Jun
15

Profiling Pat Venditte

By

Nothing attracts attention quite like a circus sideshow. Luckily for the Yanks, they have their very own baseball oddity pitching in Charleston. His name is Pat Venditte, and as most RAB readers know, he is in professional baseball’s only switch-pitcher.

I’ve always been intrigued with Venditte and so have our readers. In fact, Joe’s short post with a video of the switch-pitching/switch-hitting conflict remains RAB’s most popular. The Yankees too have long liked Venditte. They drafted him in back-to-back years, and novelty aside, he is putting up some eye-opening numbers at Charleston.

As the Charleston closer this year, he is 2-1 with 0.64 ERA in 25 games. He has 20 saves and has an astounding 38:1 K:BB ratio. Now, Venditte is 24, far too old for the Sally League, and was a 20-round draft pick last year. The expectations for him are clearly not too high.

This weekend, Alan Schwarz profiled Venditte. While much of the earlier coverage has focused around Venditte’s ambidexterity, Schwarz looked instead at his baseball future. While we love Pat, the Yankees and scouts aren’t as high on the lefty-righty.

National news organizations travel to Charleston, S.C., to revel in his uniqueness. Fans see his statistics and dream of matchup mayhem. But experienced talent evaluators see not just one underwhelming fastball, but two. Sorry, kid.

“It’s fair to have some skepticism,” said Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president for baseball operations. “The uniqueness only has value in terms of how it translates into getting big-league hitters out. This isn’t a freak show, it’s a get-hitters-out show. We’re looking for New York impact — not Charleston impact.”

Scrooge as it may sound, Newman’s outlook would be shared by most professional scouts. South Atlantic League history is strewn with right-handers who thrive with 87-mile-per-hour fastballs like Venditte’s. His left-handed stuff is roundly (if not flatteringly) described as slop. Just because it is all thrown by the same guy does not mean it will not get hammered at higher levels.

Venditte doesn’t let the negative assessments get to him though. “I know I’m not a big prospect,” he said to Schwarz. “I have to work my way into becoming someone who the organization sees as maybe one day helping the big club. I’m just happy to have a job. No one here knows where they’re going to be next year or next week. You have to look at it as you’re playing a game for a living, and enjoy it while it lasts.”

That last quote sounds as though it came from the Nuke LaLoosh/Crash Davis School of Talking to Reporters. But anyway, Schwarz delves deeper into the Yanks’ organizational approach to relief pitchers as well:

The Yankees have not promoted Venditte this season because they prefer giving higher-level relief innings to hard-throwing pitchers they believe have higher potential: Kevin Whelan and Mike Dunn at Class AA Trenton, and Adam Olbrychowski and Tim Norton at Class A Tampa. Newman said, “You’re trying to keep these balls in the air, and big tools usually trump lesser tools plus performance.”

…After he earned his 20th save Wednesday night by pitching for the sixth time in nine nights, a scout evaluating him said: “You look at him as a little short. But I’m wondering why he’s still here.”

Newman acknowledged that at some point, perhaps when Charleston’s first half ends later this month, the Yankees will have to find out if Venditte can retire more mature hitters.

I side with that scout. Night after night, Venditte pops up in Mike’s Down on the Farm recaps, and night after night, I wonder why the wait. Venditte is old with amazing peripherals. His ceiling could be AA or it could be as a journeyman relievers. It’s certainly higher than Charleston, and at 24, Venditte isn’t getting younger. The Yanks might as well push the Venditte novelty act as far as it can go.

Photo by Pat Venditte courtesy of Hilton Flores/Staten Island Advance.

Categories : Minors

24 Comments»

  1. Chris says:

    I’ve been trying to think of a reliever that came up as a LOOGY (or ROOGY) and can’t think of one. Generally they come up as effective relievers, lose their stuff and become specialists. I wonder if scouts have a harder time evaluating him because his stuff wouldn’t get out an opposite handed hitter – of course this doesn’t matter much to him because that situation rarely arises.

    His situation may also highlight the separations within the organization between the scouting team (Oppenheimer) and the development team (Newman).

    • radnom says:


      of course this doesn’t matter much to him because that situation rarely arises.

      It does when he faces any switch hitters.

      Although, I’m not sure what the rule would be in the majors.

  2. Chris says:

    I live in Staten Island and I have to say it was fun watching the few times that I actually went to a ball game. His stuff isn’t too overwhelming so I can understand why he is not looked on very highly by scouts. However, he is pitching very well in Charleston so why not move him up? They can’t just leave him there forever, as you said he is not getting any younger. If he can’t handle more experienced hitters then they can decide what to do with him, but as for now he deserves to be called up.

    • yankeegirl49 says:

      I live on SI too and saw him pitch last seaso. You said it perfectly, he is FUN to watch, but other than the side show, he doesnt seem like anything special.

  3. Bump him up to Tampa and see what he’s got. If he doesn’t do well, then so be it. As much as I hate this terminology, it’s really a low risk-high reward situation to bump him up a level.

    • J.R. says:

      It actually seems more like a low risk-low reward situation. Underwhelming stuff from a 24 year old reliever who profiles maybe as a journeyman reliever.

    • Stryker says:

      i think a better way to put is “challenge them until they fail”.

      if a kid is a genius and regular high school classes don’t challenge him, they go enroll in accelerated or higher level classes or even to a different school. if a 15 year old hockey kid is dominating in a low-level travel program, they’ll move on to a higher level junior program. it happens all the time. if you’re good, you need to be challenged.

      what is the point in drafting this kid not once, but twice(!) just to have him sit in charleston under developed until someone else fails? sure, he may not be a highly regarded prospect. who cares what people are “seeing” – his numbers are proving that he’s too good for the level of competition that he’s facing. in my opinion it would be a hit to the organization’s development team to not promote venditte.

      look at ramiro pena and francisco cervelli. these guys were second thoughts but have responded quite well to the challenge.

  4. The Yankees have not promoted Venditte this season because they prefer giving higher-level relief innings to hard-throwing pitchers they believe have higher potential: Kevin Whelan and Mike Dunn at Class AA Trenton, and Adam Olbrychowski and Tim Norton at Class A Tampa.

    Speaking of Msrrs. Whelan, Dun, Olbrychowski, and Norton, what are their ETA’s? I know Dunn’s on the 40-man and thus, in good position to get a cup of coffee this September and compete for a spot in camp next spring, but, aren’t Whelan, Olbrychowski, and Norton Rule V eligible soon? I could see a team popping one of them and giving him a look-see in the pen. Would we protect any of them this winter?

    (Sometimes I forget that Adam O is only 22. The fact that he’s young and has pitched much better in Tampa should probably push him to the front of the prospect status pecking order for this 5-some.)

    • Stryker says:

      that’d take a good amount of shuffling of the 40 man to protect all of those guys. didn’t the yankees already try and protect whelan already?

      at this point i don’t think they’d do it considering the organization just drafted a wealth of college pitchers who could easily take their spots.

    • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

      IIRC, Whelan was Rule V eligible last year but wasn’t picked up. Norton was injured for more than a season, does that give him extra time?

  5. Should we call people who want Venditte to pick a hand and stick with it “Hand-Jobbers”?

  6. I’d be shocked if he ever makes the majors. If they promote him and he does well, I’ll start paying attention.

  7. boreifs says:

    He’s 23, not 24, although to be fair he turns 24 at the end of this month. He is the oldest player on the team, but six of the 12 pitchers on the roster (including Brackman) were born in 1985. It therefore seems an exaggeration to say that he is clearly too old for the league. If he progresses one level each year, he will reach AAA at age 26; that doesn’t sound ancient to me.

    • Joethefan says:

      My mom would say he’s a “late bloomer”. He was told he could walk-on and be a practice player in college. The guy only started coming into his own 3 years ago, during his junior year. His numbers say he’s still improving. He’s been throwing like this since he was 3; so who knows, maybe this dual arm thing takes 20 years to start clicking.

      • Mark says:

        I taught myself to play badminton with both hands while in my junior year of high school, and yeah it is difficult and takes a while. I haven’t played sports since high school though, so my experience doesn’t really count for much lol.

  8. Corey Nord-Podberesky says:

    i love that hat

  9. Nickel says:

    Okay, I know the chances of him making it to the Bronx someday are slim to none, but can’t this guy at least make it to Trenton someday so I can actually see him??

  10. JP says:

    The Bill James Historical Abstracts have always featured articles on guys who don’t have the tools to be big league players, but who somehow find a way to be successful. Most of them don’t succeed in the majors, but some do.

    A 0.64 ERA means something, it doesn’t matter what league you’re playing in. Maybe he gets annihilated in AA and it’s all over there, but I would think it’s worth promoting him.

    I had an aunt who could sign her name with both hands, simultaneously, her right hand writing “normally” and her left hand writing a mirror image of the other.

    I was a good switch hitter in Wiffle Ball. No power from the left side, but I hit over .400 for several of my youth Wiffle Ball seasons as a lefty. You could look it up.

  11. Jared says:

    Anyone have any idea where I can get that hat?

    • Joethefan says:

      Under the picture it says: Photo of Pat Venditte courtesy of Hilton Flores/Staten Island Advance.
      I’m guessing it’s the Staten Island hat. Maybe the gift shop carries it.

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