Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ramon Aguero...We Think

Hey, remember when Chad Johnson became Chad Ochocinco? Well, the Bucs have a guy who went through the same identity crisis when Samuel Vasquez became Ramon Aristides Aguero.

The Bucs signed Vasquez in 2006. He had a promising couple of years in the DSL, and came stateside in 2008. The new suits did their due diligence on him, and guess what? The fireballing righty ended up being Ramon Aguero, and changed ages from 19 to 23 quicker than you can sing "Happy Birthday."

Aguero, who hails from Santo Domingo, did something commonplace for Latino prospects - he took on a different name and lied about his age, all the better to add a few dollars to his signing bonus. Ask Enron and AIG about economic self-interest and the truth.

The scouts still liked what they saw, and Aguero-Gate never became a big deal to Pittsburgh; it's the price of doing business in Latin America. But it did change his track; instead of starting in the GCL rookie league, he was shipped to the New York-Penn short season A league because of his age.

And it looked like he still needed an alias, after going 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA for the State College Spikes in his maiden pro season, getting hit hard and often. Still, the Pirates were short on arms, and moved him on to Class A West Virginia in 2009.

He made three starts, and was pounded mercilessly. So it was off to the bullpen, where an epiphany occurred. Aguero turned into a stud.

Eventually becoming a closer, he split the season between West Virginia, Lynchburg, and Altoona. In 84 innings between the three levels, Aguero posted a 3.86 ERA, with an 8.04 K/9 IP and 3.32 walks. He was 2-4 with 4 saves in four chances. The light went on.

Aguero has a power arm and throws 95-97 MPH consistently, although when he goes beyond one inning his velocity drops. He also has a workable change, which makes him tough on lefties.

He's a work in progress; his command needs sharpened, and his reverse split (lefties hit .174 against him while righties hit .324 at Altoona) suggests that he still depends too much on a heater-change up combo.

Neal Huntington said "He's got a power sink with the makings of a breaking ball and a changeup. He has a lot of the traits we're looking for." He's jumped over Jeff Sues as the Pirates' top minor-league closer candidate for the time being, and was just placed on the Bucs 40-man roster.

The 6-4, 175 pound bean pole will start this season in Altoona, a bit long in the tooth for that level - he'll be 25 in December - but we expect him to end up in Indy before the season's done if he continues to impress.

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