I like to think i’m reading just about every bit of Washington Nationals news there is to be had during Spring Training. I follow all the beat writers I know of plus try to read just about every columnnist or blogger that I know to be down in Viera. But nobody is talking about Yunesky Maya.
We know, for example, that John Lannan bulked up over the off season, that Livan shot a 65 and plans on playing in the Senior Golf tour when he turns 50, that Marquis feels better, that Detwiler has new mechanics, that Wang is healthy and that Zimmermann is rearing to go. But what about Maya?
Last we had heard, Maya had gone down to the Dominican Winter League (DWL), played for Leones del Escogido and pitched well. Baseball America’s Lacy Lusk wrote a rather promising report in December (insider only, sorry), and Maya was named the league’s best pitcher at the Winter’s end. He finished the DWL 4-2 with a 1.32era, striking out 42 batters in 41 innings pitched. And according to reports he had his fastball up to 93mph. Now, the DWL may be the “best” of the winter leagues but its talent level has dipped significantly over the past 10 years. At best, i’d say its a AAA-level quality league. So take the stats with a slight grain of salt.
This slight uptick in speed is important. In my review of Maya’s first four starts (posted here last September) he was barely breaking 90, sitting in the 88-89 range and relying more on nibbling than going after hitters. I feel the uptick in velocity is clearly a result of gaining arm strength over the course of throwing innings, indicating that he was rushed to the Majors last September. Rizzo has all but admitted the team screwed up by rushing Maya through the minors, and his results showed.
However, if Maya can hump it up to 93 and combine it with the amazing arsenal of pitches he seems to have (in his MLB debut he showed at least EIGHT different pitches), I think he can be a very dangerous pitcher in this league. Which is why the team risked an $8M contract on him.
Now, what does this mean for the 2011 season? So far, its hard to tell; Ladson posted a biopic piece today but I’ve yet to see any reports on how he looks during his mound sessions or how he’s throwing. Perhaps its a language barrier issue; he doesn’t really speak English so interviews are difficult unless the interviewer also speaks Spanish.
I think he’s still bound for AAA to start the season, simply because he has options and certain guys (Gorzelanny in particular) do not. But he may be first in line when someone gets hit by the injury bug.