On May 11, Jake Odorizzi rolled through a seven inning start, striking out seven, walking just one and giving up two runs. Over a four start stretch, he’d given up a total of six runs in 27.1 innings.
In 2012 for Northwest Arkansas, he threw 38 innings and struck out 47, an 11.1 K/9. He only walked 2.4 batters per nine innings.
With a 3.32 ERA, Odorizzi showed the Royals what they need to see and moved him up to Triple A Omaha.
Odorizzi was acquired from Milwaukee in December of 2010 in the Zack Greinke deal, coming over after Baseball America had already deemed him the Brewers number one prospect. Now, he’s leapfrogged Mike Montgomery to be the top pitching prospect in the Royals system.
He made a good first impression with the Royals last year, tearing through the Carolina League in similar fashion to how he handled the Texas League this year. Lots of strikeouts, not many walks. If Odorizzi could work more ground outs (he’s at 36% for 2012), he’d be an elite prospect. As it is, he’s still a very good one anyway. Kevin Goldstein puts his ceiling as a #3 starter with a shot to be a #2.
He’s a smart pitcher who can use any of four pitches at any time. His fastball hangs around 90-94 but can hit 95 or 96 mph according to Odorizzi. His curveball and changeup are effective weapons as well and his slider is developing.
What the Royals are hoping for is a quick adjustment to Triple A. Last year, in his first look at Double A action, Odorizzi struggled at first but finished respectably. His 4.72 ERA was disappointing, but his strikeout rate was still alright and he wasn’t walking many more batters than usual. Combining his 2011 and 2012 time in Double A, Odorizzi made 19 starts for 102.1 innings and 101/32 K/BB ratio is close to his career minor league ratio of 401/112 (3.58/1).
Odorizzi may have a shot to get into the big leagues this year, especially at the rate that the Royals pitchers have been falling to injury. They’ve also been active in using players’ option years to keep fresh arms in the big leagues. If Odorizzi impresses, he may look like a more favorable alternative than Vin Mazzaro, Luis Mendoza or others who may be in the rotation. After a handful of starts, if he’s doing well, the Royals may take a look in late July (Goldstein suggests it’s still too optimistic to see him in a month’s time) to see how he reacts to the big leagues. He’s likely to be added to the 40 man roster in September anyway, as he’d be eligible for the Rule 5 draft after this year if not, as pointed out by Bob Dutton so the Royals, in knowing they’ll add him later in the year, may figure they might as well see what he can do a couple months early.
For now, though, he has the Pacific Coast League to get ready for. The Storm Chasers are waiting until Friday to make a move to fit Odorizzi on the roster and he’s likely to make his Triple A debut at home against Tacoma after that transaction is finalized. Everett Teaford was the probable starter for Friday but with his call up back to Kansas City, it’s Odorizzi’s spot with the rest of the Omaha rotation still in place.
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