2013 Top Prospects #9: Alberto Tirado
Under the watch of Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays have become an organization known for their ability to draft and develop pitching, and this ranking reflects that philosophy well. The number nine prospect in the system is the first of seven pitchers in the top ten.
Alberto Tirado (Image via BlueJays.scout.com)
Name: Alberto Tirado
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
Date of Birth: 12/10/1994 (18)
Acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic as an International Free Agent in July 2011 ($300,000 USD)
High School: N/A
Height/Weight: 6’1”/180 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- Ranked 12th on Baseball America’s Gulf Coast League Top 20 prospects list (2012)
2012 Statistics and Analysis
3-2, 48.0 IP, 32 H, 14 ER, 0 HR, 17 BB, 39 K, 1.35 GO/AO,
2.63 ERA (2.89 FIP), 1.02 WHIP, 7.31 K/9, 3.19 BB/9
Alberto Tirado had a tremendous debut with the Blue Jays as a 17 year old, spending much of the season in the Gulf Coast League before moving up late in the year and tying Appalachian League hitters in knots over three starts. He was downright dominant working in the complex league, as Tirado pitched 37 innings while striking out 34 batters. He allowed 0 home runs over that timeframe, a trend he was able to maintain in his brief 11-inning stint in Bluefield. The walk rate isn’t excellent but is very good overall, particularly when weighing how raw Tirado was – or was supposed to be – entering the season. One of the best numbers of the above line from my perspective is the 48 innings pitched, as you seldom see a teenager given that much leash in his first season. It sets him up for a potential breakout 2013 season, as regardless of where he begins the year, he could be asked to throw upwards of 80 innings, greatly increasing the attention he’ll receive.
Video (via DPLBaseball.com)
At just 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, size is not on the side of Alberto Tirado, and is his most frequently pointed out flaw. It’s really a non-factor for me, as the list of successful Latin American pitchers who stand 6-foot-2 or shorter is an extremely long one. Tirado makes up for his lack of height with an athletic frame and fluid actions that allow for steady mechanics. Jason Parks and the Prospect Staff at Baseball Prospectus had a glowing report on Tirado in that regard, saying he has an arm that is extremely loose and very quick, and on his delivery noted that it is “easy and smooth”. In writing his prospect ranking of the Blue Jays system, Marc Hulet of Fangraphs spoke to a talent evaluator who said the organization lowered Tirado’s arm slot from the traditional 3/4 to a low 3/4, and evidently the change has really paid off.
Pitch Arsenal Breakdown
"“… the Jays might have another monster on their hands.” – Jason Parks"
In the summer of 2011, the Blue Jays took a gamble on a short 16 year old right hander who was topping out around 90 miles per hour – hardly the blueprint for an elite pitching prospect. As Ben Badler of Baseball America notes, the organization clearly saw something, as within a year of being signed that right hander was already having plus-grades thrown on his fastball. The consensus among prospect sites is that Tirado’s four seam fastball now sits at 91 to 95 miles per hour, and has touched as high as 96. Not only does he have the velocity, but the pitch shows explosive life and he’s shown the ability to command it down in the zone, which, as Badler writes, is a rare combination for a pitcher so young. Parks cautions that there are questions about his capacity to maintain velocity deep into games, which ties into the lack of physicality in his build. Even so, the pitch is a weapon, and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com throws a 70 future grade on it – the highest of any talent evaluator.
Since dropping his arm slot down to low 3/4, Hulet notes that TIrado’s slider has gained a lot more depth, and is already being labeled as his second best pitch. There are some discrepancies on the subject, however, as while Parks agrees with Hulet’s assessment – and even reports he’s heard a 70 future grade thrown on the breaking ball, both Baseball America and MLB.com think more favorably of the changeup. Tirado has good arm action on the off-speed pitch, and disguises it very well by meshing with his fastball release point. From my perspective it’s like cake and pie, as regardless of which one you prefer, they’re both very good. My interpretation of the reports is that while the changeup is showing up more consistently at present, with sound development the slider could pull ahead in the future. The Baseball Prospectus prospect team suggests that when all is said and done, Tirado could have three plus-or-better pitches, leading to the pants-tightening line I quoted above.
The perfect world projection for Alberto Tirado is a solid number two starter, or a high end number three starter on a playoff caliber team.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
I mentioned above that Tirado could be poised for a breakout 2013 season, which given his breakout 2012 season would be ridiculous in and of itself if it wasn’t so very true. Tirado has the best chance of anyone in the system to pull a Roberto Osuna and leap into the top five a year from now, a statement made even more notable by the fact that of the eight prospects ahead of him on this list, none project to graduate in 2013. Having just turned 18 over the offseason and possessing only one year of professional experience, the organization will likely send him to short season ball once again. With that in mind, the Blue Jays could challenge Tirado, asking him to face lineups two-to-three times every outing, stretching him out to four or five innings per appearance. In 12 to 15 starts with Bluefield, Vancouver, or a combination of both, Tirado should push 70 to 80 innings, and may even see Lansing before the year is out. Even with a conservative inning progression from year to year, the young Dominican could be ready to throw 150+ innings in 2016, where it’s entirely possible he could finish the year in Toronto as a 21 year old. It should go without being said, but the risk here is extreme.