Tigers Prospect Profile #6: Virgil Vasquez

Virgil Vasquez has never possessed overwhelming stuff, but instead has relied impeccable control and mixing four pitches to consistently get opponents out, even as he has faced more difficult competition. Despite his rough Detroit debut, Vasquez is still regarded as one of the top starting prospects in the organization - will he make his way back to Detroit soon?

Virgil Vasquez
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-3
Weight: 205
Born: 6/7/1982
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Background
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 2006, 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.

While it took two tours for Vasquez to master the intricacies of the Eastern League, he was just as impressive in his first tour through the Triple-A International League in 2007. Virgil put together an outstanding season, one that included three TigsTown Toledo Pitcher of the Month awards (April, July, and August), and a trip to the big leagues for his Major League debut. His Triple-A season ended with him ranking third in the league in wins (12), eighth in starts (25), first in the league in shutouts (2), fourth in innings pitched (155), third in strikeouts (127), sixth in ERA (3.48), and third in WHIP (1.11).

Scouting Report
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 has a history of commanding very well. His curveball has solid-average break, but he struggles to keep it down in the zone regularly. 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. Despite some struggles in his few big league starts, Vasquez still profiles as a quality big league starter.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

AVG

AAA

Toledo

12-5

3.48

25

25

0

127

33

155.0

.241

ML

Detroit

0-1

8.64

5

3

0

7

5

16.2

.360


Health Record
Vasquez has battled some nagging injuries in past seasons, but has rarely missed time on the mound, and has proven generally durable. With four consecutive seasons with relatively heavy workloads, there is little to suggest Vasquez cannot maintain his status as an innings eating starter.

The Future
With the acquisition of Dontrelle Willis and the re-signing of Kenny Rogers, Virgil was destined for a return trip to Triple-A Toledo in 2008. The Tigers recently made things official, optioning him to Toledo for the start of the season. Vasquez will serve as one of the anchors of a veteran ‘Hens staff, one that should work plenty of innings, and give the team a chance at another trip to the International League playoffs.

At some point in 2008, Virgil is likely to get another shot in Detroit, and given his history of success, it is fair to assume he will improve upon his prior performance at the big league level. With Kenny Rogers continuing to age, Vasquez should enter 2009 with a chance at the Detroit rotation.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.


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