I’ve found that hitters pretty much follow a pre-set path. If they don’t show all-around hitting ability in age-appropriate leagues early on, then it’s pretty rare that they go on to MLB success. Not impossible, just rare.
And if they don’t show hitting skill in age-appropriate leagues by age 23, then it is virtually unknown for a player to go on to be an impact hitter in the majors. In fact, I’ve yet to find one. Late bloomers like Jose Bautista or Michael Saunders, if you want to call him that, all had a baseline of minor-league success. I’ve yet to find a hitter who was a long-term success in the majors (as opposed to a flash-in-the-pan a-la Casper Wells) who didn’t display strong hitting skills in the minors by age 23.
I thought pitchers would follow a similar pattern, but not so.
Pitchers, it turns out, can plateau-leap at any time and go from mere ordinariness to consistent performer. The “late bloomer” is more likely to be legit. So when pitchers put up strong numbers that, if they were hitters, I might downplay because they were old for their development arc, I pay more attention.
The original post discussed Jose Valdivia, who is now gone from the Mariner organization after being taken by the Angels in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft.
From out of the blue comes Leoncio Munoz.
He’s a lanky lefty from the Dominican, listed at 6-foot-4, 170 pounds, which is certainly beanpole territory.
I can’t embed this copyrighted image, but I can link to it so you get the idea.
Munoz didn’t appear in the Dominican Summer League until age 19, which is later than when the hotshot prospects appear, and stayed there for two more seasons. That’s not fast-track either when you’re 21 and still haven’t gotten an invite to go to the states.
But someone must have seen something they liked, and he got a chance to spend his age-22 season with Pulaski.
And, though that’s older than you’d usually see there, you can’t deny the results:
37.1 IP | 1.69 ERA | 1.86 FIP | 0.94 WHIP | 2.4 BB/9 | 10.4 K/9
And it wasn’t that he was a lefty-killer, since he only faced 27 LH hitters, and actually had a bit more success against right handers.
His combination of a high K/9 and strong damage control (0 HR; .068 ISO-against) was as good as anyone’s.
Can he keep it going against more advanced hitters? We’ll see, but he at least put himself on the map.