This is the tenth in a series of articles, here at Around the Foghorn, covering the 22 non-roster invitees joining the San Francisco Giants in their spring training complex this season.
The San Francisco Giants opened spring training camp Wednesday and with them was left-handed pitcher Braulio Lara, the former Tampa Bay Ray, who was signed to a minor league contract December 27th. One of twenty-two non-roster invitees in the Giants’ complex, he was originally projected to be a starter, but made the transition to the bullpen in 2013, partly because control issues dictated a change.
The 26-year-old Lara was born in Bani, Dominican Republic, and began his professional career at age nineteen. Two seasons later in sixty-six innings with the rookie level Princeton Rays, Lara recorded a 2.18 ERA and an encouraging 7.91 SO/9. Originally billed as lights-out fast, Lara has struggled with his control, and no radar gun in the United States has ever recorded his fastball higher than the mid-nineties.
In the spring of 2013, the Miami Marlins picked Lara in the first round of MLB’s Rule Five Draft, a long-shot at best with 74 players in camp. After making four appearances and working a total of five innings, with an ERA of 4.5, he was returned to the Rays. With Lara’s ERA over his previous two seasons in the minors hovering between 4.94 and 5.70, the Marlins had thought a change from starting to relieving, might make a difference.
Feb 19, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy during spring training workouts at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Here is a look at some key stats from his seven professional seasons:
2008: DSL Rays/Dominican Summer League/2-2/3.97 ERA/17 G/3 GS/34.0 IP/28 H/15 ER/1 HR/21 BB/39 SO/HBP 5/WP 12/1.441 WHIP/HR/9 0.3/BB/9 5.6/SO/9 10.3
2009: DSL Rays/Dominican Summer League/5-3/3.58 ERA/13 G/8 GS/1 CG/55.1 IP/52 H/22 ER/2 HR/21 BB/58 SO/HBP 5/WP 13/1.319 WHIP/HR/9 0.3/BB/9 3.4/9.4 SO/9
2010: Princeton Rays/Appalachian League/6-4/2.18 ERA/13 G/13 GS/1 CG/66.0 IP/49 H/16 ER/2 HR/25 BB/58 SO/3 HBP/12 WP/1.121 WHIP/0.3 HR/9/3.4 BB/9/7.9 SO/9 Note the 49 hits in 66 innings and for the third season in a row, Lara recorded a 0.3 HR/9.
2010 is the season that made the baseball world sit up and take note: 66.0 innings pitched, 2.18 ERA and a WHIP of 1.121.
2011: Bowling Green Hot Rods/Midwest League/5-11/4.94 ERA/25 G/25 GS/0 CG/120.1 IP/117 H/66 ER/10 HR/55 BB/111 SO/5 HBP/22 WP/1.429 WHIP/0.7 HR/9/4.1 BB/9/8.3 SO/9 Note the rise in HR/9 to 0.7 and that his number of hits almost caught up with his number of innings pitched.
2012: Tigres del Licey/Dominican Winter League/2-0/5.06/11 G/0 GS/5.1 IP/3 H/3 ER/0 HR/7 BB/4 SO/1.875 WHIP Control issues!
2012: Charlotte Stone Crabs/Florida State League/6-10/5.71 ERA/25 G/21 GS/0 CG/112.0 IP/123 H/71 ER/11 HR/58 BB/82 SO/5 HBP/11 WP/1.616 WHIP/0.9 HR/9/4.7 BB/9/6.6 SO/9 His walks per nine went up and his strikeouts per nine went down.
2013: Combined stats for three teams: (Dominican Winter League (3 G), Southern League (45 G/0 GS) and one game in the International League) 49 G/0 GS/4-2/4.14 ERA/76 IP/68 H/35 ER/6 HR/44 BB/56 SO/1 HBP/9 WP/1.474 WHIP/0.7 HR/9/5.2 BB/9/6.6 SO/9
2014: Combined stats for two teams: (Southern and International Leagues/2-4/5.77 ERA/45 G/0 GS/3 SV/57.2 IP/56 H/37 ER/4 HR/31 BB/57 SO/3 HBP/7 WP/1.509 WHIP/0.6 HR/9/4.8 BB/9/8.9 SO/9
Lara is another in a string of pitchers from other organizations trying to demonstrate to the Giants that he has something special to offer the team. He is left-handed and obviously reaching the point in his career when he has to get the break he has been seeking, or bail out.
Other than his fastball, he throws a changeup, a curve and a slider. At six-one, 180 pounds, he does not possess an imposing figure on the mound, and his fastball does not have any special movement to it, so with his control a factor, Lara has bigger issues than whether or not to start or relieve.
The bottom line is that the Giants do not tender contract offers to pitchers unless they feel there is a reason to do so. With durability a question with the Giants’ starting rotation, all factors should be considered, especially left-handed ones like Braulio Lara.
Control issues often stem from mechanical flaws and the Giants have in pitching coach Dave Righetti, a technician who has made a number of suggestions in the course of his career, to set guys back on track to success.
In Lara’s case we’ll hope it’s the fast track.