One Padres scout shook his head in dismay over the subject of Fabian Jimenez. "If he would only use his changeup and curve."
And that was the problem for the talented left-hander. He relied on his fastball instead of mixing in his pitches and the talent in full season ball is good enough to sit on the meatballs he tossed.
"He just threw fastballs and didn't throw his secondary pitches," explained Bill Bryk, the Padres minor league field coordinator. "I don't care how hard you throw you have to have something else."
There is no doubting his ability. He could be great. But prospects are on their own timetable and sometimes never reach the potential, with various reasons at the helm.
The numbers over the first month of the season brought forth a glimpse of his talent.
He was 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA in April, allowing seven hits over four starts that spanned 21.1 innings. Yes, he walked 11 but it didn't matter because no one could knock those runners in when you are averaging less than two hits per game. In fact, he didn't allow more than two hits in any of his first four contests.
Things took a turn for the worst in a hurry. Over the next three months, before being demoted to Eugene, Jimenez had an ERA of 8.82 and opponents hit .382 off the then 18-year old southpaw.
He ended up walking 59 while whiffing just 38 during his time in Fort Wayne and had a WHIP of 2.00.
After a nine run outing on July 30, losing 11 of 12 decisions after his 3-0 start, he was sent to Eugene. The bleeding showed five games where he yielded seven runs or more.
He recaptured the magic and his confidence with the Emeralds, not allowing more than two earned runs in seven games, six starts, and giving up one earned or less in five of the starts. He even struck out more batters (18) than he walked (12).
"We tried to get him through it," Tye Waller, the Padres former director of player development, admitted. "He had a chance to slow down and focus on throwing strikes."
Fabian Jimenez looked like the all-star many, including us, proclaimed him to be at the start of the season. He was dominating and electric. Then the nightmares began.
Jimenez was a trooper as he battled through the losses as they piled high. He would go 1-11 the rest of the way in Fort Wayne – including a month where his ERA was 18.00.
His control utterly betrayed him and when he was in the zone the pitches were fat, left out over the plate where hitters could take advantage.
The problem stems from a curveball that could not find the zone and hitters sitting on his fastball as he abandoned every other pitch. He has also not developed a changeup – something the Padres demand he accomplish. Strides were made in the Instructional League – something the team hopes will carry over into this year.
He was dropped down to Eugene where he gave up seven earned runs over a seven game span. He has the arsenal to be a big time prospect but has failed to gain consistent command of his stuff. He will only be 19 during the 2006 season and will have plenty of opportunities to right the ship. The Padres may have been hasty in trying to see if the fruit was ripe enough.