Watching Jake Odorizzi | The Process Report

Watching Jake Odorizzi

We’ll try giving James Shields the TPR sendoff he deserves at some point soon, but here are some thoughts from Jake Odorizzi’s first two big-league starts in lieu of forcing it.

One caveat before getting to the write-up: Drawing too many conclusions from two late season starts is pointless. I did ask a person familiar with Odorizzi if the observations I made below match up with the common wisdom on him. They do for the most part with velocity being the exception. Fatigue likely played a role in depressing Odorizzi’s oomph by a mile per hour or two, so don’t be surprised if he’s sitting higher come spring.

Odorizzi’s build is the first thing you’ll notice about him. He’s tall and slender, with simple, dull mechanics. There’s no flash here, no oddness nor unusualness. Odorizzi lifts his leg, pulls it inward, pushes it out, lands, and releases the ball from a high release point. He repeats the delivery well and his athleticism is apparent. Odorizzi’s background as a three-sport star should shock no one—what might serve as a minor surprise is his football position: Wide receiver, not quarterback.

The primary pitch Odorizzi’s arsenal is a low-90s fastball with arm-side run. He’ll ride it throughout the game without hesitation. The problem with the pitch is location. Odorizzi left the ball in the upper portion of the strike zone too often for comfort. Ideally, you’d like to see him develop the ability to pitch down in the zone more often. One positive development on that front is when Odorizzi threw three straight fastballs down and glove-side for strikes, punching out former Rays farmhand Russ Canzler in the process.

Although Odorizzi pitched off the fastball, he did show three secondary offerings. The most prevalent was a low-70s curveball. He showed an ability to throw the pitch for a strike as well as bury it in the dirt as a chase pitch. There were inconsistencies at times—particularly in his second start—but you can see why many regard the pitch as a plus offering. Odorizzi’s changeup, which sat in the low-to-mid-80s, had fading action though he often missed the plate wide on the arm-side. Touching on the high fastball problem again, Odorizzi’s changeup will have to be up in the zone on occasion in order to sell the pitch as a fastball, too. He also threw a few low-80s sliders.

What stood about Odorizzi is his strike-throwing proficiency. He attacked the zone with vigor and didn’t fall behind in counts despite making his first big-league appearances against lineups heavy on left-handed hitters. There were no signs of fear or waning confidence. He showed some wits on the mound by pitching backward on occasion. At one point he started a batter off with a 69 mph curveball for a strike. Remember, this is the same pitcher who threw a first-pitch curve to begin the Futures Game—a glorified exhibition. He doesn’t have to hide his fastball and he knows it, he just wants to give batters something to think about. Another thing that stood out—this negative—is an ability to put hitters away, often sending fastball after fastball to the plate, only to watch the hitter foul them off and extend the at-bat. He lacks a true outpitch at this point, which limits his ceiling.

As it stands, Odorizzi needs to improve his command and sharpen his secondary offerings. He’s not quite a finished product, but he has the potential to become a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Look for Odorizzi to make his Rays debut sometime in 2013. He could be around for a while if all goes well.



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