“Who is this guy?’’ was a common response from the talent evaluators after seeing righthander Alexander Vizcaino and his high-octane fastball and tantalizing changeup that has drawn comparisons with a young Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney.
“Power fastball with a really good changeup—a changeup like King Felix’s early in his career,” vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring said.
Vizcaino, who turns 23 early this season, tops out at 98 mph and sits in the mid-90s. His velocity is the perfect complement to his deceptive changeup that ranges from 87-90 mph.
“It’s one of the best changeups in baseball,” Naehring said. “Not the minor leagues. Not in the Yankees’ system. In all of baseball.”
Naehring backed up that claim by pointing to the depth and splitter-like action that Vizcaino imparts on his changeup, meaning that it’s not merely the separation from his fastball that makes it effective.
The strength of Vizcaino’s changeup forces batters to look for the pitch, so they are frequently caught off balance when he fires a mid-90s fastball.
Vizcaino signed a few days before his 19th birthday out of San Cristobal in 2016 and is something of a late bloomer. He is older than Gil and Medina even though he signed a year after them.
“Good looking kid. He is definitely a prospect,’’ a scout said of Vizcaino, who made 16 starts for Charleston last season, going 5-5, 4.41 with 101 strikeouts in 87.2 innings and a 1.22 WHIP.
“There were good arms at Charleston. He was a little more polished and has a feel for pitching.’’
Vizcaino finished the season with five starts at high Class A Tampa. On the season, his swinging-strike rate of 16.2 percent ranked inside the top 10 for minor league pitchers with at least 100 innings.
At 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, Vizcaino drew body comparisons with the Yankees’ Domingo German.
Gil, Medina, Vizcaino and fellow Dominican righty Roansy Contreras will move in tandem to the Tampa rotation this season.