Prior to the draft, Nick Evangelista was speculating about where he would go in the draft. He made a point to mention the fact that he grew up a Phillies fan and that it would be a dream come true to be drafted by them. Well, his dream came true and he wound up a member of the Phillies organization, although he lasted longer than he figured on lasting.
The Phillies have dealt with Evangelista in a bit of a weird way. They started him out in the Gulf Coast League rather than Batavia, where most of the players from solid college programs start their professional careers. They moved him to Lakewood for just a few days at the end of the 2004 season, but then pushed him ahead to Clearwater to start the 2005 season. The good news is that Evangelista responded with another good season and should be a part of what could be a very impressive pitching staff at AA Reading this summer. In fact, there are rumors that Evangelista could wind up being the closer on that team, which could be an excellent opportunity with starters like Giovany Gonzalez, Cole Hamels and Scott Mathieson in the rotation.
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 26th round of the 2004 Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh.
Repertoire: Evangelista throws a good, strong fastball that he is able to keep down in the zone. He keeps hitters off-pace with a full compliment of a curveball, slider and change-up that he locates well. He made a lot of strides during the 2005 season in developing all of his pitches and has become a much more complete pitcher rather than having to rely on just a good fastball.
Pitching: The theory goes that pitchers need to keep the ball away from the bat and Evangelista does that pretty well. He likes to work down and away in the zone. In 2005, left-handers hit .250 against him while right-handers managed just a .201 average. The odd thing is that four of the five homeruns that he allowed came against right-handed hitters. That usually happens when he gets the ball up in the zone a little and if a hitter has enough power to take that pitch the other way, Evangelista gets himself into trouble. He does have a bulldog mentality on the mound and is ready to face any hitter, anytime, anywhere. He always wants to be on the mound and has no problem handling pressure situations. Opposing hitters hit just .203 with runners in scoring position against Evangelista in 2005. This is a guy who likes to get ahead in the count and work a hitter rather than try to blow him away on three pitches. Because of that, he sometimes runs deep counts and pushes his pitch count up.
Projection: There is no reason to keep Evangelista at Clearwater. Instead, he'll be at Reading and could wind up doing a bulk of their closing. It would be interesting to see Evangelista in that role for an entire season, although it's too early to hang a closer's tag on him. He should develop into no less than a decent major league setup man and could possibly be even more by the time he's ready for major league consideration.
ETA: Evangelista made a nice jump in 2005 when many thought he might need more time at Lakewood. Instead, he was at Clearwater and pitched very well. Generally, things get immensely tougher when a player reaches AA, so it's going to be interesting to see how Evangelista responds. Figure on a full season at both AA and AAA, which would put Evangelista in the mix for a bullpen job in 2008. Don't get discouraged though if he does stumble at least a little and needs a little more than a season at either AA, AAA or both.
Comparison: Many scouts see Tim Worrell in Evangelista. They also figure on him being able to achieve similar things at the major league level.