Pedro Beato as a Starter
Last week, Terry Collins expressed his opinion of Pedro Beato moving to a starting role — something he says he hadn’t yet discussed with Sandy Alderson but was planning to bring up at the end of the season.
Does Beato profile as a starter? Does he have the makeup and stuff to handle starting at the MLB level?
Looking at his minor league stats, it appears as though the Orioles had a reason to move Beato to the bullpen:
Clearly, Beato became more effective in his only year in the bullpen. But, was it definitely the move to the ‘pen that led to the improved performance, or could maturity / advanced development have had something to do with it?
It’s hard to say, especially considering his age. It’s not uncommon for pitchers to suddenly “figure it out” in their early 20s. It could be something as simple as gaining confidence in the fastball, or gaining consistent command of an offspeed pitch, or making a mechanical adjustment, that leads to a drastic improvement at the minor league levels. Minor league hitters are in the minors for a reason, and it doesn’t necessarily take much for a pitcher to gain the upper hand against the majority of them.
There’s something else to consider: as far as the Orioles were concerned, Pedro Beato wasn’t good enough to be on their 40-man roster, which suggests that they didn’t think he was ready for MLB duty (of course, they also had a glut of near-ready prospects that needed to be protected, so that was another factor contributing to Beato’s availability). As it turns out, Beato has held his own in the bigs. He’s not outstanding, and he’s had some inconsistency, but for the most part, it’s fair to say that he has pitched at an acceptable level for a first-year pitcher. At no point would anyone say he was a liability.
If you agree with that, then you must also agree that Beato’s stuff is MLB-quality. And if that’s the case, then he has taken another step forward from 2010.
What am I getting at? In short, I’m building an argument against those who look at his minor league numbers and say, “well, he couldn’t hack it as a starter in the minors, so how can he do it in the Majors?”. To that I answer, maybe he simply wasn’t ready then, but has progressed to a level where he’s ready now. This is why I don’t always look at minor league stats — or minor league performance overall — as an indicator of how a pitcher or player will perform in “The Show” (with players under 25, that is). I am of the opinion that young players can develop and improve over time. They don’t always, but they do. And I believe it is possible that Beato has improved his skill set, such that he could be considered a starting pitcher even though he wasn’t a terribly effective starter in the minors.
There are a few things I like about the idea of Beato as a starter. First and foremost, I like his sinker — which he doesn’t use very often — I like his overhand curve, and I like his changeup. All three have the potential to be “plus” pitches. They’re not there yet, but I believe they can be. His sinker has great downward and lateral action, and he can hum it into the low 90s. The change-up has similarly good movement; he needs to gain more consistent command of it and maybe take off another 2-3 MPH. His curve has a tendency to hang and he gives it away, but it has good 12-6 spin so there is potential. And if a pitcher has command of three pitches, he has enough stuff to be a starter.
How will Beato develop these three pitches? Repetition. And the best way to get repetition is from innings. And the best way to get innings is to start. So maybe Terry Collins is on to something when he suggests that Beato do some starting in the winter leagues, and some more in the minors next spring. My guess is he’ll need at least a half-season of minor league starting before we see more command of those three pitches.
There’s another thing about Beato starting that I like: it’s a more consistent schedule, one that can be easier to condition the body to do in comparison to relief. Beato has some parts of his pitching motion that are conducive to poor mechanics, and these are exacerbated when he is fatigued. We have seen him fatigued as a result of the rigors of MLB relief work — throwing on back-to-back days for example, or throwing two innings one day and one inning another. Many pitchers, obviously, do fine with that kind of irregular schedule, while others don’t. It’s possible that Beato is in the latter group. My feeling is that if Beato is put on a proper conditioning program that prepares and maintains him for a full season of starting, there is less chance of his mechanics breaking down.
There’s only one issue with the concept of making Beato a starter and planning to work him in that role in the minors at the beginning of 2012: what if the Mets need him in the bullpen? This was the issue that prevented Aaron Heilman from moving to the rotation: he was needed in the bullpen. What happens if Beato is clearly not ready for an MLB starting role, but the Mets need an arm in the ‘pen, and Beato appears to be the best option? Do they go with someone who may not be as good for the big club’s bullpen, so Beato can start in AAA? I’m not sure they’d be willing to make that sacrifice.
What do you think? Do you like the idea of Beato as a starter? Would you prefer he continue to develop as an MLB reliever? Would you keep him in the minors as a starter, even if he is one of the best options for the 2012 bullpen? Share your thoughts in the comments.