The latest entry on our top 50 prospects list at No. 39 is probably one you haven’t heard of…
No. 39: Deivy Alexander Estrada
Starting pitcher / 19 years old / 5′11″ 175 lbs
Born: August 22, 1992 in Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela
Bats: Right Throws: Right
High School: N/A
Signed: As an international free agent by the Blue Jays in 2009
Pre-2011 Rank: 26
Bluefield Blue Jays team ranking among starters:
- 1st in losses (4) and earned runs surrendered (28)
- T-2nd in wins (3), starts (9), home runs allowed (5) and hit batters (3)
- T-3rd in walks issued (16)
- 4th in hits allowed (46)
- 7th in strikeouts (27)
- T-7th in innings pitched (36.1)
- 8th in ERA (6.94) and WHIP (1.706)
Extra Information and previous experience:
If you had never heard of Deivy Estrada prior to reading this article, you’re certainly not alone. We aggressively ranked him at No. 26 on last year’s top 50, but unsurprisingly, with the influx of impressive pitching prospects from the 2011 draft, he goes unnoticed in the Blue Jays’ minor league system.
After playing for the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate as a 16-year-old in 2009, Estrada made his North American debut the following year playing in the Gulf Coast League. He held his own despite being one of the league’s youngest players at the tender age of 17, finishing the year with a 3.02 ERA and 42 strikeouts in in 53.2 innings of work.
In 2011, Estrada found himself working through extended spring training and returning to the Gulf Coast League, albeit for a much shorter stint this time around. He needed just three starts to convince the Blue Jays to promote him to Bluefield, after allowing just four earned runs in 16 innings (2.25 ERA) and managing an 18:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. While he will certainly miss bats in the future, Estrada’s high strikeout total in the Gulf Coast League this past season was somewhat of a wash, though, since he’s not a power pitcher by any means.
Estrada lacks overpowering velocity — his fastball can touch 88 MPH but routinely sits in the mid-80s. He did increase its speed by roughly four miles per hour this season from where it was in 2010, but he’ll look to increase the pitch’s velocity even more as his 175-pound body matures. What Estrada lacks in velocity, though, he makes up for with being a command pitcher and knowing how to pitch.
In addition to his fastball, which he has the ability to have above-average command of in the future, Estrada throws an average curveball and an effective changeup; the latter being his out pitch. He’s already comfortable throwing all of his pitches in any count, but he really favors his changeup in clutch situations and it could develop into a plus offering down the road.
After his strong showing in his second tour of the Gulf Coast League, Estrada made his Appalachian League debut with the Bluefield Blue Jays on July 13, tossing five shutout innings with with five hits and three strikeouts. When you look at his overall statistics in nine starts with Bluefield — 6.94 ERA, .311 opponent average,1.706 WHIP and a 6.7 K/9 — it’s easy to ask, what happened? Looking deeper into his stats gives the answer.
Following his impressive first start, Estrada was hurt by the long ball in his next two starts, surrendering three home runs and six earned runs in nine innings. He pitched a season-high six innings of one-run ball in his next start, before lasting just two innings and allowing four earned runs and three walks in the start after that. Then, in his sixth start with Bluefield, he had his best outing of the year when he tossed five shutout innings without walking a batter, with a season-low four hits and a season-high six strikeouts.
What really ballooned Estrada’s numbers, though, were his last three starts, two coming against the only clubs that he struggled against earlier in the season:
|First 6 starts||3||2||3.66||27.0||28||11||3||8||19|
|Last 3 starts||0||2||17.00||9.1||18||17||2||8||8|
As you can tell, the biggest thing that he will need to work on next season is staying consistent and maintaining a confident frame of mind on the mound, because he has demonstrated that he can pitch at the Appalachian League and higher.
Estrada draws comparisons to another Venezuelan pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin of the Colorado Rockies, in that they both had average fastball command but good changeups at this stage of their careers. Chacin, however, started his professional career almost two years later than Estrada did, as he didn’t make his Dominican Summer League debut until he was 18 years old. Chacin had the same rookie-ball success as Estrada in considerably more innings, but as a 19-year-old, and didn’t pitch in A-ball until his was 20 years of age.
The Blue Jays would probably be delighted if Estrada turns out like Chacin, who projects to be the Rockies’ No. 2 starter next season after managing a 3.62 ERA/4.23 FIP in a career-high 194 innings in 2011. At this stage in his career, though, Estrada’s ultimate projection would be a back-end Major League starter. He doesn’t yet have a fourth pitch (slider) like Chacin and he’s not as stretched out innings-wise, either.
He has always performed better against right-handed batters as well, so he could get moved to the bullpen later in his career if for some reason he doesn’t cut it as a starter.
Expected 2012 team: Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie)
Ultimate ceiling if he puts it all together: Back-end MLB starter
Even though he repeated the Gulf Coast level in 2011, Estrada was one of the youngest pitchers in the league, so it’s important to remember that going forward. While he needs to work on staying consistent and not losing his cool if runners manage to get on (2.04 ERA with bases empty and 11.57 ERA with runners on base), there’s a lot to like in the youngster, even if the Jays’ system is full of players that have higher ceilings.
He’ll likely repeat at Bluefield to start 2012 and look to increase his innings total before possibly making the jump to Vancouver before season’s end.