Position: RHP Height: 6-3 Weight: 180 Born: 1/13/81 Bats: Right Throws: Right
* Did not play in 2002 due to injury.
A year ago, Jose Capellan was a relatively anonymous A-ball pitcher, recovering from a serious arm injury. Fast forward to August 2004, and he's one of the most impressive pitchers in the minor leagues. A Dominican signed in 1998, Capellan missed 2002 recovering from Tommy John surgery. But successful rehab in '03 put him in line for an outstanding 2004 campaign, emerging as the latest hot prospect from the pitching production line that is the Atlanta Braves farm system.
Capellan's headline pitch is an explosive fastball, which actually seems to have improved in spite (or maybe because) of his injury. Before blowing out his elbow, Capellan threw 90-93 mph, occasionally hitting 95. Now he throws 94-96 mph, and has been clocked as high as 100 mph on some guns. The pitch has both velocity and life, yet he shows the ability to throw it for strikes most of the time. Capellan has added a changeup and slider to his repertoire this year. Neither is an outstanding pitch at this point, but in combination with the heater they are effective. He's made progress refining his mechanics, although his delivery is still awkward at times, leading to occasional command problems. Although he has thrived as a starting pitcher this year, some scouts believe he will be better off in relief in the long run. He still has to prove he can hold up under a full workload as a starting pitcher.
You can't complain about Capellan's numbers in 2004. His K/IP rate has been terrific. His controlled wobbled a bit after he was promoted to Double-A, but it's been very sharp since he moved up to Triple-A Richmond this month. His H/IP rate is sometimes not as good as you would expect given how hard he throws, but that statistic is prone to outside influences and luck. His home run rate is low, and overall you can't complain about a 12-3 record, 2.09 combined ERA, or a 130/35 K/BB ratio in 116 innings. The injury cost him some development time, but at 23 he's doing well in Triple-A, and that's a decent position on the age/level curve. He was particularly hot in July, posting a 1.78 ERA.
Capellan's elbow exploded in 2001, forcing Tommy John surgery and a long rehab process. He is fully recovered now, and the surgery seems to have improved his velocity, which happens more often than you might think with this procedure. At this point, I would be more worried about a shoulder injury than another elbow problem. His mechanics put some stress on his arm, and while it hasn't been a problem this year, his workload should be monitored closely. In the long run, conversion to relief should be strongly considered.
What to expect
Capellan is one of the best stories in the minors this year. Can he stay healthy long enough to refine his command and live up to his immense potential? If you have a time machine and can peek into the future, let us know. Capellan is a big wild card, who could be immensely successful, a big failure, or anything in between.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, "Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation," is also out, and can be ordered through online book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, Jeri; son, Nicholas; and feline friends Toonces and Spot.