Name: Orlando Lara
DOB: May 20, 1985
After having a good season in Eugene the year before, Lara couldn't reproduce the same success in 2007.
While he limited the opposition to a .216 average in 2006 and struck out 59 while allowing just 51 baserunners in 47.1 innings for the Emeralds, Lara allowed 43 hits in 33.1 innings over seven starts in Fort Wayne, bouncing back and forth between effective and ordinary.
While he started out each game with a bang, Lara flamed out by the fourth inning, giving up 10 of the 21 earned runs he allowed in that frame alone.
Playing for the Diablos Rojos del Mexico, Lara went 6-2 with a 4.43 ERA over 12 games and 61 innings – his ERA placed better than 11 team ERAs in the 16-team circuit.
He came back uncharacteristically wild after a month away from competitive action. He walked 10 in 15 innings with Lake Elsinore after issuing a free pass to 31 in his first 94.1 innings.
After making tremendous strides in his first year stateside, Lara regressed slightly in 2007. His breaking ball hasn't taken the steps forward that most people had hoped this past season and his command also suffered.
"I think the kids get confused sometimes when they go back to Mexico to pitch for the Red Devils," Padres director of international scouting Randy Smith said. "Different environment, pitching in the Mexican League in Mexico when winning is the only thing, as opposed to pitching in the minor leagues where development is the key and you hope to win. The approach is totally different."
Lara has a solid fastball with room for projection, hitting 92 MPH on the gun and sitting 89-90. His changeup is a plus pitch that works extremely well against right-handers with his tailing action away from them.
By the same token, the changeup is a pitch left-handers have been able to handle. That is why the breaking ball is so necessary, keeping them off-balance and giving him a pitch that offers a different look. Left-handed batters swatted .353 off the Mexico native.
"He really has a plus changeup, good fastball – breaking ball needs a lot of work," Smith said. "He doesn't have a lot of arm speed with it. That comes with time."
Lara holds runners well and has an over the top delivery that is was better mechanically last year. This year, however, he got into bad habits – a product of not consistently being around the Padres coaching staff. He keeps his line to the plate well and benefits greatly when he keeps his front side closed en route to the dish. When he flies open, his arm will lag behind, leading to a lack of control.
He uses his legs well to drive towards the plate, making some believe he will add a few ticks to his fastball.
Going backwards this year won't help and he will have to get back on track mechanically to continue to see positive results.
Lara pitched in winter league ball with mixed success. Used strictly as a reliever, Lara was again wild and inconsistent with his repertoire. He seemed to take the bad habits with him through the year and could not reverse his troubles.
"This kid has a chance to be special," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current major league scout Bill Bryk said. "He has great belief in himself. He has pitchability, a good fastball, some deception, even though it may only read 90 on the gun it plays higher because it plays higher. A very good changeup and improving curveball."
ETA: Lara, who will turn 23 this year, is behind the learning curve because of his age and relative progress to the time he has been around. The clock is clicking, however, and the southpaw has to make a noticeable impression this season to stick on the map.