Alessandro Maestri would be a relatively unknown prospect, if not for one thing. He's from Italy. The Cubs made him the first Italian native to join an American organization when they signed him as a free agent in 2006.
Maestri might be a top 25 prospect in the Cubs system, top 50 for sure, but certainly isn't a blue chip. Thanks to the World Baseball Classic, we suddenly have more information on him than most pitchers who have never played above AA. In Saturday's opening round play against Venezuela, Maestri came in with one out in the disastrous fifth inning, and completed the sixth frame for Italy.
The Italians were drubbed by Venezuela. It was a 0-0 game until the fifth, which is when the bullpen got the ball. It started with Jason Grilli, who did manage to get one out. Lenny DiNardo gave up two hits and a walk before giving way to Maestri. Alessandro managed to strand both of his inherited runners (Melvin Mora, retired on a force at third, and Bobby Abreu). Still, Venezuela had scored four times and would go on to win 7-0.
Maestri had to face two hitters to escape the jam in the fifth. They were none other than Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez. A grounder to third and a called third strike later, Maestri walked back to the dugout.
Facing five more major leaguers, Maestri walked two (Jose Lopez and Ramon Hernandez) and got three outs on the ground (Carlos Guillen, Cesar Izturis and Endy Chavez). Not a bad day. This will likely get the attention of the folks down in Arizona, who should expect Alessandro to be back with the Cubs in a few days. Italy faces an elimination game against Canada on Monday night. If they get through that, they'll have to beat the loser of the USA/Venezuela game.
Alessandro mostly threw fastballs, along with a few curveballs. He had at least one pitch fly out of his hand (XX) and maybe two (SL).
Here's where they ended up.
I'm sticking with the curve and the heat for the rest of these graphs.
Is the curveball a slurve?
The knock on Maestri was location - he didn't throw too many strikes. Slicing and layering the pitches by horizontal and vertical location shows he tended to stay down and away. Not a bad idea against some of those Venezuelan hitters. The first three will all return as starters for the Tigers, BTW.
Wide, Tight, Low and High are all out of the zone. The Up/Middle/Down are even thirds of the zone. For the slices, Fat is 10 inches in the middle, and the other two in-the-zone slices are 7 inches each. Batter hand is normalized for the slices, and each hitter's strike zone (top/bottom) is used for the layers. Those tops/bottoms are based on their average for all pitches in the database, not necessarily the value set by the operator in this case. Who reads this stuff when the italics go this far?
Maestri may not have thrown a lot of strikes, but he has interesting stuff. And he got Magglio looking on his best fastball of the night.
I'm not sure of the WBC rules, but Maestri may have exceeded the pitch count/days-off limits and could be ineligible for Italy's next game. We could see him in camp, and maybe we'll get lucky and have some more data from, say, the Yankee Stadium exhibition games in April.