Lisalverto Bonilla Scouting Report: Texas Ranger minor league pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla ranked #27 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 31 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 31. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2013. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Lisalverto Bonilla...
Lisalverto Bonilla is a 6', 175 lb. switch-hitting (woo-hoo!) 23 year old righthanded pitcher. Bonilla was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Philadelphia Phillies, and debuted in the Dominican Summer League in 2009, putting up a 1.41 ERA in 70 innings as a 19 year old. Bonilla came stateside in 2010, and started the year in the Gulf Coast rookie league, putting up a 1.95 ERA in 32.1 innings before earning a promotion to Williamsport in the short-season A New York-Penn League. He struggled there, putting up a 6.49 ERA in 26.1 innings.
Bonilla spent the 2011 season in the low-A Sally League, and acquitted himself well. He had a 2.80 ERA in 106 innings, striking out 95 batters and walking just 29 while splitting his time between the bullpen and the rotation. He did well enough to earn a C+ grade from John Sickels, who had him ranked as the #14 prospect in the Phillies' system, saying that Bonilla had "[i]mpact relief potential if he maintains his command." That's a phrase to keep in mind as we go on...
Bonilla pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in 2012, splitting the year between the Phillies' high-A affiliate and their AA affiliate. He pitched well at both stops, putting up a 1.55 ERA in 46.1 innings, striking out 64 (although with a worrisome 21 walks) while allowing just 31 hits and 1 home run. His performance was enough to catch the eye of the Rangers, who ended up snagging Bonilla, together with righthanded Josh Lindblom, in the deal that sent Michael Young to the Phillies.
2013 was a tale of two seasons for Bonilla. The Rangers started him in AAA Round Rock, and he struggled mightily, with things snowballing to the point that, over his last seven outings with the Express, he allowed 22 runs and a 1283 OPS to opposing hitters over a 7 game stretch, encompassing 11.1 innings. After 43 innings, with a 7.95 ERA and 8 homers allowed, the Rangers finally sent him back to AA Frisco.
And in Frisco, Bonilla dominated the competition. In 21 outings covering 30.1 innings, he allowed just a single run, putting up a miniscule 0.30 ERA. He struck out 50 of the 117 batters he faced, walked just 9 hitters, and allowed 16 hits -- 14 singles and 2 doubles.
Bonilla showed enough for the Rangers to add him to the 40 man roster this offseason, so he now has three options remaining, and will likely get the chance to bounce up and down between the minors and the majors, coming up when the Rangers need a fresh arm for the pen, getting sent back down when they need to activate someone else. Bonilla will likely go back to Round Rock to start the 2014 season, and will look to pitch well enough to get in that bullpen shuttle mix.
Bonilla's repertoire isn't overwhelming...he throws in the low-90s, which isn't that hard for a reliever, but he has a devastating changeup which is his out pitch. The question with Bonilla continues to be, as John Sickels noted after the 2011 season, his command...if he can command his fastball and changeup, he has the ability to be a late-inning reliever in the majors. If he can't command his pitches, he's destined to be a AAA lifer who gets a cup of coffee in the bigs every so often.
But he is one more intriguing bullpen arm in a system that has a lot of intriguing potential bullpen arms, and someone to keep an eye on over the next couple of years.