Roberto Osuna Game Report – 4/7/2013 at Lake County Captains
I want to thank Craig Deas and the Lake County Captains for granting me access.
I didn’t expect to go to any minor league games during the first weekend. As Sunday approached the weather proved more favorable than expected, and Roberto Osuna was listed as the probable in Lake County that Sunday. How could I pass up that opportunity?
He may only be 18 years old, but Roberto Osuna has a well developed, physical build uncommon for his age. Wearing the number twenty-four, I couldn’t help but see some Ricky Romero-esque characteristics. Not overly tall (for a professional pitcher) at 6’2″, his strength is well proportioned with a thick lower half and a well developed upper body. He looks to have trimmed down a bit since Conor saw him last year to the point where there is little visible softness in his upper half. He is physically mature and is unlikely to see any additional growth.
Osuna utilizes a fairly simple delivery with a moderately high leg kick; he repeats the motion well and shows good body control for his age. The tempo is steady — perhaps a touch quicker than average (I know, I can hear Kevin Scobee yelling already, “not quick enough!”) — and maintained fairly consistently from pitch to pitch. There are times when he will pause over the mound, but the majority of the time Osuna maintains his forward momentum towards the plate. The arm action is loose and fast from a consistent, true three-quarter, slot. The delivery is sound but not without its flaws: the effort level can get ratcheted up at times with more significant arm recoil; the wrist is hooked and he flashes the ball to the hitter during his delivery; and there is visible scap loading which may increase his risk of developing an elbow injury further down the road (a risk factor but certainly not an inevitability as every arm is unique and handles stress differently).
You probably don’t need me to tell you that the fastball is the pitch for Roberto Osuna… but it is. An explosive offering that comes out of his hand easily, the four-seam variety sat in the 94-96 MPH range — touched 97 — and held steadily throughout the afternoon. Osuna has some slight cross fire in his delivery and that, along with his arm slot, resulted in an angled ball path towards the plate. In addition to that path, the four-seam shows a touch of late cutting action. It’s a lively pitch that can generate swings and misses within the zone. Lake County hitters were overpowered by the pitch, defensively fouling it off or weakly grounding out when they did happen to make contact; it’s hard to envision any Midwest League team faring better. With the amount of command he displayed, this is a major league ready offering.
Velocity High: 97 MPH
Velocity Low: 91 MPH
Velocity Avg: 94.8 MPH
The two-seam fastball may be used a bit more judiciously than the four-seam, but you cannot say that it takes a backseat to its sibling. It is only a tick slower in terms of raw velocity (92-94), yet features more horizontal and vertical movement. The late tailing action and sink gives the pitch riding life in on right handed batters and can freeze hitters as it back doors in on his glove side corner of the plate. It too can generate swings and misses.
Velocity High: 95 MPH
Velocity Low: 90 MPH
Velocity Avg: 93.3 MPH
The one area where Osuna needs most work is refining his breaking ball. With solid spin and somewhat late 10-4 break that dove into the dirt, it showed promise during his bullpen session but was simply not a factor in game. The couple of times Osuna threw the pitch it broke early and steadily, lacked shape, and tended to be pulled to his glove side. At 79 miles-per-hour, it’s in that grey, slurvy area between a true curve ball and slider. There were enough positives pre-game to lead me to believe that this will turn into an average pitch in time.
Velocity High: 79 MPH
Velocity Low: 79 MPH
Velocity Avg: 79 MPH
With about a 14 miles-per-hour differential and mirroring the two-seam fastball movement, Osuna’s change-up showed pretty well throughout the game. The majority of the time he maintains good arm speed — there were a few instances where he guided it a bit — and produces consistent fading and sinking action. In a heavy fastball repertoire it was the go-to, but still sparingly utilized, off-speed pitch. Hitters were ahead of the change and were wont to chase or wave at it, producing swinging strikes out of the zone or weak ground ball contact.
Velocity High: 80 MPH
Velocity Low: 78 MPH
Velocity Avg: 79.2 MPH
Osuna repeats his delivery fairly well and fills the zone with fastballs; he shows the ability to throw his change up for strikes as well (though they often fade and sink out of the zone as chase pitches). The slider was utilized too rarely to make a judgment, but it would surprise me if he cannot throw that for strikes too. He was frequently ahead of hitters and only a handful of times did he miss well out of the zone. Those instances were usually the result of releasing the ball a bit too early or a bit too late — the fastball miss tended to be up out of the zone and the change tended to be in the dirt. Through two games, he has a sterling 14/1 K/BB in 9.2 innings.
Command is one of the last things that the prototypical young power pitcher develops, so it took me by surprise how crisp Roberto Osuna was throughout the game. As mentioned, he pitched heavily off of his two fastballs; they were moved in and out at will to both right handed and left handed batters. He generally kept them low in the zone and hit the quadrant where the catcher set the target. The times that the fastball did drift towards the heart of the plate or sail up in the zone, the quality of his fastball bailed him out, typically resulting in empty swings from the hitter. The change-up, meanwhile, was thrown to the intended vicinity but often faded away from the target; as he gains more feel for the pitch, his ability to locate it should improve.
After being somewhat disappointed with Luis Heredia a year ago, I tempered my expectations for Roberto Osuna. After all, it was his first start of the 2013 season, and he only turned 18 years old in February. What I saw was a significantly more advanced pitcher than I anticipated; he commanded his pair of explosive fastballs and cruised through five innings of work. Not only did the stuff and pitchability stand out, but there was athleticism in his physically mature frame. The secondaries still need more refinement, but the fastball alone should carry him through the lower levels (and perhaps the upper levels if his command is consistently this sharp) of the minors without much trouble. I see a future number two starter.