Jonathan Pettibone’s big league debut came after just three minor league starts in 2013. He threw 100 Major League innings during his rookie season. They were spread over eighteen starts. That’s about five and a half innings per start and only had one seven inning start, a tad less than you’d like to see from someone who was projected to have the body and strike throwing efficiency of a 200-inning starter (The raw stuff isn’t good enough to fool hitters multiple times through the lineup and Pettibone has to learn a few tricks to do it and I think he will) yada yada….MLB growing pains and such. Other than that, Pettibone was as advertised.
His fastball sits in the low 90s with good plane thanks to his height, though it has little horizontal movement. He might run it up to 94mph or 95mph once in a while. It’s a 50-55 pitch. His best offering is the changeup which will sit 82-85mph and features good fade and arm speed. He’ll go to it when he falls behind early in the count, especially to lefties, and I won’t argue with you if you want to put a 6 on it though I’m inclined to go a half grade lower. Scouting reports (including mine) noted a slider and a very seldom used curveball but after his first few Major League starts, Eric Nehs (@enehsy) at Baseball Info Solutions spotted a cutter.
“I saw Ruiz put down a two and the pitch had short slider movement at 87mph. Then I saw him put down a three and the pitch had slider movement at 85mph.”
These pitches move similarly. They’re short and hard in the 83-87mph range with the cutter ranging toward the higher end of that spectrum. It’s probably a 45 pitch but can still induce weak contact and maybe miss some bats if it’s thrown in the right spot.
We all pegged Pettibone as a fifth starter-type and it seems clear that’s what the Phillies have. He posted a 4.18 FIP in 2013, striking out 15% of the batters he faced while walking 8.7%. Players with similar numbers? Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge de la Rosa, Mike Leake, Kyle Kendrick, John Danks…you get the idea. He’s a cost-controlled back end starter who has two years of pre-arb juice to squeeze. It’s a terrific thing to have.
Now for the worrisome variable or, as I like to call it, the scariable. Pettibone was shut down in late July due to a strained right shoulder. It was just a strain, not a rotator cuff or labrum tear, but it’s still a shoulder problem and shoulder problems are hard to fix. Pettibone has never had any other major injury issues, at least not that I’ve been able to dig up, so let’s hope the 6’5” righty’s offseason has been one of quality rehab.
My Grade: C