GREENSBORO, N.C.—Meet Breiling Eusebio.
He's 20 years old, lefthanded, sits comfortably in the low-to-mid-90s, flashes a swing-and-miss changeup, and is increasingly being identified by Rockies officials as a fast riser in their system.
If that sounds like a promising profile, it's because it is.
Eusebio showed why his organization is so high on him Tuesday afternoon, delivering five sharp innings with six strikeouts in low Class Asheville's 4-3 loss to Greensboro (Marlins).
Eusebio allowed five hits and one run, walked one and threw 63 of 87 pitches for strikes in taking the no-decision.
It was the latest sharp outing for Eusebio in a season full of them, only one year after he got lit up in short-season Boise.
"It wasn't easy to get here," Eusebio said through a translator. "I had to really concentrate on what I had to do to become better. I had certain adjustments I had to make to get to where I am now."
The Rockies signed Eusebio for $100,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. He spent two years in the DSL and made his stateside debut last year at Boise, where he went 2-5, 5.26 with 42 strikeouts and 30 walks in 63.1 innings.
The issue for Eusebio wasn't stuff, or his control in the purest sense. The problem was his lively fastball had so much movement he had trouble ensuring it ended up over the plate, even if his delivery and release point were clean.
This year, after extensive work in extended spring training, he's figured it out.
Eusebio ranged from 90-95 mph with his fastball in his latest outing and sat 93-94. At times his fastball went straight, at others it cut, and at others it ran. But in all cases, it was in the strike zone and miserable for hitters to try and get a read on.
"That's kind of one of the goals, one of the things we're working on: Let's get it to move where we want it to move, and we know what to expect when it comes out of our hand," Asheville pitching coach Ryan Kibler said. "That movement he can show with different directions with his fastball, it's going to be a real weapon for him one day. It is now, but it's going to be a true weapon one day when he figures out where that fastball is going."
The other weapon Eusebio has developed is a dastardly changeup. Thrown consistently at 81-83 mph with identical arm speed as his fastball, the pitch drew foolish swings throughout from baffled Grasshoppers batters. Most importantly, it was consistent, another developmental step Eusebio has taken.
"I've really, really practiced on throwing it just like my fastball," Eusebio said. "Really getting my arm action just like the fastball and letting it be aggressive."
Clearly, the work is paying off.
"Today was the best day I've seen with his changeup," Kibler said. That's a definite improvement in his development."
For all his promise and progress, Eusebio still has work to do.
His upper 70s breaking ball lacks bite and rarely finds the strike zone, and his fastball command is liable to come and go. As such, he has a 4.64 ERA and .282 opponent average with Asheville even after his latest outing.
But the southpaw's potential is evident. With as much improvement as he's shown this season, it's unlikely he remains under the radar for long.
"We're seeing him grow up and it's showing on the field right now," Kibler said. "Seeing that from him today was fun to watch. I expect there to be many more times after this. He's going to do real well.”
NEWS AND NOTES
• Greensboro center fielder Brian Miller, the No. 36 overall pick in June, went 2-for-4 with two singles up the middle off Eusebio. The North Carolina product has three straight multi-hit games and five in his past 10 contests. He was Miami’s No. 8 prospect at midseason.
• Asheville first baseman Tyler Nevin, the Rockies No. 20 prospect, went 2-for-5 with a pair of singles, most notably one on a 97 mph fastball he lined into left field in the ninth inning. Nevin went 10-for-19 in the four-game series at Greensboro to raise his average from .234 to .272.
• Greensboro righthander Ethan Clark, one of two prospects the Marlins acquired from the Rays for Adeiny Hechavarria in June, sat 86-89 mph and touched 91. His out pitch was an 81-83 mph splitter that induced ground balls throughout the day.
• Asheville center fielder Manuel Melendez, the Rockies No. 30 prospect, led off the game with a home run to right field. He turned on an 87-mph fastball Clark left over the plate and pulled it well beyond the right-field fence.