According to the Phillies official website, the team will use 23-year old lefty Antonio Bastardo in the rotation to replace the injured Brett Myers, at least in the short-term. Rumors have been flying regarding potential trade targets, but if Bastardo blows them away who knows what may happen.
Bastardo went undrafted in 2007 before signing with the Phillies and being assigned to Single-A. There he made a quick impression, going 9-0 with a 1.87 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 15 starts. He got a cup of coffee with the High Single-A team at the end of the year, striking out 12 in 5 innings but also giving up 4 earned runs.
His 2008 season was marred by shoulder problems but he still was able to make an impact. Between High Single A and Double-A, he went 4-5 with a 2.95 ERA over 97.2 innings. While he struck out 109 batters, only 62 came in Double-A (in 67.0 innings)
Bastardo started 2009 at Double-A as a relief pitcher, going 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA over 34.2 innings (9 games, 5 starts). He was then bumped up to Triple A, where he debuted on May 23 with a bang. He gave up 3 runs on 5 hits with 2 walks and 11 strikeouts in 6 innings. Before we get blown away with the Ks, he followed up this performance with just 1 K over 7 shutout innings in his only other Triple-A start (he had 39 Ks in 34.2 innings at Double-A).
Prior to the season the team thought he could be a useful lefty out of the bullpen, which is why he started the season in relief. In an article by David Murphy in The Philadelphia Daily News, pitching coach Rich Dubee was quoted as saying, “With the work that we have done on the breaking ball, we think he might be a possibility up here some time this year if the breaking ball continues to come.” Obviously, there was a change of plans.
The breaking ball he is referring to was said to originally be a combination curveball/slider, but now is a true slider. He also has a change-up that reportedly is a good out pitch. Bastardo also uses a fastball which Nick Fierro of Lehigh Valley Live reports, “According to IronPigs manager Dave Huppert, the 5-foot-11, 168-pound Bastardo makes a slightly above-average fastball almost unhittable because of his deceptive motion.”
Prior to 2009, Baseball America had him outside of the team’s Top 10 prospects. I wouldn’t read that much into that, however. Remember, he went undrafted. It's not like he hasn't been undervalued in the past.
The real question is going to be how his repertoire correlates into success not just at the major league level, but in Citizen’s Bank Ballpark. While his minor league career HR per 9 innings is an impressive 0.7 that number would normally increase, at least marginally, with his recall. Put him in that ballpark and you just don’t know what he’s going to be able to do.
I also think the strikeouts are slightly skewed. He’s not going to be a 10.0 K per 9 innings pitcher in the major leagues using deception alone. Could he be someone who strikes out 7 or 8 batters a game on average? It’s certainly possible, but I just don’t see him as being one of the elite.
His first start will come on Tuesday in San Diego, which certainly will not be the best way to draw conclusions. The fact that he may also just be a short-term band-aid, no matter how well he pitches, is a concern. In deep keeper leagues though, he’s a pitcher I certainly would eye.
He’s going to have a good offense behind him and has the potential to be a useful strikeout option. That alone gives him pitch and ditch qualities, but he could turn out to be more than that. If you have the room, I’d stash him and see what happens.
What does everyone else think? Is Bastardo a pitcher you have any interest in? Do you think he could be successful?
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