Can Donnie Veal Put It All Together For The Pittsburgh Pirates?

Pittsburgh Pirates left hander Donnie Veal threw yesterday in Bradenton.

The text message from Bradenton said it all. 

We admit it.  We are a sucker for a few things in this world.  Donnie Veal has (most) of those things:  off the field Veal has suffered greatly and has had to cope with incredible loss in his family.   On the field he has a knee-breaking curveball, a 95 mile per hour fastball and a good change-up.  All of his pitches have been effective enough to equal nine strikeouts  per 9 innings pitched for his career. 

The walk rate?  Ah, don’t remind us about the bad shit.   The command and mechanical issues?  Please.  We are trying to make a case for a sleeper pick here…. don’t start talking development  speak now!

Veal’s stuff has been very good and earned him the 2nd ranked  prospect in the Chicago Cubs system by Baseball America back in 2007.    Veal fell to sixth the next year, and was eventually grabbed by the Pirates in the 2008 Rule 5 draft.

It’s been a rocky ride ever since and while most people have written off Veal, there he was yesterday popping the glove in Bradenton.  He’s imposing.   That 6’4″ 215(??) frame, his arsenal, and a wicked delivery all contribute to it. 

But Veal’s not too old to flick the switch and be a surprise for the Bucs.  If he makes it happen, it will be an amazing story.  And who doesn’t love an amazing story? 

It’s not like the guy has been overworked.  The most innings Veal has pitched was back in 2006 when he played A and A+ ball with Chicago.  Veal went 11-5 in 28 starts and 154.1 innings of work.   He struck out 174, walked 82, and posted a cherry ERA of 2.22. 

In 2007 he threw 130.1 innings, then in 2008 his innings popped to 145.1, but he hasn’t thrown more than 50 innings in a season since coming over to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It’s obvious 2011 will be crucial for  Veal.  If he’s going to break out, now is the time.  He’s going to have to have a strong Spring Training as innings will be at a premium all over the upper ranks of the Pirates organization.  But a left handed pitching arm like Veal is not easily found in the Pirates organization, or in MLB for that matter. 

We enjoy Veal because of his potential, his fondness for buzzing a fastball on the inside of the plate, and everything he has overcome in his 25 years.  With Tommy John surgery and the difficult rehabilation behind him, the timing seems perfect for him.  Of course it’s no secret the Pirates are desperate for quality starting pitching.  

Let’s trust the big lefthander can provide it.  We’re a sucker for a feel good story and Donnie Veal would be a damn good one.

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