Position: Right-handed Pitcher
The Detroit Tigers didn't sign Sendy out of the Dominican Republic until he was 21-years old; a rare occurrence for talented Latin players. Because of his relatively advanced age, the Tigers opted to bring him stateside immediately, thrusting him into the Gulf Coast League for his first taste of professional ball. Over two combined seasons of relief work for the GCL Tigers, Vasquez posted a 4-4 record with an ugly 6.18 ERA. Sendy made improvements while in the rookie league, but it wasn't until his next test at Oneonta that he really made a name for himself.
In 2005, Vasquez posted an impressive 7-0 record for the O-Tigers, including a 3.63/1.30 line and about eight strikeouts per nine innings. Working mostly as a starter for the first time in his career, Sendy took advantage of the opportunity. As a Rule 5 eligible player in December 2005, the Tigers were worried they may lose his raw arm to another team. Their gamble of not adding him to the 40-man roster paid off as Vasquez was not selected.
Last season was his most successful as a pro. In 26 starts for the West Michigan Whitecaps, Sendy won 13 games – good enough for 3rd in the Midwest League. In a career high 142.1 innings, Vasquez notched a 2.97 ERA and helped lead the Whitecaps to the Midwest League Championship.
Sendy starts with a solid two-pitch mix that has made significant strides in his time as a pro. His fastball has touched 96 mph in the past, and sits in the 91-93 range with good late life. Despite his slight frame, and the flat plane on which the ball enters the zone, Vasquez is able to generate some late explosion at the plate, busting in on right-handers with regularity. He still struggles with control of his fastball, and to remain a starter he must take steps forward in throwing strikes and spotting the ball.
His change-up is his other above-average offering, inducing plenty of strikeouts and groundballs. He maintains his arm speed very well on his change, and he generates good sink on the ball. He consistently works low in the zone, and has demonstrated the ability to throw it in the dirt at will. Sendy's curveball is less advanced, needing substantial work to become an average pitch. While he can spin his breaking ball well, the bite is inconsistent at best, and his command of the pitch is nearly non-existent.
He demonstrates good make-up on the mound, and is rarely rattled during games. His advanced age at such low levels of the minor leagues results in many skeptics of his ability. With two above-average pitches, Sendy profiles as more of a reliever down the line. If his curveball gains consistency, he could develop into a solid back of the rotation starter.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Unlike many A-ball prospects, Vasquez is nearing the end of the prime injury phase. He has remained healthy thus far, and his clean mechanics suggest he can maintain that pattern. He should be watched closely in 2007, as his 80+ inning increase in 2006 could have lingering effects on his productivity.
Vasquez is a shoe-in for a promotion to Lakeland, and with his advanced age, he could jump right to Erie if a slot in the rotation is open for him. The Tigers continue to tempt fate by leaving him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. If he has another successful campaign this season, they'll need to seriously consider adding him to the 40-man roster to avoid losing him in December.
I expect Vasquez to regress slightly in 2007, struggling on two levels; with the more advanced competition as well as the fatigue remaining from last season's workload increase. The key to his season will revolve around his ability to keep his homerun rate down despite the smaller size of Joker Marchant Stadium. If he can accomplish this tall order, he should post reasonable numbers.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.