Arodys Vizcaino collected his first major league save on Thursday night, shutting down the Miami Marlins. The once promising starting pitcher has transitioned into a promising closer. Yea, I know it’s early and the 24-year-old just recorded his first save for Pete’s sake! But the guy has dominating stuff and has finally figured out how to locate his pitches and maintain his velocity, which is something that he’s struggled at for a very long time.
Vizcaino was first traded to the Braves by the Yankees in the deal that sent Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to New York. The right-hander quickly rose up to the tops of the Atlanta’s farm system, ranking in the top five by most publications. But he always seemed to struggle with his location, leaving pitches out over the middle of the plate and batters were just teeing off on him. It was later discovered that Vizcaino would need Tommy John surgery and that he would miss the 2012 season. With his trade value declining and the Braves in need of a left-handed arm and a utility player, the team decided to trade him to the Cubs for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson.
He started the 2013 season on the 60-day disabled list and found out in May that he was injured again. Vizcaino would have to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his elbow and would miss the rest of the season. He was finally called up in September 2014, when the rosters expanded. It was the first time he had seen big league action since 2011, when he was just 20-years-old with the Braves. After all of that the Cubs traded him back to the Braves for Tommy La Stella.
Vizcaino was then suspended for the first 80 games of his 2015 minor league season for testing positive for Stanozolol, which is an anabolic steroid. It’s fair to say that he’s been through a lot in the last few seasons.
Since returning from his suspension, the hard throwing reliever has posted a 0.71 ERA and a WHIP of 1.03 in 12 2/3 innings, which is a small sample size. If you watch him you can see the potential dominance that he possess. He has struck out 11 in that timeframe and has a 11:5 K:BB ratio and his fastball has consistently been in the 97-99 mph range. He has also displayed powerful breaking stuff to go with that heat.
The Braves have had three closers in the past year. They traded away Jim Johnson and fan favorite Craig Kimbrel. They also lost Jason Grilli to a season-ending Achilles injury and it may be difficult for him to fully recover from it. Atlanta desperately needs to find a closer they can stick with long term and Vizcaino looks like the guy that can close out a Game 7 in the postseason. He also will have a great mentor in Grilli and you never know he might have learned something from Kimbrel before Atlanta shipped him off. Most people remember the impact that Billy Wagner had on Kimbrel, so maybe Grilli can do the same for Vizcaino.
Right now Vizcaino looks like a promising young closer, of course I’m going off of just a few games and mostly my gut instinct. But players with command and heat are few and far between and I feel like Vizcaino has the stuff to be a great big league closer for a long time.