Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Larez joined the Tigers as an amateur signing out of Venezuela in December 2005; making his professional debut as a member of the 2006 Tigers/Marlins joint VSL team. In his first professional stint, Larez managed a 5.77 ERA in 12 games (10 starts). His control was his undoing, as he walked 21 batters in just 34 1/3 innings, while striking out 24. He did turn in a very nice July with the VSL squad, posing a 0.00 ERA in four games, and earning TigsTown's VSL Pitcher of the Month.
The then 20-year old Larez returned to the VSL for a second season in 2007, and made enormous strides on the field. Again earning TigsTown's VSL Pitcher of the Month award in July, Victor's 1.42 ERA and 2-0 record that month backboned a season that saw him post a cumulative ERA of 2.20 with only 11 walks and 38 strikeouts in 45 innings.
The Tigers opted to bring the improving Larez stateside for the 2008 season, and he responded very well with a fine season in the Gulf Coast League. Victor ranked fifth in the GCL in innings (56 1/3), fourth in strikeouts (54), and tied for third in wins (5). His perfect 5-0 record on the mound was supported by a solid 3.67 ERA and 1.30 WHIP.
There have been dramatic improvements across the board for Larez over the last three years. His velocity has jumped to the 90-93 range with nice late movement, and he can even hit 95 on rare occasions. He doesn't have superb command with his fastball, but he pounds the strike zone regularly and attacks hitters while trying to work ahead off his heater. He is still very slight and could add more bulk to his frame which may add another tick of velocity in the coming years.
Larez backs up his fastball with a change-up that grades just a tick above-average. He keeps his arm speed up well with the pitch, and he gets both some arm-side movement and some sink on the ball. The pitch is particularly effective when used against lefties, though he is still learning how and when to properly mix the pitch in for maximum effectiveness. Victor also throws a curveball that has morphed into a solid-average offering that he can easily throw at any time in the count. His command must improve with one of his two secondary offerings in order to allow him to truly rely on the pitch in critical situations.
Mechanically, Larez isn't necessarily a pretty picture, but he gets the job done. There is some effort to his delivery, and he finishes across his body a little bit, but thus far it hasn't hampered his ability to throw strikes regularly. There was some work last year to smooth out his delivery, but at this point the organization seems content to let him run with what is working.
It's tough to tell what is really there with Larez, having not faced anything above rookie ball, but the way things look now, without a step forward with either the change-up or curveball, he profiles as either a solid #3/4 starter or a strong bullpen arm.
See Larez in action in his scouting video:
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
Larez has been healthy thus far, and he has handled modest jumps in workload in each of his first three seasons. The key will be how his body holds up to his less than perfect mechanics, and if he can maintain his health as his innings invariably continue to rise.
Larez will be 22-years old in May, and the Tigers may be forced to push him a little faster than they would like. He should enter spring training with a chance to earn a job with West Michigan, with a fall back option of heading to Oneonta in June. If pushed to West Michigan, the likely innings jump and the increased competition will be a big test for Larez. There are a glut of starters vying for jobs in West Michigan and Oneonta, and as a result it wouldn't be surprising if the organization opted to try him in a relief situation as early as this season.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.