Ross Ohlendorf opted out of his minor league deal with the Red Sox last week and was signed by the Padres on Monday. In the Majors, Ohlendorf has pitched for the Yankees and Pirates and had a 4.85 FIP and 4.57 SIERA in 392.2 innings. He averaged 92 MPH and had a .92 GB/FB ratio. So I decided to watch his last 2 AAA starts this year (something any schmuck with MiLB.TV can do) and see just what Ohlendorf could offer the Padres.
His final start for the Red Sox AAA was on 5/29 against the Norfolk Tides (AAA for the Baltimore Orioles). It wasn’t a very good one: 4 innings, 5 runs, 2 HRs, 5 Ks, 2 BBs
He started with a decent looking velocity fastball that was pretty straight. According to the Pawtucket Red Sox broadcast gun, he was hitting 92-93 MPH. Hitters were really late on it early on. There wasn’t a huge break on his curveball. On one he got a weak ground-ball up the middle escaped for a hit. The curve got him a check swing strike later in the inning. Another breaking ball was hit for a hard grouner, and a not very good play the 1st baseman allowed the ball to get through. Another grounder up the middle drove in a run. He started mixing in a change that was not very good and stayed high. A curveball hit a batter on the foot, as some of them (like that one incidentally) had some really nice break on them. He was also able to throw some for strikes. He was also 81 MPH on a pitch that looked more like a slider to go with the curve. That is pretty slow for a slider, and it stayed high a lot (amazingly, a lot of them were high balls). He also showed off a moving fastball that he didn’t have much control over. It tails both away and into righties with some good movement. Early on it is seemed almost like he threw to many breaking pitches, as the fastball was really effective and he quit going to it. A hard grounder was nearly an awesome play by the shortstop, but it wasn’t turned into an out. What looked like a change was driven for a line drive single. A lot of curves flew off to the left side of the plate. Perhaps his best in this game was to Bill Hall, one thrown on the plate, literally. Hall swung and missed at the pitch in the dirt. Ohlendorf also got him to swing and miss on a change. The change definately got better as the game went along, as he got another swing and miss on it in the 2nd at-bat in the 3rd inning. However, he walked the lead-off man, then hit a batter with a moving fastball. He was throwing a lot of moving fastballs and it got him in trouble and behind 3-1 to the next hitter. After a grounder got through, but Miguel Tejada was gunned down at the plate by Lin (who I absolutely love in the outfield). A slider then caught too much of the plate and was driven all the way to the warning track and was caught by Lin. The strange thing was that he was still getting swings and misses on his 4 seamer. He also got a swing and miss on the 2-seamer to start the 4th. Howerver, he gave up a line drive homer to Jai Miller on a low pitch. His next pitch then turned into a line drive single. Then he got squeezed to fall behind 3-0 and then missed bad with a fastball. A 1-0 fastball down the middle was poiunded for a 3 run homer. Maybe that is why he was shying away from the 4-seamer, as he may have believed he couldn’t keep it out of the middle of the plate. He struck out Tejada on a couple of curves (a Moneyball joke involving Mexico is probably in order here) before a 2-seamer got a swing and miss in the next at-bat, and a breaking ball was chased for a foul pop out. A soft liner turned into the 10th hit allowed. After falling behind 2-0 to the next hitter, he got 3 swings and misses in a row to end the inning and his start.
His start before that, against the Toledo Mudhens (the AAA for the Detroit Tigers) on 5/24, was much more effective. He went 6 scoreless, striking out 6 and walking just 1 (3 hits allowed). He was throwing 2-seamers early, but the 4-seamer got him a ground-ball. Hitters looked late on it again. A 3-1 2-seamer got him a foul out. After he gave up a line drive, he faced AAA Hall of Famer Brad Eldred and immediately fell behind 2-0. He then came back to catch the corner low and away before walking Eldred. Everything was away and outside. He then started throwing his slider and got lucky on a line drive that Jose Iglesias made a great catch on (I can think of 2 plays in the start against Norfolk that Iglesias would have made if he played shortstop in that game. That is some really special defense). He may have got a couple extra inches on each corner, especially down. The fastball was actually down velocity wise from the start against Norfolk according to the Red Sox AAA broadcast gun. That didn’t stop him from blowing Eric Patterson away. He also got another late swing and miss on the fastball. He will have much less value if he has below average fastball velocity. The slider did look slightly better, while the curve looked the same but he didn’t throw it as much and the change was largely absent. He threw a nice 2-seamer on the corner on a 3-2 count to get a called strike. A high 4-seamer was fought off for a weak line drive hit. In the 4th, he put a 4-seamer on the inside part of the plate to Eldred and got a swing and miss. He then got a strikeout on a curve that bounced. The next two hitters hit a ground-ball and an infield pop. He consistently had a good low 2-seamer that we didn’t see much in the start against Norfolk. In the 5th, he got a ground-bal out, and a called strike 3 on a slider. He then set up the next hitter with sliders, then threw a 4-seamer up and away for a swinging strikeout. In the 6th, a curve got an infield pop-fly, but a hanging slider (frankly he had thrown worse in that game) was screamed for a line drive double just fair. He would obviously get out of that inning.
So I saw all 5 pitches that is listed on Fangraphs for Ohlendorf. I’m thinking that he maybe could contract into a 4-seamer/curve relief pitcher and be pretty effective. If he is used as a starter, most of his success seems to hinge on the consistency of his 2-seamer. That was the main difference in how he actually pitched (he was lucky in the good one, and unlucky in the bad one) in the good game and bad game. He can be pretty dangerous if that pitch is on. If not, then he probably isn’t much more than a non-elite reliever. I would be extremely tempted to see what that velocity would look like if he only had to throw one inning at a time. I don’t like his non curve secondary offerings, and he may be able to run it up to 94-95 MPH. My guess is that the Padres will try to use him as a back of the rotation starter, a role he can fill reasonably well (especially in that ballpark).