Scouting Yankees Prospect #33: Rony Bautista

Bautista is not nearly as raw as he once was

The New York Yankees signed left-handed pitcher Rony Bautista out of the Dominican Republic back in November of 2009. A low cost, potentially high reward kind of signing at the time, the towering southpaw has picked himself up out of the "raw" group to become one of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the organization.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Rony Bautista
Position: Pitcher
DOB: September 17, 1991
Height: 6'7"
Weight: 200
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

"He's a projection guy deluxe," Yankees senior vice president in charge of scouting and player development Mark Newman said at the time of the signing. "He's a tall, 6-foot-7 left-handed pitcher. He's got some arm strength now, but we'll see how it goes. He's a projection guy.

"The secondary stuff has to go [a ways], but he's not a high-dollar guy. We'll see what happens. He's left-handed and he's big, and he'll occasionally get it around [big league] average right now. It's just one of those guys where we'll see what happens."

What happened in the ensuing first two years was Bautista began to crank up the velocity in the mid-to-high-90s at times, but the refinement in his mechanics and control was simply not there.

Slowly but surely, however, he was able to develop a slurvy breaking ball into a big league curveball and his mechanics began to smooth out, so much so that he posted a 3.51 ERA and cut down his walk rate in his first season in the United States in 2012 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

"Thank God I think everything went well," Bautista said through the help of a translator. "I think it was a successful year and hopefully this next one will be the same.

"Obviously I've been working on my mechanics but more than anything I worked on location this year. I think that's why I had such a successful season."

He entered his first season in the States with the reputation of throwing hard and having raw mechanics, but he was anything but that. Doing a complete 180 degree turnaround in his delivery, he finally had a better idea of where the ball was going and the confidence just grew as a result.

"At first I didn't have the confidence with the location but at the end I was really comfortable and had the confidence in the zone so I let it go a little bit more at the end," he said. "I have a greater understanding of location now.

"My confidence is different now from the beginning of [2011] until now. I think this next year will be an even better year because my location and confidence are together."

No longer a raw thrower and more of a refined pitcher, the towering Bautista has a huge long-term ceiling but still has a lot of work to do going forward to tap his true potential.

"I would like to perfect my mechanics a bit more and work a lot more on my changeup," he admitted. "I want to keep my head straight [in my mechanics], not tilt it to the side, and try to finish forward at an angle, have a good release point to have better control in the zone."

Once so raw that it was difficult to imagine where to begin to fix him mechanically, Bautista has developed himself into a pitcher these days, one who now has specific objectives in mind and not simply focusing on rudimentary skills like finding the plate.

"I've matured a lot as a person and a player, and now I'm really working on an objective and not just work to work. Now I have a work plan and something to work towards.

"Obviously this past year was a learning experience and I feel like I'm going to be really ready for this next year and have a really good season."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

GCL Yankees

4-1

1

41.0

32

16

48

3.51

2011

DSL Yankees2

1-9

0

57.2

61

29

57

4.53

2010

DSL Yankees1

0-2

0

7.0

7

13

9

11.57



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. It was just a year ago that Bautista averaged 91-93 mph with his fastball and topped out at 97 mph, but he didn't exactly know where the ball was going. He was able to smooth out his mechanics and he focused more on throwing strikes, and that caused his velocity to dip down to more of the 89-92 mph range in 2012. At 6-foot-7, however, the very real possibility exists that as his mechanics become more second nature and he's not over-thinking throwing strikes that he'll be able to let loose more and crank up the velocity once again.

Other Pitches. When Bautista first signed he had no secondary pitches at all -- he was just a big guy who could throw hard. Since that time though he slowly developed a slurvy breaking pitch into a legitimately hard curveball that can flash above average potential on most days, sitting in the 81-83 mph range. The control of it is good but could get better. His changeup is easily his third pitch. He shows good feel for it and there are days where it's an average big league offering, but like most of his game it just lacks consistency right now.

Pitching. Gone are the grip it and rip it mentality days where Bautista just hoped to get his overpowering fastball over the plate. Now he has three pitches he can attack batters with and more often than not he's focused more on throwing strikes and getting ahead in counts. He has an actual plan on the mound and that's half the battle. He's so tall too and has a lot of moving levers that is has a two-pronged effect; it makes it more difficult to throw strikes consistently but he is much, much better lately, and the ball also appears to get in on batters a lot quicker than it actually does so there's also a lot of deception.

Projection. Just like his game was in the beginning of his career, Bautista's projection is all over the map. Being left-handed, with his size, deception, and power, he has the ceiling of a frontline big league starting pitcher. However, that kind of projection coming to fruition seems to be a bit of a longshot given how far his game still has to go. He'll need to get his velocity back up to the plus range and keep his current strike-throwing ways consistent, and bump the changeup up to the above average or higher plateau. It's not impossible but the more likely scenario has his ceiling being that of a middle of the rotation big league starter who can pitch higher than that on any given day. The good news either way is that he's no longer so raw that any big league career seems so far fetched.

ETA. N/A. Bautista turned 21 years old this offseaon and while he could probably benefit from a return trip to the Gulf Coast League for some more seasoning, sooner or later the Yankees are going to have to accelerate his tract. He'll potentially be in the Charleston mix to start the 2013 campaign but the smarter money says he'll begin in Staten Island.

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