Modesto, California —— At the top of this post, watch our pitcher mechanics video of Colorado Rockies left-handed relief pitcher Jerry Vasto, taken from an outing he had in a 2016 Modesto Nuts game against California League opponent High Desert Mavericks.
Jerry Vasto scouting report notes
All the credit in the world goes to Colorado Rockies left-handed pitching prospect Jerry Vasto, who parlayed a great career at tiny Felician University in New Jersey into a 24th round draft slot in 2014. That turned into a solid 2015 in A-level Asheville, followed up by a monster 2016 in the Rockies’ system, where Vasto split the summer closing games for A+ Modesto and AA Hartford. Now, entering 2017, Vasto finds himself in AAA Albuquerque—one of the tougher pitching locales in all of professional baseball—and if he pitches as well there as he did in 2016, it won’t be long before the underdog, over-looked lefty finds himself throwing at Coors Field.
Vasto does all this without a lot of flare. He throws hard enough to get the job done—throughout the summer, I saw him work from 90-94 mph with his fastball—and he pairs it with a good, tight slider in the high-70s and low 80s, and a developing changeup. Vasto’s slider is average or slightly above-average, but the real value he gets out of it is his exceptional feel for the pitch; he has this uncanny ability to throw it for a pinpoint strike to either side of the plate, and then one or two pitches later, bury it as a strike-three pitch that has hitters flailing. Vasto’s fastball command, too, was exceptional in 2016 and even though he generally won’t overpower hitters with velocity, he knows how to make what he has work for him, and he knows how to pitch his way out of jams.
He’s not exceptionally big, but has pretty decent size (listed at 6’2″, 195 lbs.), and he’s got a great pitcher’s body: he’s exceptionally strong throughout the legs and core, and uses his lower half well to create leverage towards the plate. His delivery is simple and repeatable, he holds runners pretty well, and he hides the ball well (especially against lefties), all of which are things you’d expect from a reliever who has risen as quickly as Vasto.
He closed in both Modesto and Hartford in 2016, but moving forward his role must be that of a situational lefty or, at best, a seventh inning-type set-up man. The Rockies are developing some legitimate flame throwers that’ll populate the back-end of their big league bullpen for a few years to come here, and so it’d make the best sense to use the value in Vasto as a one-out lefty type. His closer experience is valuable, though: Vasto pitches like he has a chip on his shoulder, and that makes him aggressive in the strike zone. He challenges everyone, he throws strikes, doesn’t nibble, and he generally works ahead of hitters.
That could work against him if he throws too many strikes, of course, but he’s now shown for several minor league summers that he’s a guy who will throw quality strikes immediately upon entering out of the ‘pen. If he can do that again in Albuquerque in 2017, it’s only a matter of time until the Rockies give him a shot in Denver.
Keep scrolling below for a series of Jerry Vasto video clips.
Jerry Vasto scouting report: 140 characters or less
Late-game consistency led underdog lefty Jerry Vasto to break out in 2016. If he does it again in 2017, he’ll land in the Rockies’ bullpen.
Jerry Vasto scouting report video
Below, you can watch a variety of Jerry Vasto video, taken from various at-bats he faced off on last year while playing for the Modesto Nuts in the A+ California League..
Jerry Vasto video vs. Kyle Petty, Mariners
This is the ninth inning of an April 2016 Cal League game where Vasto’s Modesto Nuts were leading and the lefty was on to close things out against the Seattle Mariners‘ affiliate Bakersfield Blaze. Vasto gets ahead with a very good running fastball on the arm-side corner for strike one, before spiking one. He then misses down and out, and down and in, to go down 3-1 to Kyle Petty, a Mariners farmhand who in 2016 earned a Cal League All-Star bid and had a very, very good season as a power hitter in Bakersfield.
But Vasto works back to 3-2 with a very good knee-high fastball that ties up Petty a little bit, and then changes eye level (and, obviously, gets away with what would have been ball four) by getting Petty to chase up and out of the zone. Not an at-bat truly indicative of the full Jerry Vasto, but the last two pitches of the sequence ought to highlight how difficult it can be to square up his fastball at times.
Jerry Vasto video vs. Jay Baum, Mariners
Vasto starts Mariners utility infielder/outfielder Jay Baum off with a hard fastball up and away that the hitter can’t square, before throwing ball one. Then, on a 1-1 count, he brings it out: that’s a tight, filthy slider that breaks hard and late below Baum’s bat for strike two. Vasto follows it up the way he should: he goes back to the hard up-and-away heat, and he throws a perfect 1-2 pitch to get an out. The problem is, it goes right down the first base line after a weak flailing swing from Baum, and ends up a double. Even the best laid plans…
Jerry Vasto video vs. Tyler Marlette, Mariners
Here, Vasto makes a good miss down and in on ball one to Mariners catching prospect Tyler Marlette before throwing another well-placed low fastball that Marlette swings through to even up the count. Vasto then spikes a slider on 1-1, a shame because he could’ve really worked Marlette over with a well-placed breaking ball there. It’s irrelevant, though, because on 2-1, Marlette tops a fastball away and rolls over, grounding out to third base for a harmless out.
Jerry Vasto video vs. Codey Regis, Diamondbacks
This at-bat, against Arizona Diamondbacks outfield prospect Cody Regis in an April 2016 road game in Visalia, will more than any other give you a good idea about Vasto’s stuff, especially as it relates to his likely future as a situational lefty. He starts Regis with a hard fastball down and away that gets swung through for strike one—with Regis looking visibly uncomfortable in his stride and swing. Follow that up with a phenomenal sweeping slider for strike two, an interesting pitch because it was a little wider, with a little more break, and thrown a little bit slower than a typical Vasto slider, indicating he’s got some good feel to change the look of it depending on the situation.
Vasto then turns around and comes back with the harder slider, that has more vertical bite to it and less of a sweeping feel. Regis can’t hold up, goes halfway around, and gets run up on the check swing. That, in a nutshell, is what Vasto ought to be trying to do in Albuquerque this year, because this is where his big league value will come from moving forward.
Jerry Vasto video vs. Domingo Leyba, Diamondbacks
Finally, here’s Vasto throwing against Domingo Leyba, one of the Arizona Diamondbacks‘ top prospects, during that same April 2016 game for Modesto on the road in Visalia. Vasto starts arm-side, leaving a hard fastball down and away, before coming back with a good glove-side fastball that Leyba, to his credit, gets a decent swing on and fouls back to even the count. Vasto turns around and throws one of the better changeups I’ve seen him toss on 1-1, getting Leyba to swing over it and put the hitter in a two-strike count.
But imprecision on 1-2, in the form of a spiked fastball, forces Vasto to bear down lest he work to a full count and a pay-off pitch. The 2-2 offering is vintage Vasto, though; a nasty, late-breaking slider that leaves Leyba off balance and hacking above the pitch. Strike three, batter out, inning over—and once again, that good, late-moving slider is the catalyst for a swing and miss from the Rockies’ lefty pitching prospect.
Jerry Vasto scouting report GIFs
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