Young Victor Lizarraga Shows Killer Instinct For Padres
Even at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, righthander Victor Lizarraga, with a mouth full of braces, looks as unassuming as it gets.
Until he steps on the mound.
“He’s got that makeup factor,” Low-A Lake Elsinore manage Eric Junge said. “He’s got that killer instinct. I think he’s a pitcher, not a thrower.
"He’s got size. He’s got strength. He’s got the baby face, so when you get around him he’s definitely an (18)-year-old kid. But he’s kind of like a 2-year-old puppy with huge paws and they’re rambunctious and they’re aggressive and that’s kind of how he is.
“On the mound, he becomes a different kind of animal and really gets after it.”
Which is why Junge tapped Lizarraga to start the Storm’s two road playoff games, the latter the decisive victory to capture Lake Elsinore's first California League title since 2011.
Lizarraga started the Storm’s clincher with six shutout innings before giving up a two-run homer with one out in the seventh inning of a 3-2 win.
All told, Lizarraga earned the win in both playoff starts, striking out 13 over 12 innings to go with a 3.00 ERA. During the regular season he posted a 3.43 ERA and had 95 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP in 94.1 innings in his first full year of professional ball.
Lizarraga pairs a 90-94 mph fastball with a future plus changeup with run and drop and a mid-to-high-70s curve that the organization has asked him to focus on while pocketing his slider.
The Padres signed Lizarraga for $1 million as Mexico’s top amateur pitcher in January 2021 and pushed him immediately to the Arizona Complex League, where he posted a 5.10 ERA in an 11-start stint interrupted by two deaths in his family.
Needless to say, jumping straight to the California League to start 2022 was an aggressive assignment, one that Lizarraga met head on.
“From what we’ve seen this year, he’s the real deal,” Junge said. “He’s made pitches when he’s needed to. He’s a bulldog.”
— Shortstop Jackson Merrill hit .647./.684/.882 with four doubles, seven RBIs and three steals in Low-A Lake Elsinore’s four playoff games, all victories. The 2021 first-rounder finished an injury-plagued first full year in pro ball with six homers, 11 steals and a .339/.395/.511 batting line in 55 games in his time with the Storm and in rehab games in Arizona.
— Outfielder Samuel Zavala broke his hamate bone in his first playoff game with Low-A Lake Elsinore. The 18-year-old Venezualan had hit .254/.355/.508 with seven homers in 33 games to close the regular season in the California League.