Name: Pascual Juan
DOB: February 14, 1985
Unfortunately, Juan needs more time than a lot of other pitchers because his electric arm comes with a lack of conviction in his pitches.
"He is a guy that is going to go slowly," former Latin American scout Felix Francisco said. "He didn't have the benefit of receiving the kind of education that other guys do. All of those things will make it a little more difficult for him going to the states and getting into a different environment. But he is a guy who has been able to make a lot of progress.
"We know he will be able to do something with his arm later on – it is always better to have a guy with tools."
He has, however, been slowed in successive years. In his first season, Juan suffered from an irregular heartbeat that had the doctors cautioning the Padres to take it easy with him. The heart murmur sapped Juan of valuable development time.
"Without a doubt (it has hurt)," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said of the lost development time. "We have brought him here two years now, and as soon as he gets here, he is hurt. This time we are going to leave him in the Dominican till we know he is 100 percent."
In 2007, things took a turn for the worse. Before things even began, Juan went under the knife.
In 2005, playing for the Dominican Summer League Padres, Juan flashed his potential. He posted a 2.97 ERA over 13 games, including five starts, striking out 28 in 39.1 innings. It led to a trip stateside.
The following season, Juan worked just 19.2 innings, dealing with the heart murmur and posting a 7.78 ERA.
The kid with the fastest arm action many scouts have ever seen has been just a dream thus far. And he will be 23 on February 14, giving him even less time to develop, especially since he has yet to make it out of rookie ball.
He is as raw as they come from a pitching standpoint and needs the refinement that comes with time – time facing live hitters and dealing with the multitude of situations that are prevalent in any given game.
When he originally signed with the Padres, Juan was a left-hander hitting 87-89 MPH on the gun. Those days are in the past.
Juan sits in the 93-96 MPH range with his heater and peppers in a few that close in on 100. There are scouts that believe he could hit triple-digits with maturity and refinement.
"His arm is absolutely electric," pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "You can hear – he has the best arm speed I have ever seen for a left-hander. His arm explodes through the zone. It is scary how much arm speed he generates.
"I will tell you what, this kid has lit it up. He is consistently 92 to 95 and he has hit 97. It is coming out of his hand easy. ‘Wow, look at this.'"
Where he truly is behind in the development process – understanding the need for pitch sequences. He can and will fall in love with the fastball. While he can blow some hitters away, the talent level – even in rookie ball – can catch up to a heater and launch it deep.
Juan also has trouble setting the tone in an at-bat. The southpaw has trouble getting ahead in the count and does not have faith in his secondary pitches to bounce back.
"He didn't know how to step on the mound, how to turn, so everything was so inconsistent," said Rajsich. "There is no fluidity in his motion. It was step and throw it – whether you were on-balance, off-balance, on the line, foots turning wrong. It didn't matter. He was in front of the mound three inches and he didn't understand it was there to push off with.
"You have to go right to square one and fundamentally break it down where it is just fastballs and changeups. Understand fastball command and repeat delivery. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
"The maturing process has started and you just don't over feed him and get him to a point where he is ready to go home. Don't put too much pressure and let him gradually get into it."
Coming from Haiti, Juan did not have the benefit of education in the realm of baseball and life that others from Latin American have. His grasp of the concepts within baseball have come slower, making his ascension to prospect status a question mark until he can prove he can make those positive strides.
Another question regarding Juan points to his aggressiveness on the mound. He doesn't act like he owns the bump; given his impressive fastball, he should be a player that strikes fear into the opposition by flashing a demeanor that clarifies he will go inside, isn't afraid of the batter, and has something to prove.
"He has a gifted arm," said Fuson. "It is about staying healthy for a guy like that and getting a chance to get out of Arizona. He has always fought trying to throw a breaking ball. We have always thought there was a little fear in there as well. It is hard to see when he touches 95 MPH to have fear."
His secondary pitches are below average and part of that stems from development time. Will he make the progress with his changeup ad slider? Only time will bear that out.
"It is hard to get better when you are not on the mound," added Fuson. "That has been the disappointment for him."
"He has a big upside with that arm," Padres director of international scouting Randy Smith said. "He has one of the quickest arms I have ever seen but it will be baby steps for him. It may be baby steps and then all of a sudden he comes real fast. The biggest thing this year I want to see is him get a lot of innings and get into the strike zone a little bit better. This is a left-hander who is consistently 93 or 94 and hits 97. We don't have many of those guys."
ETA: Juan is an exceptional arm that has raw talent and tools but harnessing those skills will be the challenge. Two years have gone by without progress and the dream is becoming more distant. If he puts it altogether, Juan has closer-type stuff. He just doesn't have a closer's mentality.
If probability was thrown into the mix, Juan is the player that could be a perennial All-Star but has about a five-percent chance of reaching that potential.