UCLA’s Rasmussen Gets Off To Rocky Start

LOS ANGELES—In scouting jargon, the term “bad look” is self explanatory, but also intentionally vague and ambiguous. It can refer to a prospect’s performance that on a given day is only slightly off key, or it can refer to a disaster of near-biblical proportions.

UCLA’s Rob Rasmussen, BA’s No. 37 college draft eligible prospect, suffered a distinct “bad look” day on Sunday. In front of approximately 50 scouts, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound junior lefthander was cuffed around Jackie Robinson Stadium in Westwood by Cal State Northridge.

In 3 2/3 innings of work, Rasmussen threw 72 pitches, allowed five hits, four runs (all earned), and walked three. The Bruins trailed 4-1 when Rasmussen departed and were able to rally for a 14-5 victory over the Matadors to improve to 3-0.

Scant hints of trouble were evident in the first. Rasmussen allowed a leadoff single to Ridge Carpenter. Carpenter worked his way to third when UCLA’s middle infielders failed to cover second on a steal attempt. With the runner camped on third, Rasmussen proceeded to strike out the side.

Commented one AL scout: “That was a scout’s dream. You get to see all his pitches in one inning and you can go do your side work.” Rasmussen’s repertoire includes a 91-92 mph fastball, an 84-85 slider, an 81-82 change and a 71 curve.

Rasmussen’s difficulties began in the second, as CSUN touched him up for two runs in that frame and two more in the fourth. The source of Rasmussen’s struggles was not hard to discern. An AL Scouting Director said: “He can’t get the ball down; he can’t change speeds . . . Heck, he can’t do anything.”

A peek at Rasmussen from his open (first base) side reveals several mechanical concerns. As he delivers the ball, Rasmussen lands on a nearly stiff front leg and tilts severely to his right on his follow through. Both habits prevent Rasmussen from creating a downward, direct plane in his delivery. In his arm stroke, Rasmussen restricts himself on the back end and fails to reach full extension on the front end, hampering his command and velocity.

One positive aspect of Rasmussen’s day was his total of seven strikeouts. Few if any observers expect him to suffer many outings similar to Sunday’s. Once his mechanical and command issues are solved, Rasmussen doubtless has the kind of lively lefthanded stuff that will permit him to enjoy a successful season while at the same time bolstering his standing among scouts.

Despite opening the season against less than top-flight competition, UCLA is understandably optimistic about the 2010 season. Boasting one of the premier weekend rotations in the country (Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Rasmussen) the Bruin staff is also bolstered by an outstanding bullpen, which includes Dan Klein, Matt Grace, Eric Goedell, Scott Griggs and Garret Claypool.

Offensively, UCLA will not feature as much home run power as recent clubs, but the Bruins have the personnel to score runs with speed and line drives. The most intriguing and exciting newcomer is freshman outfielder Beau Amaral, son of Rich Amaral, a former big leaguer now scouting for the Royals. Beau popped a home run in Sunday’s game, and he flashes a quick bat, excellent speed and quality defensive skills.