A bunch of people from FanGraphs are enjoying Spring Training here in Arizona this week. Thursday we took in the Brewers-Reds game and delighted fans in the right field seats with our special brand of knowledge. In a mostly uneventful game, the Reds brought in a pitcher to seal the deal in the ninth inning that caught us off guard. None of us had ever heard of Logan Ondrusek (although to be fair Marc Hulet was not at the game) and that, combined with the fact that he was put into a game in a save situation and closed the game, made him worthy of a post.
Ondrusek was a 13th-round pick of the Reds in 2005 from a community college in Texas. The first thing that strikes you is that he is tall. MiLB.com lists him at 6’8 but it would not surprise me if he was bigger than that.
After an extended stint as a starter in 2007, Ondrusek made just three starts in 2008 and has been in the bullpen ever since. He seemed to be nothing special until the 2009 season, in which he began the year in the Hi-A Florida State League and ended in Triple-A. Among his three stops, his highest ERA was 1.74 and for the year he had a 1.50 ERA in 72 innings.
The scouting reports show Ondrusek with a low-90s fastball, a changeup and a slider. He did not overpower batters and with borderline shaky command, he had uninspiring results. But in 2009 Ondrusek had a 2.6 BB/9 and he allowed just 1 HR, helping to explain his great leap forward.
With such a miniscule HR rate it is not surprising to see Ondrusek as a ground ball pitcher. Minorleaguesplits.com shows him with a 56.9/15.9/24.1 GB/LD/FB batted ball profile.
Last year Ondrusek worked his way into a closer role. He had zero saves in the FSL but had seven in Double-A and 12 in Triple-A. His big season earned him a trip to the Arizona Fall League, but he struggled in the hitting-friendly loop. Ondrusek allowed 22 hits in 10 innings and had a 13.50 ERA.
It seems unlikely that Ondrusek will be a closer in the majors, given that he does not have a big strikeout rate. But the rise he made last year certainly makes for a good story and the fact that the Reds gave him a chance to close in an early Spring Training game is interesting. Right now he is a name to store away and it would not be surprising if he made it to the majors at some point in the 2010 season.