Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Top Prospect List: #18 Pedro Viola, LHP
Pedro Viola is something of a mystery man, but he continues the impressive flow of young, potential impact talent coming from the Reds' Dominican Republic baseball academy. Three of the top 20 prospects in the Reds system were signed as free agents out of the Dominican Republic and two of them have established themselves as impact prospects. While Viola hasn't reached the level of Johnny Cueto and Juan Francisco, his debut was very impressive and he's most definitely on the rise.
Viola stands 6'1" tall, weighs 185 pounds, bats left, throws left, and is 24 years old. In 2007, the Reds used him exclusively out of the bullpen and he seems unlikely to ever be put into the rotation.
Viola arrived in the U.S. in 2007 and immediately made his presence known. The Reds started Viola out low-A Dayton, which proved to be no great challenge for Viola. At Dayton, Viola worked in 43.1 innings posting a 1.87 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and 10.2 K/9. In addition, he had a GB/FB ratio of 0.93. However, he had a bit of good fortune and wasn't quite as good as his ERA indicates, as his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was 3.21 and he had a .260 BABIP. After 3 months, that level of performance was enough to get him promoted to high-A.
At Sarasota, Viola continued to impress. He logged 20.0 innings posting a 0.90 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, and 12.6 K/9. His performance at high-A was supported by his peripherals, as his FIP was 1.58 and his BABIP was .311, which means that his performance was for real. He was then promoted again, this time up to AA Chattanooga.
Despite it being his second promotion in his first season of American pro-ball, Viola didn't slow down at all. At Chattanooga, Viola posted a 0.95 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, and 8.1 K/9. His peripherals at Chattanooga don't quite support such an impressive performance, as evidenced by his 3.88 FIP and .204 BABIP.
OVERALL 2007 PERFORMANCE
Overall, Viola posted a combined 1.42 ERA in 82.1 innings with a 3.3 BB/9 and a 10.3 K/9. It's hard to believe that such an unheralded prospect could have so much success so quickly. However, perhaps it shouldn't be unexpected, as Viola is 24 and has spent time pitching in the Dominican Leagues.
In 2006, Viola posted a 2.04 ERA in 61.2 innings as a starting pitcher in the Dominican Summer League. Viola's age and experience makes him more polished than most players signed out of the Dominican Republic, which makes him more like the Japanese players who come over to the U.S. His experience and maturity allowed him to climb the ladder much more quickly, but it'll be interesting to see how he fares against AAA competition.
Viola is likely to start out 2008 back at Chattanooga, but he could move quickly to Triple-A. In fact, if he pitches in 2008 like he did in 2007, then he could even see time at the MLB level. Major League teams are consistently in search of quality lefties, so Viola should get every opportunity to work out of the bullpen in the near future.
Once again, the Reds international scouting effort is making a impact on the future of the organization. The Reds signed Viola and Cueto out of the Dominican Republic and both pitchers seem to have the polish and baseball acumen to go with their stuff. Each could end up playing a role for the Reds at the MLB level.
Viola needs to repeat his 2007 performance in 2008 to establish himself as more than a one year wonder, but if he can do that then he'll be in Cincinnati sooner rather than later.
If Viola and Roenicke continue their rapid ascent up the ladder, then they may make the Reds regret their decision to hand out such a massive contract to Francisco Cordero. They could both be in the mix well before the 4 year contract with Cordero expires.