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I had a chance to see Randall Delgado face off against Julio Teheran earlier this year in minor league spring training. Teheran was the one I was expecting big things from, but Delgado stole the show.
With a calm, confident presence, Delgado commanded three potential average or better offerings (fastball, changeup and curve), pounded the strike zone with quality pitches and shattered bats. He's the most polished 20-year-old I've seen since Brian Matusz.
Delgado's two-seam fastball sat 89-91 MPH with impressive sink and late, cutting movement into righties. His four-seamer touched 94 but he didn't throw it much, primarily relying on his two-seamer. Through his first 3.0 innings, he broke four bats, as he located his two-seamer and jammed hitters with near perfection.
Delgado's fastball isn't a genuine swing-and-miss offering, but it's a pitch that even advanced hitters will have difficulty squaring up on and elevating.
Along with velocity, fastball movement and command are paramount for any young pitcher. Delgado had all three going for him, which is why I saw his fastball as an average to slightly above offering.
Compare how similar Delgado's timing and arm action are with his fastball and changeup. Pretty good, huh? Now take a look at the way his changeup drops right before it gets to the catcher. It's not going to be an easy pitch for advanced hitters to elevate.
Delgado's changeup sat 80-83 MPH when I saw him -- typically 8-10 MPH slower than his fastball.
Add in that he has impressive command of the pitch and you have what I'm not hesitant to call an above-average offering.
Delgado's curveball had near 12-to-6 break. By itself, it's a very impressive pitch. But notice that his curveball arm action and effort are different from his fastball and changeup -- note the head movement that results from the effort he puts toward snapping spin onto the ball.
This is one of the biggest challenges with pitching. Not only does a starting pitcher need to throw hard, throw strikes and get movement, but he also must mask each pitch by making it look similar to his other offerings.
Delgado's 75-77 MPH curveball showed a lot of promise. I'm just not confident that he'll be able to surprise advanced hitters with it just yet. With potential to be above-average, it's probably closer to average than plus right now.
Delgado gets his arm into the driveline early; his legs generate most of his energy and his arm comes along for the ride. An athlete on the mound, he repeated his delivery well and exhibited excellent body control. His follow-through also looked smooth, as he allowed his arm to decelerate against his body, opposed to jolting it to an abrupt hault (also known as recoil).
Delgado did hook his arm a little behind his back as he pushed off toward the plate. While he has a smooth, clean arm circle, he doesn't offer much deception.
The human body isn't designed to throw a baseball, and any professional pitcher can become an injury victim. But I see Delgado as a below-average risk for an arm injury.
On top of demonstrating an advanced feel for three pitches, Delgado pitched well out of the stretch and silenced the running game when I saw him. After he threw three hitless innings, the Braves' coaching staff put a runner on first base and had him throw from the stretch. He quickly picked the runner off.
Delgado could earn a promotion to Double-A in the near future, a rare accomplishment for starting pitchers his age. And his ground-ball tendencies and plus command make him a good bet to carry his success to the next level.
The Panama-born righty totaled 124.0 regular-season innings in 2009 and could end up near 150.0 in 2010. He has a chance to become a durable No. 2-3 starter and could reach the big leagues in 2011.