Name: Stiven Osuna
DOB: May 5, 1987
The Venezuelan native first appeared in Arizona last fall during the Padres Instructional League and was called back to work in the Arizona Rookie League.
Coming off two years that saw him post a 3.47 ERA in the Dominican, giving up fewer hits than innings pitched and striking out 120 in 137.1 innings, Osuna was tabbed for the starting rotation.
Osuna did not disappoint, earning post-season All-Star honors.
Along the way, the right-hander tied for the league lead in wins with seven, placed third in the circuit in ERA with a 2.18 mark, was third in strikeouts with 57 and placed second in innings pitched.
"I liked Osuna, and I thought he threw the ball very well," Eugene pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "He's a strike thrower with three pitches. Very mature, very polished delivery. I liked that. He didn't seem to get rattled when he gave up some hits and some runs."
After building up the stamina, he went at least five innings in each of his final 11 outings. During that time, the righty allowed two runs or less in each start – giving up 14 runs over that span for a 1.79 ERA while going 7-2. Both losses came in games that saw him yield a single earned run. In only one of those outings did he surrender more hits than innings pitched.
A command pitcher that works to contact, Osuna works ahead with his fastball and targets it down in the zone. He throws in the high-80s and touched 90-91 mph.
"I've loved this kid since I met the kid," AZL Padres manager Jose Flores said. "He's the type of kid that's going to come out and compete for you from the minute he takes the rubber. He's a guy who's going to pound the strike zone. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, it just seems that he just spots balls, throws every pitch with a purpose, with what he's trying to pitch to that hitter, regardless if you're a nine-hole hitter or a four-hole hitter. He just has a purpose of what he's trying to do every time he throws that pitch.
With his physique, there is room to mature, grow, and add more velocity. He is a tad thin for his frame and could pack another 20 pounds onto his frame without fear of losing his touch.
His fastball has late sinking action and induces a lot of ground balls. Osuna did not surrender a homer on the year and just 15 of the 62 hits he allowed went for extra bases.
While he induced just six double play grounders, expect that number to rise as his infield defense improves. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 2.26 – fifth in the league – supports that, as does his .305 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) – fourth in the circuit.
It is essential that his fastball is working for him to see success with his secondary pitches – mainly due to his lack of a quality third pitch.
Osuna has a solid changeup that he uses as an out pitch. He is able to spin it while keeping the same arm speed as his fastball – giving him a definitive advantage at the lower levels. Plus, he can twirl the slip for a strike.
"That guy can hit their spots, fastball down and away, pitch inside to keep the hitters from diving out over the plate," AZL Padres pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "I was so impressed with the way he was able to throw the changeup when he was behind on the count."
Working with those two pitches has been his bread and butter, as his breaking ball has yet to hit its stride. He has worked on both a slider and a curveball over the last two years but has not reached a point where he can throw either with confidence. Both are loopy and lack the tight spin necessary to be effective. Hanging one in there isn't his idea of fun – so he shies away from throwing both unless there presented with a situation where he can't be harmed.
Osuna is not afraid to challenge hitters – knowing his arsenal can prevent hitters from lifting a lot of balls. Therefore, he works ahead in the count and works the edges of the zone to prevent damage. Because he does not walk many, hitters can take advantage of his propensity to throw strikes and drive balls into the outfield.
"What impresses me about him is that he has no fear," Flores said. "He's like, ‘Hey, here it is, if you hit it, you it hit.' He's not a nibbler where he's going to try to look for every pitch to be on the corner, inside, or whatever.
"If he ran into trouble, it was no fear, it was, ‘Ok, I'm down 2-1, I'm going to dominate the next five innings that I have.' It was incredible to see in the kid that he can control when he gets in trouble. We call it damage control. If he gives up a run in the second or a run in the third or back-to-back innings, he just shuts them down. He doesn't let that faze him. That's what impresses me about him."
While he is smart and instinctive on the mound, the addition of a third useful pitch will be essential as his pitch sequencing matures.
Coming inside to right-handed hitters wasn't an issue but he failed to do the same to left-handed batters – fearing he would hit them with a fastball that tailed into them.
"He just came mentally prepared to play and pitch every time he was out there," Flores added. What was special about him was that his demeanor was so much older than what you would see from a 20-year-old. He seemed more like a veteran type guy than anybody else we had on our staff. I think that helped him. He has good mound presence, he has focus. He's just a different type of kid than you see out there from the other starters that we had. That's what impresses me about him. He comes out there to compete every single day. No matter if we're playing the worst team in the league or the best team in the league. It just seemed that every night, it was the same effort no matter who he was facing."
Conclusion: The development of a reliable breaking ball will ultimately determine his worth. He has solid peripherals, throws strikes, and induces ground balls. As he goes higher, however, the lack of that third pitch will be his demise. Hitters will sit on his pitches and strike them with authority.
He has solid mental makeup and is in tune with instruction. An easy delivery and line to the plate should allow him to tighten the spin on a slider or curveball – and preferably the curveball at this stage. If he can continue to get stronger and add a few ticks to his fastball, his margin for error will also increase and his effectiveness will be enhanced.
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