Ricky Vanasco, RHP, TEX

Did you know 20-year-old Ricky Vanasco hit 99 mph on his heater as a 20-year-old? Read on.
Video courtesy of Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • Born: October 13, 1998
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’3″, 180-lbs
  • Drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 15th round of the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft in 2016 out of Williston HS (Williston, FL).

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year and then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

Not a lot of innings pitched, so in a way this is all small-sample-size territory. A concussion in 2017 limited him to 9 innings, and then elbow inflammation (uh oh) in 2018 limited him to 25 innings in 2018. He didn’t start his 2019 season until June in short-season A-ball, so what we have to work with is not much.

That said, he really looked good in 2019. That crazy K% rate jumped right back and brought that nifty K%-BB% with it from his 2017 rookie year before getting concussed.

Now if you walk 13% of the batters you face, and Ricky seems plumb determined to do just that year after year, your WHIP will depend upon the vagaries of hit rates. When you strike out 39% in 2017 and 38% in 2019, while walking the same percentage of batters, yet your WHIP plummets from 1.444 to 1.067, that’s the power of hit rate in action. Ball goes through the hole, your WHIP goes right with it.

It’s just too small a sample to definitively see a split. Yes, in 13 innings at Short Season ball he gave up two HRs and had a bad WHIP. That’s like a handful of games. Time will tell.
This looks good. Steady progress last year. 2019 was very postive. And remember, he still walks guys a lot, so for that trend line to rise like that means his strikeout rate is doing a lot of heavy lifting. But lift that line it did!
This is what a spray chart looks like when you haven’t thrown that many innings. Look, one home run to right, one to center, and one to left. Pretty balanced overall. Looks like a few right up the middle.

Looking in the BaseballHQ.com Minor League Baseball Analyst book, we see that Vanasco has three pitches in his arsenal:

He’s 6’3″ and only weighs 180; that’s called a projectable body. Sure enough, his fastball velocity has been rising since he was signed out of high school, and now that fastball, on a downhill plane, is a real weapon, at least in Low-A ball.

His changeup is his next best pitch, already a solid offering sitting in the high 80s and showing good drop and separation.

If he can get his curve to work, and scouts think he will, he could be a starter in the majors. If he never gets a solid third pitch, 99 mph from the bullpen is quite fine too.

The Scouts

Warnings

“Elbow inflammation”?

Let’s see AA, please.

Get some innings, dude, and develop that curve.

Could you, I dunno, strive for even 10% walks?

Conclusion

Look at the scouts: they seem mostly not impressed yet. They want to see him put up more healthy innings, and a higher levels, before they completely buy in. Plus have you seen how the Rangers develop minor league pitchers (or how they don’t develop them)?

That said, 2019 was a positive step forward for this young arm. He’s just 21, he has three pitches that can potentially be solid or better, and he strikes guys out like crazy. If he could improve his command, he could be the best arm the Rangers have developed since I don’t know when.

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