A couple of years ago, Collin Balester showed enough promise to make Nationals fans think he could be a part of their big league rotation. At twenty-one years of age, he performed very well in Double-A during the 2007 season, posting a K/BB just north of 3.00. The next year, during his second stint in Triple-A, he posted similar numbers outside of a higher home run rate.
When it came time to pitch in the majors, Balester’s stuff didn’t transfer over as well as anyone would have hoped. He struggled in over 100 big league innings, earning an xFIP around 5.00. Strangely enough, when he was sent back to the minors, he continued his struggles and effectively killed his chances of being a big league starter.
While pitching in the rotation, Balester’s fastball was hovering around 91 mph, but the problems came from his reliance on only two pitches, allowing hitters to easily guess what was coming. Something needed to change, and it needed to happen fast.
After starting the season in the Triple-A rotation, Balester was eventually moved into the bullpen, a move that gave him a chance to rekindle his career. He struggled out of the gate, but something amazing happened in late July. Balester was called back to the bigs, and something clicked for him. He had a brief stint in Washington where he looked great, striking out hitters again and keeping the walks to a minimum. He was eventually sent back to the minors, where he continued the trend.
Balester was recalled a couple of days ago, and picked up right where he left off. He’s been mowing hitters down with ease, looking like a big time asset in the major league bullpen. But, why is this happening?
It’s pretty simple, actually, and he’s been the template for many failed starting pitchers. Coming out of the ‘pen, Balester’s fastball has been sitting around 94 mph, and his two-pitch approach works much better. He has the prototypical frame of a power pitcher (6’5”), so no one should be surprised that he’s bringing the heat.
His sample size is small, but Balester has great velocity, tremendous movement on his curveball, and a chance to be a great major league reliever. At only twenty-four years of age, there is still plenty of time for him to have a major league career, and a sweet moustache should he decide to regrow it. If you’re in an NL-only league and are looking for some strikeouts out of your bullpen, give Balester a shot.