Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Virgil was an All-State (California) third baseman and pitcher his final two years at Santa Barbara High School, where during his senior season he posted a 12-1 record with a 2.08 ERA. As a freshman at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Vasquez posted a 3.95 ERA in 68 innings as the Gauchos mid-week starter, and earned Freshman All-American honors as a result. Vasquez was a solid weekend starter for UCSB during his sophomore and junior seasons, and was taken in the 7th round by the Detroit Tigers. This was the second time Virgil was taken in the 7th round, as the same was done by the Texas Rangers during the 2000 draft.
After struggling through his first professional season in the New York-Penn League, Vasquez became the anchor of the 2004 Midwest League champion West Michigan pitching staff, posting a 3.64 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 27 starts. His breakthrough season earned him TigsTown's Organizational Pitcher of the Year Award, and put him on the prospect map in a big way. Virgil moved on to High-A Lakeland in 2005, at least until needs at Erie came calling and he was promptly promoted to the AA club. His first taste of AA likely could have ended up a little better, but it was good experience at the worst.
He returned Erie for a second time in 2007, and he performed at a much higher level, ranking in the Eastern League top ten in several categories; including games started (27), innings (173.2), strikeouts (129), and ERA (3.73). Vasquez's season did not end at Erie, as the Tigers opted to send him along to the Arizona Fall League. While out west Vasquez turned in a dominating performance that included a victorious start in the AFL title game. Vasquez had a rough first outing in the desert, but turned it around and put together one of the best campaigns in the league; ending up second in the league in innings pitched, and ranking in the top ten in several other categories.
Vasquez uses an average repertoire and exceptional control to make himself a very effective starter. His 87-89 mph fastball has good late life and he can spot it to all four quadrants of the zone with ease. He uses both a two-seam and four-seam variation, commanding both equally well. He can pump his fastball into the low-90s on occasion, but he does loose movement as a result. When his command is at its best, he can become a dominating pitcher, capable of frustrating hitters to no end.
His secondary offerings include an average curveball-change combination that he again commands very well. His curveball has solid-average break, and he keeps it down in the zone for the most part. His change-up has good sink and sometimes adds some arm-side fade. He works his change in-and-out to lefties, keeping them off balance. Vasquez can get in trouble up in the zone, and homeruns have been his nemesis throughout his professional career. The fact that he doesn't walk hitters helps mitigate the homerun problem, but he would do well to work down more consistently, inducing groundballs with regularity.
Virgil is a good athlete that repeats his mechanics and fields his position well. He understands all facets of the game, and the game tends to come naturally to him. He rarely gets rattled, and uses his poise to out-wit his opponents. He profiles as a solid innings eater who should be able to fill the back of a Major League rotation.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG AA
Vasquez has battled some nagging injuries in past seasons, but has rarely missed time on the mound, and has proven generally durable. After logging nearly 200 innings in 2006, he should prove to be a very valuable innings eater in the coming seasons.
Vasquez is often overlooked within the Tigers system because he doesn't possess the blazing fastball that becomes the calling card of so many of his counterparts, but he has steadily become one of the more reliable pitching prospects in the organization. His durability and competitiveness should continue to lead him toward success at AAA in 2007.
The difference between Double-A and Triple-A is not as great as it used to be, and Vasquez should have little trouble adjusting to the next step. His performance at Triple-A could accomplish one of two things; either he gets a legit shot in Detroit should someone go down, or he becomes prime trade bait for teams looking for cheap, young pitchers to fill out a Major League rotation. Expect Virgil to post numbers in the same ballpark as last season, and he may even benefit from the generally more spacious parks of the International League.
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.