The Brewers first round pick in 2008 and their #1 prospect according to Baseball America before the trade, Odorizzi was billed by some as a future Greinke in training. While he may not have the ceiling that could make him a Cy Young contender down the line, he looks to be a future option for the front of the Royals rotation.
Odorizzi started out hot in Wilmington in 2011, striking out 103 batters in 78.1 innings. Through 15 starts, he had a 2.87 ERA and a 2.5 BB/9. He put up numbers befitting a top pitching prospect. He set a career high for strikeouts in a start with 13 on May 10, 2011, and
posted double digit strikeouts in three other starts.
A promotion to Northwest Arkansas was no surprise to anyone, but Odorizzi struggled in Double A. In 68.2 innings, he put up a 4.72 ERA and saw his strikeout rate fall from 11.8 K/9 (in Wilmington) to 7.1 K/9.
On the bright side, his walkrate stayed about the same, allowing him to keep his WHIP relatively low at 1.282.
Odorizzi just didn’t miss as many bats, and his ground ball rate dropped to 30% after being in the 40s at every other level. Double A batters hit more homers – he gave up 13 longballs in 12 Double A starts, including at least one in nine of his games and they slugged .578 against him. Perhaps he was pressing and focused on throwing strikes too often, thereby hitting too much of the plate, or perhaps he just had a bad stretch.
As Nathaniel Stoltz pointed out at Seedlings to Stars, similar pitchers have had such speed bumps in short stints in Double A and bounced back to normal the following season. Odorizzi is only 22 years old and still has time to develop.
Odorizzi still has front-line stuff with three solid pitches and finished 2011 on a high note, throwing seven one-hit innings on September 2.
He should get a short look in spring training before returning to Double A for another couple of months, but Omaha isn’t too far away and if he returns to the form he showed at Wilmington, he could even get a couple of innings as a September callup. As of right now, he’s the Royals top right-handed pitching prospect, and could arguably be rankEd Higher than Mike Montgomery as the top pitching prospect overall.