In an effort to replenish their farm system, the San Diego Padres will largely count on internal player development from the players already entrenched within their ranks.
One name that is coming off an impressive season that could stand to take a large leap forward is 19-year-old Victor Lizarraga.
Signed for $1 million as a top international free agent, Lizarraga had plenty of buzz surrounding him as the top prospect coming out of Mexico during the 2020-2021 period. He struck out 35 batters over 30 innings of work in the Arizona Rookie League. However, he did have an 11.5 percent walk rate and allowed 1.50 HR/9 innings.
Lizarraga built upon that somewhat promising first look and took strides in nearly every aspect this upcoming season. He tripled his workload with Lake Elsinore, tossing 94 total innings, and made 19 starts with a 3.43 ERA. More importantly, Lizarraga dropped his walk rate to 8.3 percent over a larger sample and suppressed the home run ball almost entirely, posting an extremely low HR/9 mark of 0.48. Even though his strikeout rate (23.3 percent) was lower, improving in other areas led to greater overall success for the young right-hander.
From a pitch mix standpoint, Lizarraga’s fastball peaked at 95 mph, though it primarily plays in the low-90s, and adding a handful of consistent ticks to that velocity band could prove crucial for his development. There’s some room for him to fill out a physical 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame, and the Padres untapping more heat is essential for him to ultimately reach his ceiling on the hill. Training velocity is one of the easier things to do in today’s day and age, so there’s certainly optimism in that regard.
Lizarraga’s secondary pitches are a curveball and changeup, both of which garner split reviews yet flash upside in the process. He spins his curveball from a slightly elevated arm slot to his fastball, creating depth and downward spin from a more vertical plane. There are some inconsistencies in his ability to land it for strikes and put it beneath the zone, but the sheer aptitude to spin is there. It’s possible his curveball grades out as an above-average pitch, on a big-league scouting scale, down the road with refinements.
Trying my hand at some overlaying..separate videos below too. SD RHP Victor Lizarraga struck out 5 in 4.2 innings today. The 18-year-old has a 2.03 ERA through 13.1 IP this year. Signed for $1M in March of ‘21. FB/CB in the overlay. pic.twitter.com/feeBYsVrKg
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) April 25, 2022
His changeup draws the more positive reviews of the two. He throws it in the mid-to-high-80s, which isn’t too far off from his fastball, but he does locate it down in the zone with consistency and fades it to the arm side. The success he had with this changeup largely contributed to his home run suppression last season and a 49.2 percent overall ground ball rate. It’s a pitch that should continue to aid him in getting consistent weak contact, and he trusts it more than any pitch, including his fastball.
One thing that stands out about Lizarraga is his mound demeanor. He was successful against older competition in Mexico prior to coming over, and that certainly enhanced his competitive presence as a whole. It’s something you can’t really teach with prospects and shows how advanced Lizarraga is for his age.
Already trending upward after last season, Lizarraga can really shoot up boards with another strong showing this year. He has starter’s upside with three quality pitches, pounds the zone, and has proven thus far into his professional career that he can consistently get outs. He should start the year with Fort Wayne and will likely push Double-A San Antonio come the season’s end.