Arodys Vizciano to Have Tommy John Surgery

The recent spat of injury news continued this morning, when the Braves announced that RHP Arodys Vizcaino was undergoing Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2012 season. Vizciano was rated the #2 prospect in the Braves system by Marc Hulet, and despite being just 21-years-old, he was in the mix for a Major League job at some point in 2012. While the Braves certainly have the pitching depth to deal with not having him on the mound this year, this is still a blow to the organization.

And, while no decision will likely be made on this until after Vizcaino rehabs, there’s a decent chance that this answers the lingering “starter or reliever” question that has followed Vizciano around. His two-pitch repertoire and big time fastball suggested a career in the bullpen may be in his future, but the Braves continued to let him start in Double-A last season before having him pitch in relief in Triple-A and the Majors. Even putting aside any durability questions this injury raises – in conjunction with the elbow soreness he experienced in 2010, his long term health has to be a concern – the lost year of development probably tips the scales towards a career in relief. He’s a guy who needed as much time on the mound as possible to continue developing his repertoire if he was going to stick as a starter, but losing the entire 2012 season is going to make it difficult for the Braves to keep him in that role.

More likely, Vizciano will return to the mound next year and be told to just prepare for a career of 15 pitch outings. Hopefully, for his sake, that task proves less strenuous on his arm.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


39 Responses to “Arodys Vizciano to Have Tommy John Surgery”

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  1. Marc Hulet says:

    Looking back at my 2010-11 Top 10 writeup on Vizcaino I said: The right-hander has a partially torn elbow ligament but has yet to undergo surgery. Tommy John surgery is probably a foregone conclusion but the organization will try and avoid it for as long as possible (although it might be best to take care of it at this point in his development).

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    • JT says:

      At the time I wondered why they didn’t want him to go ahead and just have the TJ surgery. Sitting him for 1/2 season just seems like a total waste since he will now miss a full calendar year.

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    • Greg says:

      Perhaps the best way to say it is that the Yankees knew at the time he was an injury risk, which is why they were willing to trade him. Of course, if he didn’t get injured, or if he returns post-TJ with no problems, then it’s the Yankees loss. No one ever profits from a player’s injury, but certainly, it was something considered at the time.

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  2. Big Baby says:

    I bet the Yankee are feeling a lot better about trading him away now. No one wants to benefit from an injury like this, but watching him succeed as a starter would have been a bitter pill after their Vazques fiacso

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  3. Matt says:

    This is the Braves achillies heel. Hang onto every single pitching prospect no matter what. They could have traded Vizcaino last summer and got a solid bat in return.

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    • Steve says:

      Or maybe it’s their strength because when guys go down they have players to replace them.

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      • bstar says:

        Ya, kinda like last September? That depth in the rotation really helped a lot. 7th or 8th starters sitting on the bench either just aren’t worth much. The Braves still have plenty of depth to try and get another bat, which they clearly need.

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    • Choo says:

      I doubt he would have passed the physical.

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    • JT says:

      I thought the same thing. I thought they should have traded him over the winter for a young hitter.

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  4. Matt says:

    I’ve been wondering a lot recently about the whole two pitch thing. Why does this usually mean a guy has to go to the bullpen? I’m definitely having trouble thinking of starters who were great with just two pitches, but Randy Johnson does come to mind.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      In general, two-pitch guys struggle to get hitters from one side of the plate out. Fastball-slider guys usually struggle against opposite-handed hitters, since the slider has the largest platoon split of any pitch in baseball, and so they can just sit on the fastball knowing that the pitcher doesn’t want to throw them a slider. Fastball-change guys lack a good breaking ball to get out same handed hitters.

      Johnson’s fastball was so good that he could throw it by hitters even when they were expecting it. Most pitchers can’t, so they need more variety in their arsenal.

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        He’s a two-pitch guy at the age of 21. I never understood why people assumes he’ll never develop a solid 3rd pitch…..

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    • Misfit says:

      In general, if Randy Johnson is the only example that comes to mind then it’s probably not wise to expect another pitcher could do what he did.

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      • Wishful Thinking says:

        Pitching-turned-hitting prospects don’t have a great track record, but Babe Ruth was a pitcher and then a hitter, so I hold out hope for [whatever prospect]!

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    • Phrozen says:

      Johnson also threw a sinker and changeup to go along with the fastball and “Mr. Snappy” slider. He was anything but a two-pitch guy.

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  5. cthabeerman says:

    I wouldn’t write him off just yet. He’ll still be coming back at age 22 and he should have plenty of option years left if the Braves want to develop him in a starter’s role. It’s an uphill climb, but not insurmountable.

    -C

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  6. Kevin says:

    I remember Marc’s report and other reports similar to Marc’s in past years. I always wondered why the Braves didn’t get the surgery out of the way if it were a foregone conclusion that he would need it at some point. It seems that it would be better for him to have the surgery as soon as possible so that he could work on getting his command back and get ready for the major league level as early as possible.

    Any idea why the Braves would hold off until now?

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    • harpago17 says:

      The AJC’s David O’Brien has an article up with quotes from general manager Frank Wren. Wren mentions that at the time of the evaluation in 2010 the suggestion by Dr. Andrews was to try and avoid surgery by simply rehabbing. He also noted that there have been other pitchers in the past who have had bad looking MRIs and gone on to have no problems over the remainder of their careers, specifically citing Greg Maddux.

      From the article:
      “There are guys that have ligaments that don’t look good on MRI and they play their whole career,” Wren said. “Greg Maddux’s ligament, from what I’ve been told, was one of the worst looking ligaments they’ve ever seen. But he continued to pitch and it never really became a problem. And that was when he first signed with the Braves.”

      You can read the rest of the article here: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-braves-blog/2012/03/20/braves-vizcaino-out-for-season-after-elbow-surgery/?cxntfid=blogs_atlanta_braves_blog

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      • Simon says:

        Adam Wainwright had a similar injury, and didn’t need Tommy John surgery for 7 or 8 years. Why would you not try rehabbing it, especially given that returning from TJ effectively is not 100%.

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  7. AL Eastbound says:

    Tough loss. A lesson for all teams though, the ups and downs of youth.

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  8. Phantom Stranger says:

    If any team could stand to lose a pitching prospect for a season, it was the Braves. Vizcaino was probably not going to be anything more than long relief anyway in 2012 for the Braves.

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  9. Mr. Medlen says:

    I guess this seals my fate in the bullpen.

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  10. Dan says:

    I actually think this development makes it more likely he returns to a starter role. The elbow has been a concern since the Braves got him from NY, so he was babied at times. The recurrence risk on TJ surgery is very low, so the Braves won’t be forced into treating him with kid gloves once he is 18 months out from the surgery.

    Also, since command is the last thing to come back, I would want him making starts so he could get as many reps as his health allows to work on that command. Also, if he was a key cog in the MLB bullpen now, there would be incentive to rush him back to get those high leverage innings; he isn’t so there won’t be that same temptation to put him into the MLB bullpen as soon as he is pitching again. And finally, my understanding is he won’t be put on the ML DL, so his service clock won’t be ticking. As a result there will be no reason to rush him back to the bigs until he is fully ready.

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    • JT says:

      I also think this gives him a better chance of being a future starter. Two years from now the Braves may be more in need of a starter than they are right now. Hudson could retire, JJ or Hanson could be traded, etc.

      Is pitching out of the bullpen easier on the arm anyway? I would think that constantly warming up, cooling down, pitching on consecutive days would be a lot harder on the arm than pitching 6 – 7 consecutive innings every 5 – 6 days.

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      • Bronnt says:

        This probably depends on the pitcher. John Smoltz was moved to the bullpen to ease the strain on his arm, and he later asked to be moved back into the starting rotation because it was actually stressing his arm even worse than starting. But other guys who have had chronic arm problems as starters have found consistency as relievers.

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    • Bronnt says:

      You nailed pretty much all the same points that occurred to me. The big one is that TJ surgery has turned into something that, while you hate losing a guy for a year, we’re no longer scared of it. Guys who have that surgery tend to come back just as strong after their rehab, and have very few elbow problems after it’s over. The only significant thing to worry is that a guy’s will lack confidence in his elbow as his rehab starts, and he’ll start putting pressure on other parts of his delivery, perhaps hurting his shoulder or oblique.

      The other things-he has plenty of options years left. Plus, if one of the main issues is that he didn’t have a spot in the rotation soon (a stupid reason to convert him, but it’s been mentioned), then pausing his development for a year actually helps. Jair Jurrjens is not sticking around after he hits free agency, Tim Hudson might be gone next year, and a spot could open up for him in mid 2013 or 2014. Even if his MLB doesn’t come until the year 2014, he would still only be 23 years old. That’s hardly old for a pitching prospect. Lincecum didn’t debut until 23, Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright didn’t stick in the rotation until they were 25, and even a guy as awesome as Justin Verlander didn’t make his full season debut until he was 23 years old.

      This sets him back some as a prospect, but I don’t know why it should seal his fate as a reliever.

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      • Chuck N Chino says:

        Agree 100%. He should come back fine, still young and by then the Braves pitching situation will be sorted out (somewhat).

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  11. jim says:

    didn’t he have a partial tear while he was with the yankees, which he chose to heal through rest and rehab?

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    • Bronnt says:

      This is actually the same injury. The upshot was that he was going to need to have TJ surgery eventually. I think they didn’t want to do it at the time because he was only 19, and his body might not have been through developing. But two years later, before he’s holding down an MLB roster spot, the timing is actually fairly ideal for him to require this surgery.

      Prognosis for pitchers post TJ is actually pretty good.

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  12. Undocorkscrew says:

    This shouldn’t have a big impact on the Braves this year. They’ve got plenty of arms in that pen and there was no chance of him starting. It effects the SP depth a bit because now Medlen will likely be in the pen all season, but it shouldn’t be a big deal.

    I wish this team could stay healthy though, especially seeing what Jurrjens has looked like this spring.

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