Jays prospect packs a three-pitch punch

Justin Nicolino (Justin Nicolino)

Justin Nicolino is a prospect with promise.

The talented 20 year-old southpaw pitcher from Orlando, Fla., is a prime example of the talent that the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired through their strong farm system.

Standing at 6-3 and having noticeably gained strength over the winter months, the soft-spoken hurler found his passion for baseball at seven years old.

“My parents always wanted me to try different sports and baseball was the one where I found my passion and had the most opportunity for me,” said Nicolino (pictured right).

Drafted 80th overall in 2010 (higher than scouts were anticipating for the high school graduate), he enters the 2012 season after having a breakout year last summer with the single-A Vancouver Canadians.

He dominated the North West League with his fluid and easy delivery.

Nicolino’s pitching arsenal includes a quality three-pitch mix of fastball, curve ball, and change-up, leading him to 73 strikeouts in 61 innings pitched.

“For me being a young guy, it was a real honour for my first year showing that I can pitch. I was able to go out there every fifth day,” Nicolino says. “I had a good routine and a great foundation and took the ball and kept rolling.

“I had great teammates and it was a great experience.”

The parent club to the Vancouver Canadians took notice.

Nicolino won the R. Howard Webster Award for being the top-prospect in single-A for the Blue Jays organization. His accomplishments in 2012 will likely lead him to playing high-A ball.

Nicolino currently is throwing low to mid-90s but recognizes this is an area for improvement.

“As years progress I’ve started to put on muscle weight,” he said. “It’s finally starting to show that I’m growing. I’m building and getting stronger.

“Hopefully in the years to come that is when the fastball will get a little more juice.”