league pitcher. Nevertheless, his arm should be fresh if it wasn't damaged by the marathon 129-pitch game, and Belfiore is excited about the fact that the Diamondbacks tend to promote aggressively from within.
"The Diamondbacks are a really young club, so hopefully I get to move throughout the system quickly," posited Belfiore.
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