MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Delgado making strides in D-backs' rotation

Delgado making strides in D-backs' rotation

Delgado making strides in D-backs' rotation

The central figures in the offseason trade between the Braves and the D-backs were Martin Prado and Justin Upton. The trade was highly publicized because Upton was viewed as entering the most productive portion of his career.

In Atlanta, Prado was seen as the heir apparent and focal point of the Braves' clubhouse following the retirement of Chipper Jones. Prado was to become the "face of the franchise."

No doubt about it, Upton and Prado were high-profile centerpieces of a trade that could change the fortunes of both franchises. But the other players in the transaction have proven to be critical components for their new clubs.

Third baseman Chris Johnson, considered expendable by the D-backs due to the arrival of Prado in the Upton deal, has been an impact hitter since climbing into a Braves uniform. His .329 average, 10 home runs and 58 RBIs are way beyond expectations.

Right-handed pitcher Randall Delgado was the secondary piece of the trade, coming over to Arizona from Atlanta. Inserted as a starting pitcher following 13 early-season starts at Triple-A Reno, Delgado helped stabilize a rotation that was beset with injuries to Trevor Cahill, Daniel Hudson and Brandon McCarthy. Now with Cahill and McCarthy back, Delgado remains a critical component of the rotation.

The Braves signed Delgado as an international free agent from Panama. Only 23 years old, he has spent parts of seven seasons learning his craft and developing his repertoire. Delgado has thrown a total of 646 1/3 Minor League innings. That number translates to a solid development program.

Delgado has an excellent combination of a sinking fastball that he throws consistently at 94-95 mph and a devastating changeup with a velocity of 82 mph. The velocity differential, coupled with the difference of movement between the two pitches, induces hitters to beat the ball into the ground or miss the pitch altogether.

Delgado also uses a slider in his arsenal, but it isn't as effective and as refined as the sinker and the changeup. That said, he would likely benefit from using the slider more often to give the hitters a different look and changed their eye levels a bit.

As Delgado said recently, he needs to "mix it up." And that's what he'll be doing. Now wearing eyeglasses when he pitches, at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Delgado portrays a stately presence on the mound. He is calm and relaxed, exuding confidence in both his repertoire and command.

Delgado's current role with the D-backs is not his first assignment with a big league club. In 2011, he made seven starts with Atlanta, compiling an impressive 2.83 ERA over 35 innings. Last season, Delgado started 17 games, but his ERA jumped to 4.37 over 92 2/3 innings.

This season, Delgado has made 14 appearances (13 starts) for Arizona. He has yielded 87 hits in his 83 2/3 innings of work. Delgado is walking an average of 1.8 hitters while striking out 6.6 batters per nine innings.

Delgado is still showing signs of inconsistency. He can be very hard to hit one outing, and then scuffle a bit the next. There have been many more good starts than bad, though. In most games, Delgado gives his team a chance to win.

For me, Delgado is the rare pitcher who actually has better mechanics and better pitching technique than his results (statistically speaking) have shown. He fares better facing right-handed hitters than against lefties. Lefties are hitting .288 against Delgado's offerings. Right-handed hitters are batting .261 against him.

Delgado brings his pitches from the same motion consistently. That is what makes him deceptive. Delgado changes the pitch, but not the manner in which the pitch is thrown. Repeating his delivery with good arm speed helps him navigate through the batting order three and four times a game with little difficulty. His high arm slot allows Delgado to better use his length to pitch downhill toward hitters.

No longer a rookie, Delgado has made impressive strides in his promotion as part of the D-backs' rotation.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.