Stiward Aquino is one of the LA Angels more intriguing international prospects given his standout toolset and progress in development. The LA Angels signed Aquino in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic as a right-handed pitcher, and saw him pitch throughout 2017 before going down for Tommy John Surgery. Stiward Aquino stands at 6’6 while claiming ownership of a power fastball, which touches 96mph while sitting around 94, as well as a stellar curveball.
What’s most interesting is Aquino’s sub-par showing with the LA Angels in the Dominican League back in early 2017. Aquino pitched through 23.2 innings while showcasing below average stuff, his fastball sitting at 91mph while being hamstrung by his lacking, inconsistent delivery. Things changed quickly for Aquino when he reported to the Angels instructional league late last year. After gaining size and strength, Aquino only being 18 years old at the time, he showed a massive improvement in pitch-ability with his upgraded repertoire as well a further improved delivery.
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Stiward Aquino owns a plus fastball powered by an above-average spin rate which pumps serious life into the pitch, especially when he rides it up on a hitter. Likewise, the spin-rate on his curve is eye-popping and looks to continue developing into a high-level out pitch. His one two-combination of fastball-curve sets him up as a high-rate swing and miss type pitcher purely on the quality of his stuff. He can produce a healthy rate of contact outs once he locks down his delivery and replicates it consistently. Aquinos biggest need as of now is to maintain his delivery; a stronger ability to drive the ball into the strike zone will only raise Aquinos developmental ceiling, and it already sits pretty high on the pure power of his raw abilities.
Aquino is only 19 and was an unfortunate sit-out through the 2018 season given his Tommy John surgery, but a continued physical maturation and mechanical development can easily catapult Aquino into a well above-average level of pitching. If his development continues at the pace it is he could very well see himself develop “elite” stuff, as all the tools are already there for refinement. His fastball matured into a Major League pitch in less than a year, going from a stiff 91mph to a lively 94mph (touching 96mph) power fastball that can easily develop into the higher 90s velocity range. His curveball allows him to work hitters all over the zone and keep the hitter in perpetual discomfort, especially with the dazzling spin-rate and life of his curve.
Aquino also commands a change-up, but as of now it’s fairly average, mostly being inconsistent while requiring work on a consistently repeated delivery in order to settle it into an average pitch. It’ll work nicely off of his fastball-curve combo, keeping hitters honest while setting up his other two pitches, but it looks as if that’s where it will stand. Measuring in at 6’6, Aquino has natural strength and strong downward plane in his delivery, and an advanced handling of this delivery will only exemplify his elite, yet raw toolset.
2019 will be a big year for Aquino as it will likely set the pace for the rest of his development. If he can build up his delivery into effective form and maintain the current development of his pitches there is reasonable chance he can develop elite stuff.
Best Tools: Raw Ability, Size, Fastball, Curveball
Developmental Needs: Consistent Delivery, Command, Strike-Zone Control, Change-Up
MLB Estimation: 2021