Having lived in Gainesville, Florida, for the past eight years, I’ve watched a lot of Florida Gators baseball games. I’ve seen a ton of great players, both Gators and opponents, and I’ve been wrong about almost all of them. I marveled every time Georgia came into town and I got to watch Gordon Beckham. I was positive Matt LaPorta would hit 35 home runs a year as a designated hitter, and I was certain Bryan Augenstein had the stuff to stick in the majors as a reliever.
I’m hoping that my streak of being wrong is over, because for three years, I loved the heck out of a righty named Anthony DeSclafani. He was the type of player that I love – a grinder that just gets the job done. He wasn’t flashy, and his stat lines weren’t eye-popping. It seemed that every time he was in a big spot, DeSclafani delivered. In his final season at UF, I watched him come to the mound in the ninth inning with two runners on against the University of Miami and shut down the Hurricanes, nailing the Gators’ first ever sweep of UM in Gainesville – the day after he pitched two scoreless to clinch a 1-0 win against them. He shut down LSU in Baton Rouge. He came up big in the SEC Tournament against Georgia. And yet there wasn’t a whole lot of draft chatter about him, and I was selfishly hoping that no one had noticed this kid so he’d come back for his senior year.
The Blue Jays took DeSclafani in the sixth round of the draft, and he was gone. Gone from my life for a year and a half, until fate (and Jeffrey Loria’s stinginess) brought him back into my life. I was sitting in a coffee shop with my fiancee and a florist, discussing floral arrangements for our wedding. I got a Twitter message that the Marlins were trading Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays. I was irate. Beside myself. There was no word on the return – some rumors had Travis d’Arnaud coming back, which was exciting. Eventually, it was reported that the haul was Henderson Alvarez, Jake Marisnick, Yunel Escobar, Adeiney Hechavarria, Justin Nicolino, Jeff Mathis, and a minor league pitcher. It took a while to get the info on who the minor league pitcher was. It was Anthony DeSclafani. My anger subsided a little.
But enough about my relationship with DeSclafani – this article is about him, after all, and not me. DeSclafani is a young 23 years old (his birthday is in April) and, as previously mentioned, was drafted out of UF. He throws a low-90s two-seam fastball and a changeup, and has a subpar curveball and slider in his repertoire. He pitched out of the bullpen plenty in college, but both the Blue Jays and Marlins have viewed him as a starter. He’s responded well thus far, though he probably profiles as a bullpen arm long-term.
2012 was DeSclafani’s first pro season, and he performed very well. In 28 games – 21 of which were starts – he threw 123 innings and went 11-3 with a 3.37 ERA, striking out 92 while walking 25. His FIP was just 2.70, and he allowed just 3 home runs all season. His BB/9 rate was shockingly low, but so was his strikeout rate.
Most people – myself included – viewed DeSclafani as a throw-in in the Blue Jays trade. So far, however, he has been lighting up hitters in Jupiter. On the season, DeSclafani is 4-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 41 innings, spanning 9 starts. He’s given up just 35 hits and 8 walks while striking out 40. His strikeout rate has gone way up, while his low walk rate has remained essentially the same (it has actually dropped from 1.83 to 1.8). Opponents, who hit .307 against him last year, are now hitting just .229.
His success thus far this season has been sustained, as he has had just one start in which he gave up more than one earned run – and in that start on May 16th, he gave up 2. He has, however, given up a large amount of unearned runs, giving up an additional two in the May 16th start and a whopping 5 unearned in a start that lasted just two-thirds of an inning on April 13th.
It remains to be seen if the Marlins will stick with DeSclafani as a starter or transition him back to the bullpen. He’s only pitched into the sixth inning twice this year, and he’s only finished the sixth inning once. If I had to guess, he will end this season at AA Jacksonville and eventually land in the Major League bullpen late next season or early in 2015. In any event, I hope that DeSclafani is the first Gators player I’m correct about.