Another hard-throwing reliever debuted last night this one going by the name of Waldis Joaquin and pitching for the San Francisco Giants. The 22-year-old pitched an inning against Houston last night, giving up a run on two hits and striking a batter out. So what makes him so special? The 11 fastballs he threw averaged out to 97.7 MPH and his top-end velocity registered at a ridiculous 98.5 MPH.
When I see numbers that extreme I check the other pitchers involved to see if the machine was simply experiencing velocity inflation.
Felipe Paulino sat at 95; Jonathan Sanchez at 92; Wesley Wright at 90; Justin Miller at 90; and Tim Byrdak at 89. Baseball Info Solutions has those players averaging 95, 91.5, 91, 88, and 89. So the pitchx numbers appear to be accurate and I guess Miller had his good fastball for once.
Not only can Joaquin bring the heat, but Baseball America also named his slider as the best in the Giants system. Throughout the minors Joaquin has showed an affinity for generating groundball outs alongside some impressive strikeout rates. In his 2005 stint at rookie ball Joaquin fanned 37 in 29 innings, after missing 2006 Joaquin struck out 30 in 38 short season innings and spent 2008 in A-ball where he struck out 72 in 71 innings. A move to Double-A deflated his punch outs and to date he only has 40 in 54 innings.
Like with most youthful flamethrowers, Joaquin showed some command issues during his time in Double-A, which raises the question: was he able to make up for those issues by simply overpowering less talented and more aggressive youth? During this writing Joaquin was actually demoted to Triple-A so it should be telling whether his strikeout rates perk up or remain flatter than usual.
Joaquin clearly has the stuff to pitch at the major league level; it’s just a matter of when and how well.