Scouting Report: Emiliano Fruto
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 28, 2006
Compiled through inquiries from three scouts, none the M's organization, Dwight Bernard the Rainiers pitching coach, and Rafael Chaves, who was Fruto's PC last summer, as well as my own observance of the pitcher himself.
Emilaino Fruto is a well-built 21-year-old with a great arm and really solid stuff. Standing 6-2 and weighing 235 pounds, the right-hander has the physical frame to bring it at full velocity for extended innings, which is why the Mariners have not ruled out Fruto as a starting pitcher.
But simply put, he's better suited for the bullpen, where his 91-94mph fastball, plus change and above-average curve ball can present major problems for any lineup in the late innings of a ball game.
Fruto was signed as non-drafted free agent in 2000, which is deceiving because had he been draft eligible he'd have been an early selection. He was scouted as a starter with plus stuff and has moved swiftly through the system, splitting his time as a starter and setup man, and was San Antonio's closer for a portion of last season.
He's always faced more experienced bats and done well, specifically after a short period of adjustment time as he dons a new level.
His Achilles heel has been his control from day one, walking 4.4 batters per nine innings pitched, which is detrimental to a starter's scheme. In relief he's experienced the same issues, but made strides in Double-A last year, posting a decent 2.97 BB/9 ratio.
He struggled in Tacoma, walking 11 in 11 frames and posting an ERA of 13.09 but after a few big-time bumps in the road he settled down, including a few solid postseason appearances.
He has to learn to tryst his stuff and not pick at the corners and he's currently doing that in Tacoma, with just one bad outing when he walked three batters. Through games of Friday night, Fruto has allowed just seven hits in 12 2/3 innings, walking seven (just four in six appearances) and striking out 15.
The Colombian has big-league stuff and with a little more seasoning in Triple-A is just about ready to take a spot in the bullpen in Seattle. They could certainly use the help, and because Fruto can go two innings at a time, he might prove to be extremely valuable.
Strengths: Fruto is a very aggressive pitcher but could stand to pitch inside more often. His fastball has good life and if he used his low-90s heat to establish the inner half of the plate, his off-speed stuff would be even more effective. His versatility is very valuable, as the M's learned with Julio Mateo and Ryan Franklin. Not many middle relievers have the stuff Fruto has, which is setup stuff.
Weaknesses: It's pretty simple with Fruto. If he's throwing strikes, he's good. If he's walking batters and pitching with runners on a lot, he's forced to back off his heater and serve up a hittable pitch. It's critical for him to get ahead. It's the difference between Fruto being a late-inning reliever or a long man. He must command his pitches and trust that his stuff will get him outs.
Tools – Now/Future
Curve Ball: 55/60
Staying Power: 50/60
Overall Future Potential: 56
Fruto throws from a short-armed 4/5 slot, but doesn't fully short arm his pitches. His delivery simply has a safe hitch at the top (think George Sherrill without the angle), and it's raised no red flags for future injuries.
But it may explain his command issues a bit. The M's aren't tinkering with it, as Bernard and Rice are just pushing Fruto to repeat his delivery and find a consistent release point.
Fruto's MLB Comps include Julio Mateo, circa 2003 (Fruto has better stuff and his plus change makes Fruto a much better bet to sustain long-term success), Juan Rincon of Minnesota and Cleveland's Rafael Betancourt and Guillermo Mota.
If Fruto can sharpen his command, there's nothing stopping him from being an effective relief arm in the big leagues. Expect him to make his major league debut this season, and he could hold his roster spot if he throws strikes.
In the end, he needs more time to get his mechanics in line to allow him to stay away from falling behind in counts. He's not ready for the big time yet, but the M's often call for a player who needs more time in the minors.