Arodys Vizcaino’s Injury Has Long-Term Effects For Atlanta

Mar 20, 2012 by

The Atlanta Braves were dealt a blow when they learned Arodys Vizcaino would miss the entire 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery. The 21-year-old Dominican is regarded as one of the organization’s top three pitching prospects, along with Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado.

Though the Braves are loaded with pitching depth right now (perhaps more than any other organization in baseball), Vizcaino’s injury could have long-term negative consequences that go beyond health.

Considering Vizcaino’s previous arm issues (he missed a significant portion of the 2010 season due to a partially torn ligament), the need for Tommy John isn’t all that surprising. But even when he was hurt, Vizcaino threw in the upper 90′s on a consistent basis to go along with great control and a plus breaking ball. His impressive minor league numbers in four seasons: 268 IP, 9.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and a 2.91 ERA.

And when Vizcaino was called up to the majors late in the 2011 season, he still found success and showcased his live arm. Coming out of the bullpen, he threw 17.1 innings, striking out 17 and walking 9.

But maybe he shouldn’t have pitched for the big league club at all. By calling him up in 2011, his service clock began ticking. Vizcaino was added to the 40-man roster then, and remained there this spring.

After news of the injury broke, many fans thought his service time would pause until he came back. Since 2011 did not technically count as his “rookie” season, the thought was that his six years of team control would just start when he came back in 2013. Not the case.

From Theron Schultz:

Any time he spends on the major league DL is counted as service time toward free agency.  It looks like he was called up to the majors last August, so he would have gotten around 45 days of service time last year.  Since he was hurt before being optioned to the minors, it’s safe to assume he will be credited for a year of major league service, so he’ll finish the year with 1 year plus those 45 or so days.  He will be controlled by the Braves until he reaches 6 years of service.  If he is never sent to the minors again, he would reach free agency after the 2017 season. The BBWAA has different rules for players to be eligible for their award.  Time on the DL does not count against a player’s eligibility for Rookie of the Year the way it does against a team’s control of the player.

That’s really bad news for Braves fans. While the 2013 bullpen is still in very good shape, things start to get interesting in the future. More importantly, things start to get expensive. Losing a year of team control for a stud pitching prospect can be a big deal.

Atlanta does not have much financial flexibility. Though some of the more expensive players will be off the books by 2014, many players will have cashed in through arbitration, if they’re still with the team. And there’s no indication that Liberty Media (the corporation that owns the Braves) will raise payroll. If anything, it seems to be stagnant and lagging behind other major league teams.

Aside from the money aspect, the injury is just bad news for Vizcaino. Some analysts (especially Keith Law, who ranked Vizcaino as the best pitcher in the Braves system) feel that he would be better suited as well as more valuable as a starting pitcher. He certainly has the repertoire for it, but this surgery is probably an indication that Vizcaino’s destined to be a reliever.

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