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December 14, 2012

Prospect Push

Personal Favorites: Roberto Osuna

by Jason Churchill

As the Top 10 Prospects for each organization are rolled out this offseason, I often find myself focusing on a particular few prospects from each club. For the Indians, it's Francisco Lindor, about whom I wrote a few weeks back. For the Toronto Blue Jays, it’s right-hander Roberto Osuna, who reminds me, in one way at least, of Texas Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar.

Osuna became a favorite of mine after seeing him debut in the Northwest League this past summer. He won't turn 18 until February and already displays a mature feel for pitching while flashing plus stuff. While he's nothing like Profar physically and pitches rather than playing an athletic position and taking four turns in the batter's box every night out, the two have one thing in common: polish beyond their years.

I saw Profar in the same league at the same exact age in 2010, at a time when most outside the industry hadn't a clue who he was and one thing was clear: he wasn't going to remain under the radar much longer.

Osuna possesses some of those same types of attributes but also offers fluid mechanics, above-average velocity into the mid-90s, and a body that is ready to take on a heavier-than-typical workload, which could get him to the big leagues quicker than otherwise would be expected.

At 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, the 17 year old will need to be disciplined with his conditioning or it could become a problem, but the arsenal is exciting. That arsenal includes a two-plane curveball that he can throw for called strikes and will use as a swing-and-miss pitch, as he did versus much more experienced competition in 2012. His change-up is firm, but he keeps it down in the zone, and it shows some splitter-like action late in its path toward the plate, garnering its share of missed bats.

Osuna, despite the size, needs to get stronger and build some endurance. As he moved into the 75-80 pitch range, he put more effort into his delivery (perhaps necessary to maintain his velocity), though he stuck with his game plan.

Despite the effects the extra effort appeared to bring and his generally below-average command, the Mexico native remained poised and dominated thanks to his three-pitch mix and the ability to think his way through each inning.

From the stretch, Osuna worked at 91-92 mph mostly, but the curveball was still sharp and his changeup was a real weapon. He cut himself off a few times in the start I witnessed, but numerous scouts opined late in the summer that the right-hander is among the most impressive teenage arms they'd seen.

"That is a very polished starting pitcher, considering he's just 17 and in the States for the first time [this year]," one club's Pro Scouting Director said. "You have to love a kid that can use all of his pitches and shows a lot of confidence in what he's doing and how he goes about his business."

The Blue Jays, even after having traded away left-hander Justin Nicolino and righty Henderson Alvarez, remain stocked with young pitching, and Osuna is a big part of that, bringing no. 2 upside to full-season ball in 2013.

If he's disciplined with his conditioning regiment, Osuna could speed through the minors and hit the big leagues by 2015 or 2016, when he'll be 20 or 21 years of age, with the disabled list the only potential road block (as is the case with all young arms). That ETA happens to be a similar timetable Profar appears to be on for the Rangers, oddly enough.

Watch for Osuna to make a move this coming season, not only up through the minors but further up the Jays' top prospect list next offseason, when he'll have a full year of pro ball under his belt and a chance to make some adjustments and answer some questions.

Updated Top 10 Prospects Traded Rankings

  1. Wil Myers, OF
    Myers is easily the no. 1 prospect traded this offseason and is likely to start 2013 in the majors, likely in right field for the Rays.
  2. Alex Meyer, RHP
  3. Jake Marisnick, CF
  4. Justin Nicolino, LHP
  5. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
    Odorizzi lacks big upside but throws strikes and has two average or better pitches at present. Another step in the right direction with fastball command and his profile could change for the better.
  6. Mike Montgomery, LHP
    Montgomery has a premium arm to go with a 60-grade changeup, but his breaking balls may not play in the majors, and he's had elbow problems and mechanical issues the past few years.
  7. Trevor May, RHP
  8. Ryan Wheeler, 3B/1B
  9. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
  10. Patrick Leonard, 3B/1B
    Leonard may end up at first base despite a 60 throwing arm, but he has the raw power to profile there if he can fix the swing and improve his pitch recognition as he moved up the ranks.

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