Acquired: Signed as an amateur free
agent out of Venezuela.
B: R T: R / Height: 6' 3" / Weight: 170 lbs / Birth date: 10-4-1986
2007 Team/League: Venezuelan Summer League Phillies
Games/Games Started in 2007: 16 g / 15 gs
When fans think about Phillies prospects, they tend to forget about the potential that's playing in the Venezuelan Summer League and Dominican Summer League. Quite honestly, it's difficult to judge the talent in those leagues because they're not playing against the same type of talent that's found in the minor league systems here in the states. Another factor that makes it tough is trying to gauge how a player will adapt to coming to the United States and pitching in a completely different environment.
Even with all that in mind, it's impossible to ignore Freddy Ballestas. The 21 year old right-hander was just another face in the crowd until the 2007 season came along and he showed immense improvement over what scouts had seen from him previously. It was mainly a matter of maturing and continuing to work on his mechanics. Ballestas is a good pitcher and could find his way to the states for the 2008 season. After all, there are very few pitchers in any league who can boast a WHIP of 0.81 for 100 innings of work and allow just two home runs over that stretch, while striking out 98 hitters. This was the kind of production that the Phillies hoped to get from Ballestas and it's good enough production to make him the only member of the Phillies Venezuelan or Dominican teams to make our list of the 75 Top Prospects in the Phillies organization.
Repertoire: This past season was a breakthrough season for Freddy Ballestas, especially when it came to developing his pitches. His fastball gained some velocity and is edging closer to the 90 mph range after sitting generally in the mid-80s through his first two seasons. What was a basic fastball, is now an above average fastball with decent and late movement that seems to sneak up on hitters. His secondary pitches have improved, but his fastball is what's going to earn him money down the road. Ballestas throws a pretty good slider that cuts away from left-handed hitters and can induce groundballs. The Phillies would love to see Ballestas come up with a stronger change-up than he has now and will work with him on making his mechanics for the pitch more closely resemble what he does on his fastball.
Pitching Style: Prior to 2007, Ballestas didn't seem to have full confidence in his abilities. He wasn't willing to pitch inside and would seem to "pitch away from the bat" against the better hitters he would face. Now, Ballestas is a different pitcher. He found that he has good enough stuff to go after hitters and has become more of a strikeout pitcher. With his new found confidence came the ability to keep the ball down in the zone and he allowed just two home runs in 100 innings of work, which has the Phillies brass salivating about what he could do in the majors pitching at Citizens Bank Park. Of course, he's a long way from that, but you have to love those numbers and the fact that he has gained enough confidence to pitch that way, which works no matter what league a guy is in.
Projection: It seems that it's time for Ballestas to come to the states. While there are a limited number of visas available and the Phillies have to be careful, Ballestas seems worthy of using one of the available visas. The Phillies would then work with him through extended spring training and assign him to a short-season league from there.
Freddy Ballestas' career stats