Nicaraguan Lanzadores, Part 1: Wilton Sevilla

Over the the past decade, the Yankees have become famous for their scouting system in Central America and the Caribbean. They have pulled such stars out of Panama like Mariano Rivera, Ramiro Mendoza and star prospect Dioner Navarro out of Venezuela. Well, the Yankees are at it again and this time it appears they have infiltrated Nicaragua as their newest pipeline for talent. What they found was a two more "lanzadores" in the rough, one of them being Aristides "Wilton" Sevilla. 

If you saw Wilton Sevilla walk by you, you may not even think he was any type of baseball player at all. At 5' 7", 165 pounds, he is not of any intimidating stature. But, make no mistake, when he takes that pitching mound, the batters box is not a pleasant place to be. He didn't exactly burst onto the professional scene this year. In fact, it didn't seem that the Yankee organization knew exactly what to do with him yet. He went from Staten Island, to Tampa, to Staten Island and even to the Gulf Coast League. In any of the places he pitched in, there was a very little game action for him but those looking on could see exactly what kind of talent he was. But, the question for all of his onlookers was, "just who is this guy and where did he come from?"


Aristides "Wilton" Sevilla was born on July 19, 1983 in Leon, Nicaragua. His hometown of Leon would end up playing a major part in his baseball career down the road. In fact, at the age of 19, the fiery righty was the ace of the Leon pitching staff. He ended up pitching his team to a Nicaraguan championship and was name the Most Valuable Player of the series. At age 19, scouts were already salivating over the righthander. However, well known for their foreign scouting, the Yankees swooped down and signed Sevilla. Upon signing, the Yankees and Sevilla agreed that he would still be able to play for his Leon team in Nicaragua in the off season. Leon would just have to agree to keep him on a pitch count of 90 and four days rest between starts. The Yankees would take no chances with their new import and they treated him as if he were solid gold. Ricardo Heron is credited for signing Sevilla along with Franklin Sanchez. "The first thing that you see is the physical appearance, and he has an excellent one. It is thin, compact, and then you project that with 15 pounds more he can throw harder. As of right now, he throws 90-91. So he can arrive at 94-95", says Heron. "I believe that in essence, he is a relief pitcher. He throws strong and is aggressive. I do not know, I imagine him relieving long or short, or perhaps as closer. But for now, one must see how he performs and develops in low leagues". 


Not only was Wilton Sevilla treated like gold by the Yankee organization but also by the people of his country. Being the ace of the Nicaraguan team along with his youth and energy, his popularity was immense in Nicaragua. This is well shown when he returned from his first campaign in the Yankee organization. People from around the country awaited his arrival when he returned from the Dominican Republic including representatives from his Nicaraguan team from Leon. "Carlos Rivers, that is the responsible for the Yankees in Latin America, told us that we could pitch [in Nicaragua] but that we took care ourselves. I understand that in the coming days they will arrive with the permission in writing and certain recommendations for the teams with the ones that will play", Sevilla said in regards to playing in Nicaragua in the off season. His status there grew even larger when it was learned just how successful he was in the Dominican. He had an incredible season, going 6-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 appearances. The next season would be key for Sevilla as the Yankees had plans for him to move into their mainstream farm system in the United States.


No man is perfect and this includes Wilton Sevilla. In his time in Nicaragua, the only thing that scouts could find wrong with him was his lack of maturity. He was very emotional and animated on and off the field. Many times that would play to his advantage on the field, but off the field it would end up being one of his biggest setbacks. In fact, the young righthander was even nicknamed "Tarzan" by his teammates, not just for his abilities to climb trees but his wild overall demeanor. The then 20 year old Sevilla was set for a breakout season in which he would hope to make his first trip to the United States. He would not be alone as he was joined back in in the Domincan Republic instructional camps by close friend, Mario Holmann and Franklin Sanchez. However, Sanchez was to stay there to play out the season. But, there was a roadblock for Sevilla and it would end up being himself. He got himself into a mess of trouble when he showed up late to training in the Dominican Republic and then was disrespectful to one of the leaders of the training camp. "It is a pity that a player of his talent remains out of action. Sevilla was at the front of the list of pitchers that was headed toward the United States in the next weeks, but now his attitude has obliged a suspension, said Latin American coordinator for the Yankees, Carlos Rivers. The organization repeatedly expressed their disappointment not only toward Sevilla but just in general. He was called, unanimously, the best pitcher for the Dominican Summer League Yankees in the season prior and the day he came to the USA was one that was highly anticipated.


After being suspended for close to a month from the Yankee training camps, Sevilla was given a second opportunity in early May to rejoin the rest of the players. After a long talk with Carlos Rivers, he was reinstated. "Sevilla was mistaken, nevertheless, we have reports of a change of attitude and he has requested to us a new chance that we have permitted", explained Rivers to La Prensa. Just about every Latin American scout was awaiting the day that Sevilla found that maturity and it had now seemed that he had found it. "I have been given this opportunity by God, not all of us receive a second chance and I expect to take advantage of it. My goal has always been to arrive at the big leagues, to help my family, and we are going to see if I can obtain it", said an apologetic Sevilla through a translator. Well, the talented righty got his second chance but, for now, his actions would cost him the chance to make it to the United States until 2004.


Even though Sevilla suffered through a self inflicted disappointing 2003 season, 2004 would be the season that he had been waiting for his whole life. Even Sevilla, himself, was excited for the 2004 season. "Aside from improving my velocity, that is over 90 miles per hour, I have learned to throw changeups and that has helped me a lot. Also I have put on 19 pounds of weight and I feel stronger", said Sevilla before the season. It turned out that when Sevilla did get out of Yankees extended spring training, he got a chance to pitch briefly for the High A Tampa Yankees. He was joined by his friend, Mario Holmann who was injured a short time after. However, Sevilla only pitched a few short and meaningless innings in Tampa and was soon, no longer needed. "In the Dominican I came in throwing 94 miles per hour. Here (in Tampa) I have been in 90 and 91, but I do not yet feel totally prepared physically", explains. He was sent down to low A Battle Creek and once again, he did not get much work. Maybe it was because of reputation or maybe just that the roster had no room but he continued to go unused. Then, he was sent down even one more level, to Staten Island and again was rarely used. Then, he was sent completely back down to the Gulf Coast League. He put up good numbers at every level he got enough innings. Perhaps the Gulf Coast Leagues is where he originally should have been.


It is amazing to say this but in every level that Sevilla played at, he turned so many heads and was as impressive as just about anybody. He even drew comparisons to Yankee arch enemy, Pedro Martinez. Maybe it is his stature or maybe it was his attitude or just that he is downright good. That one long suspension in 2003 may have slowed him considerably in his development. For a young man of his slight stature, he is going to need that physical development and more and more time to become stronger and better. There is a good chance he'll be back in Battle Creek next season. But, in no way are the Yankees soured on him. Wilton has a nasty breaking slider and a changeup to compliment his biting fastball.


Because of his build and his stature, Wilton Sevilla appears to be a dominant future reliever. Until he gets more of a full time chance to pitch, we won't be able to see these skills that make Aristides Sevilla one of the best pitchers ever to emerge from Nicaragua. Next year will be the coming out party for him. If he can channel his emotion into just pitching alone, he can be something very special. And, the Yankees have to hope that he is the start to a new foreign pipeline of Nicaraguan Lanzadores.

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