One day last summer, righthander Joe Elbis hopped in an Uber, bought a ticket and watched a major league game at Chase Field. He wanted an up close look at how each team’s starting pitcher went about his day.
“He paid for it himself. I think it was the most expensive ticket in the house behind home plate,” said Cesar Geronimo Jr., the D-backs’ vice president of Latin American scouting.
“He’s really into baseball and really into his career.”
For many in the organization, the anecdote is proof of the sort of dedication and maturity the 19-year-old Elbis has to his craft. The Venezuelan righthander signed in 2019.
Pitching the entire year at age 18, Elbis logged a 3.52 ERA in 53.2 innings between the Arizona Complex League and Low-A Visalia. He struck out 59 and walked just seven.
His four-pitch mix isn’t overpowering. His fastball sits in the 91-92 mph range and touches 94. Neither is his frame. He is listed at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds.
Instead, what makes Elbis interesting is his ability to not just throw strikes but pitch effectively to both sides of the plate and up in the zone.
“In Rookie ball, you see a lot of young kids with great arms, but they don’t have the command. Or they can command it and their stuff is below-average,” ACL D-backs pitching coach Gabriel Hernandez said. “You have to help them develop the things they don’t do well. With Elbis, he came in and he checked a lot of those boxes already.”
Hernandez ranks Elbis’ changeup as his best secondary offering, a pitch he uses to get swings and misses and induce weak contact. Elbis’ curveball, which he changed to a spike grip earlier this year, is another solid pitch, with his slider more of a work in progress.
Geronimo said the D-backs were drawn to Elbis in part by his quick arm and how easily the ball came out of his hand.
Now, the club believes Elbis’ makeup will ensure he gets the most out of his ability.