September 21, 2012
The Call-Up: Jake Odorizzi
The situation: With the Omaha Stormchasers’ season ending this past weekend, the Royals have decided to call up top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi and give him a late-season start or two in what should be an initial gauge of whether he is ready for a spot in next year’s rotation. Odorizzi was not on the 40-Man roster, and given his Rule 5 eligibility this off-season, the promotion takes care of an inevitable roster move early while also giving him his first taste of the Show.
Background: Odorizzi was a supplemental-round pick of the Brewers in the 2008 draft and one of the key pieces acquired in the December 2010 trade that sent right-handed starter Zack Greinke to Milwaukee. The 22-year-old returned to Double-A Northwest Arkansas to start the 2012 season after making 12 starts at the level the previous season. Odorizzi quickly found his groove in the Texas League, racking up 47 strikeouts while issuing only 10 walks in 38 innings. The Royals decided that he was in need of more of a challenge and promoted him to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to further test his stuff. While his control wasn’t quite as fine in Triple-A—he walked 40 batters in 107 1/3 innings—he continued to show the ability to miss bats and keep the ball out of the fat part of the plate.
What he can do: Odorizzi features a low-90s fastball that he can occasionally dial up to 96 mph when the need arises. He shows the ability to move his heater around the strike zone and throw to both sides of the plate. It’s a better offering in the lower tier of the zone, tending to flatten out when elevated. Odorizzi can be inconsistent in finishing his delivery at times, which leads to his leaving the ball up. The mechanics are smooth and clean, so there is still room for fastball command refinement. His go-to offering is a plus mid-70s curveball. The ease with which he can spin the pitch allows him to create deep break and either freeze batters or bury it out of the zone to get them to chase. It has-bat missing ability. The changeup is more of a pitch to keep hitters honest, but he does show solid feel at times. Odorizzi will be pushed initially at the major-league level to work it into more sequences.
Immediate big-league future: Set to make his Royals debut against Cleveland this weekend, Odorizzi will be getting his first taste of facing major-league hitters. The step up in competition will push him to execute his arsenal consistently and efficiently churn through a lineup. He’s shown that his stuff is advanced enough for him to take on more advanced hitters, but he does have some room for polish left. This promotion should serve as a building block for the righty to take into the offseason.
Long-term: Odorizzi’s style is a mix of power and finesse, so he’s not likely to be a huge strikeout guy. However, he has two plus pitches and demonstrates the type of pitchability that suggests that his stuff will translate in a major-league rotation. He can stand to get more consistent with the change and finer with his fastball command. He knows how to set up hitters with his fastball, so if those aspects of his game take steps forward, Odorizzi should slot in as a solid third starter at the big-league level, with the chance to have some seasons on the level of a second starter and possibly make an All-Star game or two. There will likely be some growing pains early in his career as he adjusts, but the curve is a weapon that can make big leaguers swing and miss.