"Vandel was a neat story," Padres scouting director Bill Gayton recalled. "Hank King, our scout at the time, he was excited about the kid. ‘Loose arm – this kid in interested in signing.' Do you think he can go out and survive? ‘I have a tough time picking the ball up on him.'
"We were looking for someone. When you have a high schooler you can send out – it is difficult to get young bodies in Arizona."
Vandel has deception in his delivery, making it difficult for the opposition to pick the ball up. He has a Dontrelle Willis style windup and because of his arm angle hides the ball longer than most pitchers do. His stats reflected that inability to locate the ball.
He was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League in Peoria to begin his career.
In 21 innings of work over 11 appearances, the left-hander allowed just one earned run, striking out 32 while walking only five. He allowed just 12 hits in 73 at bats, a .164 average against and two hits in 20 at bats with runners in scoring position. The result was a 0.43 ERA.
"He is advanced for his age and has a solid understanding of how to pitch," Tye Waller, the former director of player development, said. "He will pitch it high, low and gets people chasing."
"A pleasant surprise," added Grady Fuson, the Padres vice president of scouting and player development. "Anytime you can get that kind of production from a guy picked that late in the draft you have done well. He is poised and has command of the strike zone."
Vandel was moved up to Eugene and made two starts to end the year, allowing one run on eight hits and a walk while striking out 11 in ten frames.
Not a bad debut it would be safe to say.
The knock on Vandel was inconsistent velocity with his fastball but he dispelled that notion with alarming command of the pitch. His fastball, which tops out at 90, has late movement down in the zone and projects to gain a few ticks.
He also has an above average changeup to compliment the deception of his fastball.
"He went out and had great success in that league," said Gayton. "Not many people were aware of him. He throws strikes. He does not have much fastball now but he will fall into some velocity."
The biggest question with Vandel is whether it was a one-year wonder at the lower levels. But working through the season at 18 holds a lot of promise and if he can continue to hide the ball on his delivery it will serve him well, no matter how hard he is throwing. Add in that he is left-handed and he is a definite prospect.
Vandel must work on a third pitch if the plan is to keep him in the starting role. He owns a curveball but lacks some confidence in the pitch.
"Breaking ball needs to be tightened up," Gayton confirmed. "Good change. Good makeup. Very poised."
To be able to go out in Arizona and Eugene and perform as well as he did speaks volumes about his maturity. But as he goes up the ladder, he will also need to begin relying on his pitching coaches and catchers – gleaning the veteran leadership and knowledge along the way.
The future is bright for Vandel as he moves into the starting rotation permanently. Consistency will be his mantra and it will be interesting to see how he handles adversity – something that didn't happen in his professional debut.