Name: Jackson Quezada
DOB: August 9, 1986
Instead of being an integral part of the Padres plan in 2010, Quezada was removed from the 40-man and re-signed. It was, needless to say, a tough year for the right-hander.
Eager to show his wares when he came to Spring Training in 2009, Quezada was working out in the Dominican Republic when he got hurt. He went to the Padres side of camp and felt discomfort and was eventually shut down. Returning in extended spring, Quezada was close to a return to competitive action when his shoulder flared up once more. Surgery followed and kept him out the entire year.
"I have seen him on the mound a few times where we thought we got it fixed and over the hump, but it seems to be setback after setback," roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said.
He threw for the first time during instructs in October and returned to the Dominican Republic to continue his rehab program. Quezada is expected to be 100 percent in time for spring.
"I prepared my mind and now am ready to go," Quezada said. "I am stronger now than before. I have to get back there again and just do it."
A two-year tour in the Dominican Summer League was his introduction to professional ball after being signed on the international free agent market in July of 2003.
After posting success sub-2.00 ERA's for the Dominican Summer League Padres, Quezada skipped rookie ball and was assigned to short-season Eugene. Across 18 appearances, the right-hander posted a 4.19 ERA while striking out 34 in 34.1 innings.
A return tour with Eugene occurred in 2007. He bettered his numbers, but not significantly. He posted a 3.75 ERA across 24 innings, earning seven saves in nine chances. He was removed from the closer's role, however, when his heart and dedication during stressful times was questioned.
Coming back stronger and more focused, Quezada produced an excellent year for Low-A Fort Wayne in 2008. Instilled as the closer early in the season, Quezada racked up 27 saves in 30 chances and was called upon time and time again with the game on the line.
He posted a 2-4 record with a 2.12 ERA across 63.2 innings. He held the opposition to a .190 average against – fourth best in the circuit. Right-handers were limited to 15 hits in 128 at-bats, a paltry .117 average. And only one of those hits went for extra bases. He struck out 32.8 percent of the right-handed hitters he faced on the year.
In total, he allowed four extra base hits on the year and had held opponents to a .138 average and .190 on-base percentage when leading off an inning.
Quezada landed sixth in the league amongst pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched with his 11.17 strikeouts per nine innings. His 1.86 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was the top mark in the Midwest League and his 0.96 WHIP landed him fifth overall.
Above all, his consistency was what stood out. After a 3.72 ERA in April, Quezada notched four successive months with an ERA of 2.25 or under. Three of those months produced a sub-2.00 ERA.
Two things fell into place for Quezada during 2008. His fastball command was exceptional and his slider regained the bite it showed during the 2006 season.
It also helped that his mechanics were kept in line. Instead of seeing his head fall off and his line to the plate go astray, Quezada was able to tone down his movements and throw with relative ease. He wasn't as jerky in the motion and his pitches were crisper.
Quezada has a fastball that rides in the mid-90s and works at 92-94 mph. It has late sink when he is throwing free and easy. His ability to locate the pitch, especially on the inner half, really vaulted his career forward. He was also able to spot the pitch down and away – just off the corner to get hitters swinging.
His was also a strikeout pitch. With the command of his fastball so exceptional, Quezada was able to throw the slider with success. It isn't a tight break and has some loop in it but is effective because of its heavy break. He can also throw the pitch for a strike or bury as necessary.
Quezada also used the changeup in 2008 more than he had in previous seasons. That occasional slip was necessary to keep hitters off-balance. While the changeup will never be a true plus pitch, it is an out pitch because it keeps hitters guessing.
"I want to work hard on my slider and changeup," Quezada said. "I want to improve my slider so I have a pretty good one – better than I have. I feel good with my mechanics right now."
One benefit that he will take away from his time on the sidelines is study habits. He has learned to look at hitters closely and picked up things that fellow pitchers were doing to aid his game.
"I got to study the hitters more," Quezada said. "I got to watch other pitchers throw bullpens and see what they do successfully. Now, I am working hard every day to get back and use some of the tools I have found."
Conclusion: Quezada lost a crucial year of development. He wasn't ready for the big leagues when the Padres put him on the 40-man roster but showed tons of promise in 2008 – the first year that he really put all the pieces together. He needs to show that he can consistently meet the demands and staying healthy is vital. Quezada will need to continue to work on his slider and changeup while keeping his mechanics sound. Shoulder injuries are fickle – they can change a delivery and cause compensation, forcing other injuries. He to remain cognizant of that fact to regain his full arsenal.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards
Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars