Top 50 Scouting Report: #5 RHP Deolis Guerra

Guerra's standing continues to climb

The New York Mets signed the right-hander out of Venezuela in 2006 as a 16-year-old for a $700,000 contract. He showed terrific ability beyond his years during his rookie season and since then has become one of the top arms within the organization. Here is a scouting report on St. Lucie starter Deolis Guerra.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Deolis Guerra
DOB: April 17, 1989
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 200
Throws: Right
Bats: Right

Deolis Guerra was the prize international signing of Mets general manager Omar Minaya in 2006, and since then he has proven to be one of the top commodities on the farm. Soon to be 19 years old, he made a terrific impression during his rookie season and has only become stronger since then.

When he was first eligible as a free agent, he was one of the top arms in Venezuela. The Mets were quick to jump at the opportunity to sign him and offered him a $700,000 rookie contract. Eager to get him stateside and see what he was made of, the Mets had him report to then-affiliate Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League where he was instantly the youngest pitcher in the league.

He entered the league stocked with a solid, consistent fastball and a changeup more mature than pitchers years his senior. The two-pitch assault kept hitters guessing, allowing him to stay sharp from start to start. By the end of the season, he compiled numbers that represented his strengths, chiefly, avoiding trouble by keeping contact at a minimum.

He had trouble with his curveball, his lone breaking ball, during his rookie season which led to a high number of walks. But, with hitters only capable of registering a .208 batting average against Guerra, the Mets were pleased enough by his body of work to move him up to St. Lucie during the High-A Mets' run at a Florida State League Championship. He made two rocky starts, but showed enough skill to demand a spot on the roster once against last season.

In five April starts last season, it appeared as if Guerra picked up right where he left off. He went just 1-3 for the month, but with posted a 3.33 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched. Perhaps the most important note of the month was his stellar groundball ratio which was nearly two and a half groundballs for every fly out as he heavily relies on commanding the bottom half of the strike zone.

He hoped to continue the trend in May, but after just one early start that month he was sidelined with shoulder tendonitis. However, when he returned from the injury, it took a lengthy adjustment period to regain his strength and it was possible the injury plagued him the rest of the season.

When he returned in June, he made five rather lackluster starts. His groundball ratio dropped, his opponent's batting average rose and he was tagged for 19 earned runs in 22.2 innings pitched. Yet, those numbers would not prevent Guerra from earning his highest distinction yet.

Guerra was a member of the World team in last July's All-Star Futures Game, serving as the team's youngest player. It was just one mark on a future that should continue to shine as he matures.

He could have used the roster spot as a spring board into the second half of the Florida State League season, but Guerra struggled to recapture his early season magic. A specific indicator of how the shoulder tendonitis altered his season was his stamina.

Throughout the year, Guerra shut down hitters during his first two turns through the order, but once he reached the fifth inning and beyond, he often found trouble. His walks and opponent's batting average went up, his strikeouts went down and he was hit hard. He ended the year on a high note nonetheless, posting a 2.89 ERA in five August starts.

Conditioning was certainly a focal point of Guerra's off-season. The Mets will continue to challenge Guerra and he will face only tougher competition as he moves forward, making the strength of his right arm an even more pressing matter.

The truly encouraging sign from Guerra was the maturity he underwent year over year, especially positive considering he would only be a freshman in college. Though he missed time and endured his share of rocky starts, he has the calling of a special pitcher, making the Mets believe they possess a star on the horizon.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2007

St. Lucie

2-6

89.2

80

25

66

4.01

2006

St. Lucie

1-1

7.1

9

6

5

6.14

2006

Hagerstown

6-7

81.2

59

37

64

2.20



Repertoire: Fastball, Changeup, Curveball

Fastball: Guerra demonstrated very consistent control of his fastball that saw a significant increase in velocity during his second season. He previously threw his fastball in the upper-80s, but at times this year he did hit 92-93 MPH on the gun. Though his fastball still averages 90 MPH, he succeeds even more with this heater thanks to his height and ability to throw the pitch on a downward plane in the lower half of the strike zone. Although he does not throw his fastball as hard most frontline starters, he can spot it in all quadrants of the strike zone making it a sneaky pitch to hitters on both sides of the plate.

Other Pitches: Guerra's top secondary pitch is his changeup. The quality of his off-speed pitch speaks volumes about his maturity as a pitcher because it takes many young hurlers years to develop a changeup in the same class as his. His slow, calm delivery deceives hitters as the changeup's movement frequently ties up hitters. He tops off his repertoire with a developing curveball that he continues to improve. He was very inconsistent with the pitch during his rookie season but he made strides with it last season, flipping his breaking ball over the plate with greater frequency. However, he still lacks some confidence to throw the curveball when behind in the count.

Pitching: Guerra was more of a two-pitch thrower during his rookie season, but grew into a pitcher last season during his first full season at High-A ball. His entire game centers on commanding the lower half the strike zone with his sinking fastball and tumbling changeups. He is a quality groundball pitcher whose delivery can be difficult to read, especially for inexperienced hitters. His size and mound presence can be imposing for his age and have made him a leading favorite within the organization.

Projection: Guerra had reasonable success in St. Lucie last season, but will need to further strengthen his repertoire if he is to fulfill all the promise the Mets believe lies within him. His third pitch still needs work and his game will demand a more efficient curveball before he can truly have a breakout season. However, the fact that he is already armed with a near plus-changeup is half the battle. With his size, if he can add velocity to his fastball and become more consistent with his curve, he should eventually fill a slot in the middle of the Mets' rotation.

ETA: 2010. Guerra suffered through some turbulence his during his season in the Florida State League last year, but he should be on his way to Binghamton this upcoming season. The Mets will continue to challenge their young star, but it is important to remember that he will be just 19 years old come mid-April which allows leeway even if he struggles. Yet at his young age, two good years should put him on a Major League mound in 2010.

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