In case you’re not familiar, Pat Venditte is a pitcher in the New York Yankees minor league system who has made some waves for his remakarkable talent: he’s a switch pitcher. Venditte pitches proficiently with both arms. His story made some national waves last year when an at-bat against a switch hitter led to a bit of a debacle (link includes video).
Not only was Venditte’s season a point of interest for those into baseball trivia and oddities, he actually performed quite well. Although his age (23) was advanced for A and A+, it was only his second professional season, and so his 2.07 cumulative FIP and 2.24 FIP at A+ Tampa certainly piqued the interest of some, although others aren’t exactly convinced yet.
Venditte has remained at Tampa for the beginning of the 2010 season, and he’s picked up right where he left off. Venditte is currently running an FIP of 2.52 in 26.1 innings, thanks to a 30:7 K:BB ratio and a spectacular HR/9 rate of only 0.34. His walk rate is actually slightly up from last season, when he only walked only 12 batters in 76.3 innings. To compensate, Venditte has seen a massive increase in his ground ball rate against both hands of hitters – his GB rate against both hitters has increased to 54.5%, up from only 34.2% against lefties and 49.2% against righties.
At the age of 24 – 25 in June – Venditte is about a year and a half older than the average Florida State League player. Between this season and the end of 2009, Venditte has put up about 70 innings of sub-3.00 FIP pitching in the FSL. In the Eastern League, where the AA Trenton Thunder play, the average age is 25. It seems that now (or at least soon) would be a good opportunity to see Venditte perform against players closer to his age level.
Especially given Venditte’s high K-rates and his increased ability to induce the ground ball, I think Venditte warrants more than just a passing look as a prospect. Having a reliever that has the platoon advantage in every situation is very intriguing, as it could potentially reduce the amount of relievers that a manager would need to carry. More importantly, Venditte has quite simply produced at every opportunity. The jump to AA is a big one, and it’s not obvious that Venditte has what it takes to handle the increased talent level, but after over 135 very successful innings in the lower minors, it may be time to get that opportunity sooner rather than later.
The oddity of Venditte also inspired me to think about what other interesting combinations of skills would be useful in a player. Personally, I would be interested in seeing a high platoon split reliever who also had the ability to play a strong (or even roughly average) defensive outfield. That way, that reliever could pitch to a same handed batter, move into the outfield for an opposite handed batter, and then return to the mound for any other same handed batters. Given the way benches are constructed, especially in the National League, the idea may be completely implausible, but given how important platoon splits can be late in games, I still think the idea could work. Feel free to post your concoctions in the comments section.