LAKELAND, Fla. — Numbers may never tell the whole story when gauging how good a pitching prospect can be, but it’s a great place to start.
In the case of Detroit Tigers prosepct Johan Belisario, his impressive year with the Connecticut Tigers of the New York Pennsylvania League is attributed to the time he spent developing his craft in his native Venezuela.
Belisario posted an earned-run average of 0.79 and a 0.853 in walks and hits per innings pitched, similar to his final year in the Venezuelan Summer League.
“I was working hard,” the 21 year old said Wednesday at the Tigertown Complex. “It was four years of great experience and then I felt ready to come to the United States.”
No one is going to compare Belisario to Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, but for some perspective, the Oakland A’s closer had an ERA of 1.91 and a 0.913 WHIP in 1992 when he won both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards in the American League.
Those numbers can be overwhelming for the young reliever, but he knows he didn’t always produce such great results and actually struggled when he first started with the VSL Tigers in 2010.
“I adjusted my mechanics after 2012 as my pitches were high and I started working hard and I have been able to keep them down,” he said.
Again, numbers tell the story.
Between 2011 and 2013 his ERA dropped from 7.50 to 4.91 to 1.15, including a 0.718 WHIP in that final year.
The standout performances have encouraged Belisario to work even harder and he knows what to focus on as he moves forward.
“I want to dominate both (low) corners of the plate with my fastball,” said the right-hander whose is consistently between 92-94 m.p.h. “I also want to work on my curve and slider and to just keep improving.”
The soft spoken Venezuelan is able to continue to put in the effort because his love for baseball has been with him his entire life.
Both in geography and maturity, Belisario has come along way from his beginnings in baseball, but he certainly has not forgotten them.
“I fell in love with baseball at five when I saw my cousins play but it wasn’t until seven when I could start playing myself,” the reliever said. “It was at age 13 and 14 when they started preparing me to be able to draft me at 16.”
Baseball isn’t the only thing he has been working hard on as he is still getting accustomed to his life in North America.
With a significant number of Latin American players in camp, he always has someone to hang around and talk too, even if that does come at the expense of trying to improve on his most difficult barrier.
“Language,” he said. “I am learning to speak English but it is hard.”
Follow Dario Passarelli @PapaDart