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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

9/21/23 : Spotlight - Six Young Hurlers

It was the fall of 2021 and we were still observing Covid restrictions at the complex, no public entrance.  Fortunately the Fall Instruct games and scrimmages were played on Ashburn Field which enabled me to set up an isolated high top chair (so as to see over the hedges) in the right field corner next to the complex entrance and watch with binoculars, yes I’m either that stupid or “dedicated” 🤓.  I wrote daily observations and posted on was then my only platform, the Facebook page entitled Phillies - A Fan’s View.

The DSL Phillies White squad was coming off a successful season, there were no playoffs that year however they earned a division title with a 36-20 record at the top of the San Pedro Division.  The club had multiple pitching standouts, six (Jean Cabrera, Estibenzon Jimenez, Eiberson Castellano, Jonathan Petit, Jaydenn Estanista, Guissepe Velasquez) were invited to Fall Instructs which was the first glimpse I got of each in action.  After seeing each pitch for the first time this is what I wrote on 10/13/21  - “What stood out to me is the compact deliveries each presented, smooth and quick with a simple aligned approach, very well coached.  Each brings different attributes, Cabrera, Castellano and Estanista have big fastballs while Jimenez, Petit and Velasquez have a broader mix with put away secondary offerings.”

All six pitchers were at various times this summer part of the Clearwater Threshers pitching staff.  Here’s a spotlight on each young man, they are in various stages of development and each has just three years of league play under their belts.

Jean Cabrera - 21 years old, will be 22 in late October - RHP - signed 7/2/19 as an international free agent - Maracay, Venezuela

Jean won the 2021 Paul Owens Award as he struck out sixty-one batters and walked only ten in thirteen starts ( 52 2/3 IP ) in the Dominican Summer League posting a 1.54 ERA.  This season (2023) he made great strides as a member of the starting rotation for the Threshers.  In the Florida State League playoffs Jean excelled allowing just one run in twelve and a third innings with two wins in two starts.  During the season he appeared in nineteen games making thirteen starts and accumulating a career high of 81 1/3 IP - a total of 93 2/3 counting the playoffs.  He struck out eighty-six batters in the regular season (ninety-seven total with the playoffs) while walking twenty-two and posted a 4.32 regular season ERA.  The team fellowship that the Threshers had this season helped him to grow as a player.  He told me “The impression that this team has shown me is how we work a lot, it's together and the camaraderie that we have is everything and for me that's great.”  Although he’s got a lean frame the torque he gets on his pitch deliveries and his competitiveness along with a quick and easy motion make him a tough opponent for hitters.  He generally uses a sinker/slider combination as primaries with the fastball in the 94 to 96 mph range with above average spin.  The slider will sit 82 to 85 mph and he will spot a change-up (86 to 88 mph) along with a four seamer.  He also has a curve ball (79 to 80 mph) but hasn’t thrown it as often this season.  Jean can reach back and fire into the 97-98 mph range on occasion as well, we’ve seen that in the past.   He’s spent two seasons now with the Threshers appearing in thirty-one games, is ready to bump up a notch next spring.  This off-season I believe will focus on building strength as he grows into his body more.

Estibenzon Jimenez - 21 years old - RHP - signed as an international free agent - 11/27/19 -  San Felipe, Venezuela

“Jimmy” posted a 1.59 ERA in 45 1/3 innings in the 2021 Dominican Summer League.  That earned him a trip to Fall Instructs and a spot in the Florida Complex League in 2022.  He finished the 2022 Florida Complex League season strong posting a 1.29 ERA in three August games (14 IP) with fifteen strikeouts. Was promoted at year end and made two starts with the Threshers to finish - threw five shutout innings in his last game allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out eight batters, a harbinger of things to come.  This year (2023) he appeared in twenty-one regular season games for the Threshers making nineteen starts.  He also made two playoff appearances and posted three scoreless, dominant innings in relief in game two of the championship series striking out six batters.  Voted the best changeup in the league in a Baseball America poll he recorded a 3.60 regular season ERA in 90 innings pitched during the regular season with seventy-eight strikeouts and thirty-nine walks. An additional seven innings in the playoffs brought his career high in innings for a season to ninety-seven which is more than double what he threw in each of his first two years as a professional.   He gets after it, doesn’t waste pitches, doesn’t back down from situations and displays a passion for the game.  Has the ability to throw six different pitches - a sinker in the 91 to 94 mph range, four seamer sitting 92 to 95 mph, touching 96, a slider 82 to 86 mph, changeup 84 to 86 mph, cutter 85-86 mph and curve ball in low 80’s.  Is a smart pitcher who can read hitters reactions and use that to his advantage.  The repertoire of pitches along with then skill set and moxie is his ticket up the ladder.

Eiberson Castellano - 22 years old - RHP - signed 7/2/18 as an international free agent - Maracaibo, Venezuela

He had an outstanding 2021 Dominican Summer League season posting a 1.09 ERA in sixteen games (33 IP) with thirty-six strikeouts and sixteen walks.  Pitched in seventeen games for Clearwater in 2022 (eight starts) posting a 3.51 ERA in 51 1/3 IP, 1.07 WHIP.  This season got off to a slow start due to some arm soreness, was activated on June 9th by the Threshers and appeared in twenty-two games (seven starts) accumulating fifty innings pitched with fifty-eight strikeouts and twenty-eight walks.  He made three appearances in the playoffs totaling three and a third innings.  The 2023 Threshers team bond also made a huge impression on him.  He told me “It amazes me to see the great team that we have, the encouragement of each of us for one another in the club house is impressive. We are always united in everything. I had never had this experience with a wonderful team like the one this year.”  Has a presence about him on the mound and big time movement and spin on his deliveries (in particular the curve ball) - the curve ball RPM is consistently at or above major league average.  Throws a sinker (92 to 95 mph), four seamer (sits 94 to 95 mph - touches 96), slider (82 to 84 mph) and curve ball (80 to 84 mph).  He catches scout’s eyes due to his size, pitch movement and ability to take over games when he’s on.  This season was more of a struggle than the two years past but that’s also part of the learning experience.  Of the six some would say that Eiberson has the best overall stuff and capabilities.  In my humble opinion he’s not scratched the surface of what he can become, I’m just as excited about his future as the first time we saw him pitch back in Instructs of 2021.

Jonathan Petit - 22 years old - RHP - signed as an international free agent 4/26/19 from Valencia, Venezuela

In 2021 Dominican Summer League play he posted a 2.27 ERA in twelve games (eight starts) totaling 43 2/3 innings with an outstanding strikeout to walk ratio of forty-three strikeouts against just five walks.  In 2022 he pitched stateside in the Florida Complex League accumulating thirty-two innings in eleven appearances and recording a 4.50 ERA with thirty-three strikeouts and ten walks.  This season (2023) he made twenty-one appearances for the Clearwater Threshers, seventeen of those were starts. A career high of 80 2/3 innings in the regular season plus six more in the playoffs.  Jonathan stuck out seventy-six batters and walked thirty-three.  He was named the Florida State League pitcher of the month for August when he recorded a 2.78 ERA in four starts (twenty-two and two-third innings pitched) with twenty-eight strikeouts and six walks, an 0.88 WHIP and .175 batting average against. Has a live arm and a full range of pitches - four seamer (93 to 95 mph), sinker (90 to 94 mph), changeup (83 to 87 mph), slider (80 to 84 mph), curve (75 to 78 mph) and a cutter (90 to 92 mph). He will generally focus on throwing the four seamer and sinker predominantly with the slider and change up as offsets.  He competes and goes right at the hitter, won’t beat himself and is “sneaky quick”.  Jonathan also pitches winter league ball in the Venezuelan Winter League for Tiburnos de La Guaira.

Jaydenn Estanista - 21 years old, will be 22 in early October - RHP  - signed 11/8/19 as an international free agent - Willemstad, Curacao

Relatively new to baseball as compared to others Jaydenn appeared in ten games (six starts) in the 2021 Dominican Summer League and recorded a 3.23 ERA in thirty and two third innings with thirty-three strikeouts and nineteen walks.  He showed a stealth like fastball that year in Fall Instructs which quickly got our attention. When scouts gather en masse behind the backstop of home plate at the complex with radar guns in tow you know that a pitcher of intrigue is throwing. That’s what happened on regular occurrence in the 2022 Florida Complex League when he pitched.  In twelve appearances and thirty-one and a third innings he recorded a 2.01 ERA with thirty-five strikeouts and sixteen walks, the fast ball climbed to a regular range of 93 to 96 mph and touched 97 mph.  It wasn’t just the velocity that played but the movement - it jumped out of his hand. Secondaries were a work in progress but the heater was real.  This season (2023) was a struggle with injuries, focus and performance.  Jaydenn broke spring camp with the Threshers but was placed on the sixty day IL in June and albeit activated in August just never got his footing this summer.  He totaled twenty-five and a third innings between the FCL and Threshers in fourteen games with thirty strikeouts and twenty-eight walks, the ERA ballooned to over eight.  A season to chalk up to a learning experience, a re-focus going forward with a search for consistency.  The skill set remains - a four seamer running in the 93 to 95 mph range with higher capabilities, a slider (82 to 85 mph), cutter (85 to 87 mph) and curve (75 to 77 mph) with the vision still to harness the heater and develop the secondaries.  Jaydenn has always been a pleasant young man to chat with when we’ve crossed paths. We are pulling for him and anticipate good results going forward.

Guissepe Velasquez - 20 years old - RHP - signed as an international free agent 7/2/19 - Porlamar, Venezuela

The youngest of the group Guissepe made fourteen starts in the 2021 Dominican Summer League accumulating 52 1/3 innings and recording a 2.75 ERA with fifty-six strikeouts and nineteen walks.  He came stateside to compete in 2022 and appeared in nine Florida Complex League games amassing eleven innings.  This year (2023) he was excellent in the FCL appearing in eight games (two starts) and posted a 1.35 ERA in twenty innings pitched with twenty-eight strikeouts and nine walks.  Guissepe was promoted to the Threshers on July 23rd and made five starts thereafter amassing twenty-one and a third innings with twenty-two strikeouts and eleven walks.  He was placed on the full season injured list in late August, we saw him at a playoff game with the TJ sleeve on, looks like a long rehab stint is ahead.  The arsenal includes a four seam fastball (90 to 93 mph), big time spin curve ball (76 to 79 mph - 2600 to 2900 rpm’s - well above big league standard), changeup (83 to 87 mph) and sinker (90 to 92 mph).  He gets great spin and movement on all four deliveries.  Another very pleasant young man who will now go thru the rehab process to find his way back to action.  We will be there to encourage him on his path.

Six young pitchers that caught our attention back in 2021, the development process takes time and has plenty of twists and turns.  I’ll keep track of these six fellas as they continue to progress, the talent is there, with hard work and dedicated effort each has a shot of achieving the ultimate goal.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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