Lisalverto Bonilla Scouting Report: Texas Ranger pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla ranked #22 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32, and who didn't get traded. 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-2014. 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!) 24 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.
2014 saw Bonilla split the year between Round Rock and Texas, putting up a 4.10 ERA in 74.2 IP in Round Rock with 92 Ks, 25 walks and 9 homers allowed. The Rangers used him as a reliever most of the time he was in Round Rock, but then had him start some over the final six weeks of the minor league season. Bonilla got a September callup to the majors, where he put up a 3.05 ERA in 20.2 IP -- 3 starts, 2 relief appearances -- with 17 Ks, 12 walks, and 2 homers allowed.
Bonilla is one of a number of pitchers vying for one of the final two rotation spots for the Rangers this season. If he doesn't make the rotation, he'll likely start the year in Round Rock...given that he has two options remaining, his 40 man roster spot should be safe this year, as long as he performs acceptably. He's in a position where he gives the Rangers some flexibility and depth, as he is an option in both the rotation and in the bullpen, he can be moved up and down between the majors and the minors, and he is a multi-inning option in the bullpen, should they decide to use him there.
Bonilla throws in the low-90s, with a terrific changeup as his out pitch, and a curve as his third pitch. The changeup makes him a weapon against lefties, and gives him a better chance of sticking in the rotation, should he be able to improve his breaking ball. He doesn't have a huge ceiling, but I could see him carving out a lengthy career in the mold of Miguel Batista, another guy who wasn't great, who bounced around between the rotation and the bullpen, but who had a pretty decent career that saw him pitch in the majors in 1992, in 2012, and in a lot of years in between.