Former USF and Campolindo left-hander Aaron Poreda was selected by the Pirates in the AAA portion of the MLB Rule V draft, which is a blurb I found on MLBTradeRumors.com
- In the Triple-A portion of today's Rule 5 draft, the Pirates selected Aaron Poreda, tweets John Manuel of Baseball America. The former first-rounder was part of the trade that sent Jake Peavy from the Padres to the White Sox in 2009.
Poreda burst onto the scene at USF after a solid but pretty anonymous high school career at Campolindo, despite some high school conference honors. He entered USF as a big, raw kid with a good arm, worked hard to develop and was brought along exceptionally well by USF pitching coach Greg Moore. When he started at USF his fastball was peaking in the 87-88 mph range and by the time he was a junior he was sitting in the mid-90s, occasionally touching a higher on the radar gun. Poreda had a GREAT sophomore year, earning WCC 1st team honors with a conference low 2.56 ERA. That year in the Dons first ever regional, Poreda threw 6.2 innings as USF beat host Nebraska, who was the #6 national seed in the NCAA tournament. He was a nationally known pitcher and was on national college award watch lists heading into his junior year.
Following that junior year Poreda was selected by the White Sox in the 1st round of the 2007 MLB draft (25th overall). He flew through the minors (just as former Don Jesse Foppert did) and dipped his toe in the big leagues in 2009. He made his debut on June 15th of 2009 with 1.2 innings against the Brewers. He struck out three and gave up only one hit.
Later that summer Poreda was dealt to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal, along with current Padres left-hander Clayton Richard. At the time Poreda, not Richard, was considered the more valued prospect. He got into four games and pitched 2.1 innings for the Pads in 2009 and I am sure they figured he would be in the picture in 2010. However, Poreda has struggled since that trade and his struggles started in 2009, before the trade.
He pitched at the AAA and AA level in 2010, getting into 39 games (1 start) and posting an ERA of 3.83. He did fine at AA but really struggled at AAA with a 4.97 ERA and in 2011, pitching exclusively at the AAA level he posted a 5.43 ERA in 41 games, pitching 69.2 innings.
When Poreda was drafted the knock on him was that he had a below average breaking ball and just a so-so change-up and wasn't a very good athlete, which led to speculation among scouts that he might not ever be able to develop an average breaking ball. He was considered a big, strong armed pitcher with the ability to pound the zone with a mid-90s fastball (his walk total as a sophomore was ridiculously low). The Sox took him in the 1st round, likley with the idea that he could move quickly and add quality depth to their bullpen. Poreda did just that but ultimately if you are taking a college pitcher in the 1st round, you either want him to be a starter, and no worse than a future #3 starter (and #3 is a pretty low standard for a 1st rounder), or you want him to be a back of the pen pitcher, hopefully a closer. Poreda never had either of those profiles in his future, at least not in the minds of most scouts in the area.
The command he showed in college basically disappeared when he entered pro ball, but not immediately. It wasn't a glaring issue yet during his 2008 season in the minors, with only 40 walks in 161 innings split between high A and AA. However, in 2009 his command was gone, with 75 walks in 107 innings. He only gave up 83 hits in those 107 innings but that stat is not impressive when you consider the amount of walks. It means he was pitching away from contact.
For AAA Portland (Padres) in 2009 he walked 37 batters in only 32.2 innings, with a 7.14 ERA, making six starts and seven total appearances. Clearly the Padres wanted to see if he could be a starter, which was his role for the Sox in his minor league career. That didn't work out so he went to the pen in 2010 (64 BB in 54 IP) and 2011 (63 BB in 69.2 IP), where I think he was destined to be all along. It seems to me that something happened to his confidence as he faced better and better hitters. He likely stopped challenging contact, because he surely found out that a mid-90s straight fastball means very little at the pro level without at least one usable and quality secondary pitch. Same thing happens to high school pitchers who don't have a breaking ball or change-up when they get to college baseball.
The Padres left him unprotected (off their 40 man roster) and now the Pirates will try to get him moving in the right direction. In my opinion the Sox rushed him before he knew how to "pitch" and by reaching the big leagues so quickly, it is also entirely possible that his self-image was a bit skewed. By that I mean, if you are a young man who burst onto the scene in college, seemingly out of nowhere, went from 87 mph to 97 mph in about two years, went from a barely recruited walk-on to 1st rounder to big leaguer in five short years, well, it would be understandable if he thought he was pretty special. Afterall, he was in the big leagues and QUICKLY. However, he was far from a finished product and just because the Sox brought him to the big leagues (likely to showcase him for a future trade because the command issues had crept up by then) doesn't mean he was ready for the big leagues.
Hopefully this new start can get Poreda refocused and he can be properly developed without the pressure of being a 1st rounder or the player featured in the Jake Peavy trade. He is just another minor league pitcher now who has an opportunity to work toward getting back to the big leagues. No one in the Pirates organization cares that he was a 1st rounder or that he was the key piece opposite Peavy in that deal. He is just another asset in their minor league system and that can be a great thing for Poreda. I wish him well.