The World Baseball Classic has been a success, if only for the moment where Rio Gomez, son of the late, great Pedro Gomez, came in and pitched for Team Colombia, just as his proud father had predicted. So many people around baseball liked Gomez and feel some kinship with his son as he continues a baseball journey, but watching the young pitcher throw a scoreless inning got me thinking about something else: why isn’t he doing this in the majors?
Gomez isn’t considered a top prospect. Neither Rotowire nor MLB Pipeline has him in their top list, 20 deep for RW and 30 for MLB Pipeline. Yet here he was against Abraham Toro (4 year major leaguer now with MIL), Bo Naylor (Mostly AAA with CLE, but a cup of coffee and playoff action), Jacob Robson (former AAA player), and Edouard Julien (MIN AAA). That’s not like the inning that Duque Huppert had, but it’s pretty good for a kid who hasn’t been higher than AA.
Gomez didn’t pitch against Team USA, who might have given a better idea of how Gomez could do against top players. We did see, over and over, that competition ranging from minor leaguers to electricians could get major league hitters out. On one hand, it shows the clear advantage that pitchers have always had - the best hitters fail 60 percent of the time - that has grown in an era of pitching tech and velocity gains. On the other, it shows there might not be as big a difference between the major leaguers and others, leading to a possible inefficiency.
I asked one longtime advance scout what the difference was, and why he felt a lower-level prospect — or a Czech amateur — might have success. “Stuff is stuff and anyone can get a couple sliders by someone once,” he said, “The best starters are the most consistent. Can that electrician get someone out over six innings? Over 30 appearances? Everyone’s rooting for [Gomez] or the Czech guy, so if they’re not advancing through a system, it’s because they’re not consistently getting outs, simple as that.” I’m not sure it is though.
Not to make this too much about Gomez, but if a non-top prospect can go out and do this against solid competition, why couldn’t he do it for the Sox? If there really is no such thing as a pitching prospect, what more does someone like Gomez need to show? I’m not saying that he’s one of the 13 or 14 best pitchers on the Red Sox right now, but if we’re not seeing pitchers get consistently better by throwing however many innings in the minors, why are they there? Every year we get some pitcher who’s learned a new grip, found a couple miles an hour, or something - more commonly in this Driveline/Exos era - but it’s seldom more than a handful and you won’t find any consistency in it from organization to organization. The best example I can think of that is with the Dodgers and their development of the ‘sweeper’ slider.
What Rio Gomez is showing us, aside from a heartwarming story, is that pitching development is largely failing. It’s filtering more than it’s developing and more often than not, doing it through failure and injury. How many Rio Gomez’s are out there, with the ability to get major leaguers out, but stuck in Somerset, Massachusetts working for minimum wage? And don’t they all deserve better?
On to the injuries:
JOSE ALTUVE, 2B HOU (fractured thumb)
Jose Altuve took a fastball off the hand and the result was exactly what you’d expect. It’s a fractured thumb that may need surgery to fixate. The surgery won’t speed up the recovery, remember. Bones heal on their own time and the pins are there to make sure they heal in the proper alignment. The normal time frame is six to eight weeks, but it’s expected that this will be on the longer side, plus some time to tune up his swing. Saying June 1 as a goal date probably won’t be far off. (You’ll see many quoting eight to ten weeks but that’s “missed time”, which includes the ready time.)
The surgery hasn’t happened yet, but is likely early this week. There’s no reason to wait and some studies that show the early stage healing is important. If there’s any misalignment, getting that back in place is key to the quickest and best healing. The surgery itself is simple and without much complication, so Altuve shouldn’t expect to lose any function once the bone is healed. There’s no known ligament or tendon involvement, making the surgery and the healing relatively simple.
David Hensley got the start at second on Sunday and with Altuve at the WBC, the Astros have a bit of a head start on replacing him. Mauricio Dubon is also in the mix, but it’s not a deep group, nor is there a ready replacement like they had when Jeremy Pena stepped in for Carlos Correa. There’s already some suggestion that Dana Brown is looking around, with teams like Toronto and Atlanta deep at the position. I’d thought Jurickson Profar might be a fit, given his flexibility once Altuve returns, but he signed with the Rockies, where he may take over at a couple positions.
Oh yeah, padded gloves could have prevented this.
BRANDON NIMMO, OF NYM (sprained ankle/knee)