Antonio Bastardo: The Phillies' Most Coveted Pitcher Not Named Carlos Carrasco
Make no mistake about it, the Phillies are in the market for a pitcher.
Cole Hamels aside, their rotation is a mess; Brett Myers might be heading for the DL, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton have a combined ERA of 6.75, and J.A. Happ is largely unproven. Meanwhile, reports suggest that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has been very busy talking with other clubs about acquiring a starter.
While the odds of landing Jake Peavy seem slim, the small chance that it could happen is enough to ponder what it would cost.
The common belief has always been that Carrasco is untouchable. The Phillies have been grooming the 22-year-old fireballer for five years and, even though he has struggled a bit in 2009 (0-6 with an ERA of 5.81), it is unlikely that they would give up on him now.
Enter 24-year-old left-hander Antonio Bastardo.
Rumor has it, Bastardo has been surfacing in Peavy talks...at first, I was all about a trade that could land a top-tier pitcher for a minor league arm not named Carrasco, but ESPN's Jayson Stark has said that Bastardo has been drawing comparisons to Johan Santana. That comment obviously raises an eyebrow.
Upon further review (and with the help of some people that have seen him pitch), while Carrasco has been slow to develop, Bastardo, on the other hand, has been consistently good. Carrasco may have the better arsenal, but Bastardo seems to have the wherewithal to put it all together.
He boasts a low-90s fastball with a lot of movement, a killer changeup, and a potentially devastating, yet unrefined, slider. He strikes guys out at an alarming rate and could develop into a major league starter or reliever.
He has been a fast riser, jumping from Single-A to Triple-A in two years, but has risen to every challenge, thus far. Optimally, the Phillies would keep Bastardo and use him as an immediate impact left-handed reliever or groom him as a starter to put pressure on Carrasco, but the question remains, "Why has Bastardo avoided everyone's radar?"
Starting his major league career, he was undrafted and largely unimposing (5'11", 165 pounds), thus he has never projected higher than a middle-of-the-rotation guy. Video suggests that he has grown a bit and bulked up since those early days, certainly helping his case.
Mechanically, the knock against Bastardo has always been a lack of confidence in his secondary pitches (slider and changeup).
It is possible that he has solved these issues and hit a growth spurt.
It is also possible that he has surpassed Carrasco as the Phillies' top prospect, which makes you wonder whether they're thinking about moving the wrong guy.
Ideally, the Phillies keep both and figure out a way to make do with what they've got, but, with the rest of the division moving forward, Amaro knows that the Phillies can ill afford to go through a stretch without a bona fide No. 2 starter.
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