Heading into this season, Adonis Uceta was 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA, 1.355 WHIP, and a 7.9 K/9. Last year, despite being older for the level, Uceta struggled in Kingsport going 3-6 with a 4.99 ERA, 1.516 WHIP, and a 9.2 K/9. Based on the stats alone, you’d be hard pressed to find a reason to believe in Uceta as a prospect.
The stats lines obfuscate Uceta’s talent. As noted in his bio when MMN ranked him the Mets 71st best prospect, Uceta has a live arm. The issue for him was he’s mainly a two pitch pitcher. However, those two pitches are really good. As a starter, he had a fastball that had some life, and he got it in the mid 90s. When combined with his terrific change-up, he had two plus pitches to get batters out. With him being unable to the develop a third pitch, he was ill-suited to being a starter.
No, Uceta was a reliever, and with his repertoire, he had the potential to dominate coming out of the bullpen. That is exactly what he is doing this year in Columbia. Through his first 18 appearances of the season, Uceta is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA, 0.907 WHIP, and a 10.7 K/9. In fact, opponents have only been able to score a run against him in three games, and more than one run in just one game.
Frankly, Uceta has been as close to unhittable as a pitcher can be. So far this season, opposing batters are hitting just .137/.245/.189 off of Uceta. He has allowed just three extra base hits to the 117 batters he has faced this year, and he has yet to yield a home run. Overall, a batters best chance to reach base is by drawing a walk against Uceta. Now, Uceta does issue too many walks with a 4.1 BB/9.
Recently, Uceta has significantly cut down on his walks. In fact, most of the damage that has come against Uceta was in one poor May 7th appearance where he allowed four runs. If you were to eliminate that one poor outing, Uceta’s stats look all the more dominant. Uceta would be 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA, 0.704 WHIP, and a 10.7 K/9. Batters would only be hitting .105/.190/.112 off of him. Also, his high 4.1 BB/9 drops to a more manageable 3.3.
The reason why Uceta has been that dominant is because his stuff has improved this year. With Uceta being able to air it out for an inning or two, he is throwing his fastball as high as 98 MPH. With that fastball and Uceta’s change-up, batters in the South Atlantic League just don’t have a chance against him.