Jon Albaladejo | RHP
Albaladejo was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico and became the first player ever drafted out of Colegio Janil High School when the Giants selected him in the 34th round (1021st overall) of the 2000 draft. Albaladejo didn’t sign, and instead headed to Miami-Dade College, a 2-yr institution. After a soild but unspectacular year with the Sharks, Albaladejo re-entered the draft pool in 2001, and was taken by the Pirates in the 19th round (564 overall). He signed with the Bucco’s in the days following the draft.
Albaladejo began his pro career by splitting two consecutive seasons between Extended Spring Training and the Rookie level GCL Pirates, where he amassed a 3-4 record, 2.96 ERA, and 58-8 K/BB ratio. He moved up to Low-A Hickory in 2003 and established himself as a fringy prospect by posting a 110-19 K/BB ratio in 20 starts and 9 relief appearances. The Pirates moved him up to High-A Lynchburg the following year, where he had a rather unspectacular showing, going 8-8, 4.33 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 92-25 K/BB ratio in 131 IP (24 starts).
The Pirates converted him to relief the following year and returned him to Lynchburg to ease the transition. His strikeout rate increased considerably (8.73 Kper9 after 6.78 career up to that point), and his control remained stellar (2.41 BBper9). Albaladejo headed up to Double-A Altoona in 2006, but ended up missing a good chunk of the season with a mystery injury (it’s been vaguely described as a muscle strain) and fell out of favor with the Pirates brass.
Albaladejo signed with the Nationals last offseason as a 6-yr minor league free agent, and began the year with Double-A Harrisburg. He had a decent showing, putting up a 35-15 K/BB ratio in 36.2 IP as a workhorse setup man. The Nats bumped him up to Triple-A Columbus where he had the most dominant stretch of his career, going 24 IP, 14 H, 3 ER, 21-7 K/BB ratio and eventually supplanting the incumbent Chris Booker as the team’s closer. He annihilated righties with Columbus, holding them to a .130-.203-185 line.
He earned a September call-up at GM Jim Bowden’s behest, and struck out the side in his first career appearance after allowing and inherited runner to score via a ground ball. Albaladejo became one of Manny Acta’s go-to relievers by season’s end, allowing only 9 baserunners in 14.1 IP against 12 strikeouts. He was traded to the Yanks yesterday for righty Tyler Clippard.
Albaladejo has solid repertoire, sitting at 91-93 with his fastball with glimpses of 95 in the past. Both his curveball and slider are average offerings, and the Yanks will probably have him scrap the slider at some point like they’re inclined to do with their mound prospects. His biggest strength is his control as his great K/BB ratios indicate (440-103 career). He’s big (6’5″, 250 lbs) and intimidating, and has earned rave reviews for his work ethic and makeup. He gets his fair share of groundballs, holding a 2-1 GB/FB ratio last year between Columbus and Washington.
Albaladejo’s velocity has fluctuated a bit in the last few years, going from the low-to-mid 90s down into the 80s and back up to the low 90’s again. A decrease in velocity is a classic sign of shoulder troubles, which could have to do with the mystery injury mentioned earlier. The good news is that he was back in the 90s with the Nats last year. He lacks a true out pitch. He’s also struggled with his weight during his career (one scout called him “a fat tub of goo” back in his A-ball days), and will have to continue to work hard to avoid the
Cream Filling Curt Schilling physique.
Albaladejo instantly jumps into the bullpen mix, and will probably have his 2008 destination determined by his Spring Training showing. More than likely he’ll head to Triple-A Scranton and will be among the first called up to alleviate the inevitable injury/suckiness. TJ Beam just keeps getting hosed.
I like the move, and that might not come as a surprise given my well documented anti-Clippardness. The fact of the matter is that Clip was never going to get another shot with the Yanks like he did last year (especially with Steven White & Jeff Marquez now on the 40-man roster), and long-term he’s best suited for the NL. This moves reminds me a lot of the Jaret Wright for Chris Britton deal from last winter, where the Yanks essentially turned a spare part into a potentially useful piece, which also segways into my biggest concern: this turns into another Britton-gate. Albaladejo also earns brownie points because we happen to share the same birthday (although I’m a year older).