Posted on 02 August 2011.
Throughout the month of August, Todd Fertig will be bringing fans a look at a few of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals players. The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Danny Duffy, Mike Montgomery, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer got all the publicity coming into the season, but another pitcher is quickly establishing himself as perhaps the Royals’ top pitching prospect.
Each of the aforementioned lefthanders was rated highly coming into the season. But while each has had his struggles, Jake Odorizzi, the best righty in the system, has been lights out.
After dominating at the Single-A level for his first 15 starts of the season, Odorizzi is finding Double-A to his liking as well.
Many prospects call the jump to Double-A one of the most challenging steps on the path to the big leagues. That makes Odorizzi’s first month with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals all the more impressive.
The 21-year-old recorded victories in three of his first five starts at Northwest Arkansas, striking out nearly a batter per inning and posting a WHIP of about 1.2. His early returns at Double-A are quickly putting to rest any fear that his success was due to the pitcher-friendly nature of the lower level.
Thus far, Odorizzi has been roughed up just once at the Double-A level – the Springfield Cardinals notched five earned runs off him in just four innings on July 17. But the Illinois native quickly took his revenge on the St. Louis affiliate by holding them to just two hits in seven innings just five days later.
In a third meeting, the Cardinals handed Odorizzi his first loss at the Double-A level last night, but he gamely battled in a 1-1 tie into the sixth. A couple of singles and a walk finally chased him from the game on a smothering Ozarks evening.
Acquired as part of the Zack Greinke sweepstakes, Odorizzi attracted the least amount of attention in the trade. But those in the know recognized he was more than just a throw-in. He was rated the #37 prospect in the minors prior to the season. His physique, style and demeanor on the mound have even drawn comparisons to Greinke.
Like the Royals’ Cy Young winner from 2009, Odorizzi is an excellent all-around athlete. He turned down a scholarship to play football and baseball at Louisville when he was drafted by the Brewers in the first round in 2008.
Odorizzi doesn’t possess the blazing fastball Greinke can muster. Odorizzi works his fastball at around 89-91 miles per hour, mixing in a solid curveball and an advanced changeup for his age.
With Norhtwest Arkansas jockeying for a playoff spot again this season, Odorizzi will gain a lot of experience and should enter next season as one of the highest rated pitchers in the minors.
Royals fans can look forward to an all-star rotation in Omaha which should include Dwyer, Lamb and Odorizzi. Kansas City, desperate for starting pitching, can see help on the horizon.