2012 Dodgers Player Profile: Nathan Eovaldi On the Fast Track

March 10, 2012; Peoria AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Nate Eovaldi (50) pitches in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew B. Fielding-US PRESSWIRE

Nathan Eovaldi lasted until the 11th round of the 2008 Major League Baseball amateur draft, partly due to his already having had Tommy John surgery as a high school junior, and partly because of signability concerns arising from his scholarship offer to Texas A&M, a strong lure for the native of Alvin, TX. Nonetheless, Logan White and the Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed by offering the young right-hander $250,000 to sign on the dotted line.

2012 Dodgers Player Profiles
This continues our series of 2012 player profiles, where we will analyze one player per day, between now and the end of spring training. This is also the spot for our community projections, so be sure to give us your predictions for each player for this season in the comments section.

The Dodgers continued to be aggressive with Eovaldi when it came to his development. After less than 11 innings in rookie ball after signing that year, the Dodgers placed him with their A-ball club in Great Lakes as a 19-year old the following year. While injuries curtailed some of his 2010 season, spent mostly with Inland Empire, after 19 starts last year with AA Chattanooga, Eovaldi made his major-league debut in the Dodgers rotation, replacing a fellow phenom felled with ulnar collateral ligament damage, Rubby De La Rosa.

Eovaldi picked up a win in that first start while striking out seven batters in the eventual NL West championship Arizona Diamondbacks lineup, and continued to intrigue Dodger fans by working in three quality starts and a five-inning, one-run outing against the soon to be World Champion St. Louis Cardinals among his six total starts.

The hurler finished out the season in the Dodgers bullpen, in a move designed to limit his usage. The 137+ innings Eovaldi amassed in the majors and minors combined was roughly 40% more than he accrued in either of the previous two seasons of minor league play, so tapering off his pitching activity was perhaps prudent.

You can see what our resident prospect hound Brandon Lennox had to say about the hard-throwing right-hander when he named Eovaldi the Dodgers #6 prospect going into this spring training, compared to the TBLA crowd-sourcing tapping him for #3 on their list. Both Lennox and occasional TBLA contributor Chad Moriyama, who also rated the young Texan #3 on his Dodgers prospect list, caution that Eovaldi's career may be made as a relief pitcher, with Moriyama putting it this way (emphasis mine):

...although there’s more risk to Webster, I think there’s more upside as well. Eovaldi can improve his breaking pitches, but not enough to be more than a #3 starter, and I think ending up as a reliever is a definite possibility.

On paper, Eovaldi profiles as a pitcher who is a bit too wild (see the walk rates in the stats box below), without a high enough strikeout rate to offset that, although there are flashes of dominance. But something Eovaldi does seems to have adverse effects on hitters, because he has held down the hit rates (6.6 H/9 in AA, 7.3 in the NL last year) and appears to suppress home runs, having allowed only 8 round-trippers in his entire minor-league career of 308 IP, a nearly microscopic rate of 0.2 HR/9. Admittedly his major league numbers are a small sample size, but for those 34.2 innings he yielded only two dingers, to a couple reasonably powerful batsmen: Lance Berkman and Dan Uggla. As a whole, major-leaguers hit .230/.347/.320 against the 21-year old in 2011.

Trivia

Only one other Dodgers (LA or Brooklyn) pitcher made exactly six starts in his debut season and he also looked like a hard-throwing, somewhat wild righty that gave hitters a tough time at the plate:

Name Year Age G IP H R ER BB SO ERA HR BA OBP SLG
Eovaldi 2011 21 10 34.2 28 14 14 20 23 3.63 2 .230 .347 .320
Former Dodger ???? 20 9 35.2 27 17 15 22 23 3.79 0 .216 .333 .264


If Eovaldi has a career anywhere near as good as Ramon Martinez did after debuting in 1988, I think we can consider the 11th round of 2008 a complete success.

The odds that Eovaldi will be the best pitcher ever from his alma mater, Alvin High School are about 0.000000000000001%. Approximately.

Contract Status

Eovaldi was first added to the 40-man roster last season and never optioned. The Dodgers still hold three options on him. He also still has rookie status.

Previous Dodgers Player Profiles:

None.

Stats

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tERA ERA+
2010 (A+)
20 85.0 3.49 6.14 4.45 3.60 - - -
2011 (AA)
21 103.0 4.02 8.65 2.62 3.05 - - -
2011 (MLB)
21 34.2 5.19 5.97 3.63 4.35 4.80
5.42 103
2012 Projections - Age 22 Season



Source IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP
Marcel 63.0 3.57 7.29 3.57 3.73
PECOTA 62.2
4.9 5.2
5.06
-
ZiPS 119.1 4.68 6.26 4.30 4.35
(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

2012 Outlook

With a relatively lackluster group of starting pitchers in the non-roster invitee group for spring training, Eovaldi, having already gotten his feet wet in the majors, may be considered by Dodger brass as the sixth starter, the man to call up if and when the first rotation opening crops up. And with their injury history, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano are no locks to each make all 32 of their scheduled starts. I'll guess that Eovaldi starts the year in the minors, but is recalled to fill a rotation void in July, and posts 66 IP, with a 4.25 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP.

What is your guess for Eovaldi in 2012? Be sure to give us ERA, Innings Pitched, and WHIP in the comments, plus anything else you wish to guess.

Thanks to baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com for the statistics.

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