After the 2014 season, he added a hybrid 84-86 mph SLIDER in the Instructional League. It is now a solid strikeout pitch for him, with fine tilt and late bite, rating a 65 and flashing 70. He brought back his CURVEBALL that he can throw for a strike, and gives hitters something else to think about. Like his fastball, Antonio commands his down-tumbling 80-82 mph CHANGEUP to both sides of the plate; it can be a swing-and-miss pitch for him. (Spring, 2017)
“For his age, where he is developmentally, he’s probably got the best combined control and command in our system,” Rockies farm director Zach Wilson said. “He’s very advanced in that way. And truly his fastball command is what is an enormous separator for him when it comes to his stuff.
“The kid knows how to pitch, and he’s got plus stuff,” Wilson said. “And that equals front-of-the-rotation potential.”
Antonio comes at the hitter from a good downhill plane. He throws heat, but it comes so easy to him. It doesn't look like he's throwing hard at all. He attacks hitters on the inside part of the plate with both fastballs.
"He's a strike-thrower,” Asheville manager Fred Ocasio said in 2014. “He’s always around the zone, and with his fastball, he’s got good downhill plane. And then he can command the ball in and out. He’s not afraid to challenge anybody. At times, he throws a really good curveball. Not like it’s a bad curveball. He’s got to be more consistent with it.”
Modesto pitching coach Brandon Emanuel said in 2015. "He's going to come at you. It really bothers him to walk guys. He's going to make them earn their way on. He has a lot of confidence in what he brings and just his aggressiveness to get hitters out and attack them."
Antonio repeats his delivery easily.
He is a fierce competitor on the mound. He has a feel for how to set a hitter up.
Senzatela impresses you with his knowledge of the game and attention to the finer points of pitching. He is not the least bit afraid to attack hitters on the inside, driving the hitter off the plate, with the intent of getting him out.
Antonio can put a pitch on either corner when he wants to. He controls the strike zone and never really gets himself into bad counts.
2014 Season: Senzatela was the youngest and best starter in a strong low Class A Asheville rotation, going 8-1, 1.84 ERA in 13 second-half starts and allowing one homer in 73 innings. He led the South Atlantic League in victories, ranking fifth in opponents average (.243).
2015 Season: Antonio never allowed more than four earned runs in any of his 26 starts en route to a landslide victory in the Cal League ERA race (2.51). He also topped the league in WHIP (1.06) and opponents' average (.229).
August 2015: Senzatela has a very advanced feel for his tender age of 20. His biggest asset is his fastball command, considered the best in the system. Senzatela fills the strike zone and is a bulldog who wants the ball in big situations. He'll take his fearless approach with him as he begins moving up the organizational ladder.
There's ample fire in the belly, and he'll need to corral his emotions a bit better as he matures. The team has been aggressive with Senzatela thus far and he's answered the challenge. He has the look of a future bullpen asset at this point if he can find a 50 grade pitch in his secondary arsenal, and the Rockies have the luxury of ample time on their side in helping him develop one. (August 2015)
2017 Changes: Senzatela is back in the rotation. After seeing his velocity dip, he went to the bullpen, hoping that with a little rest and less innings, he would regain his early season form. He also expanded his repertoire, adding a curveball and adjusting his slider grip to give a bit more of a velocity dimension to his arsenal.
Antonio let a smile cross his face, and his mind’s eye could see his beloved, late mother, Nidya. His nose and mouth were drifting back in time, to his school days in Valencia, Venezuela, and his mother's empanadas—pastries filled with love and savory goodness.
“She had an empanada stand,” Senzatela said. “Used to be, I’d go to school with two empanadas.”
But quickly, Senzatela pushed those treats to the back of the mind. In addition to a new curveball, a renewed changeup, and good ol’ self-confidence, Senzatela lost 15 pounds during the offseason.
But memories of those empanadas, and a reflexive habit of grabbing candy whenever it’s laying around, will have to be tamped down once the season begins. Senzatela is a rare player who gains weight during the long baseball season. He, his wife Vanessa, and young son Tiago are all partners in helping him keep the weight off, which may help him control the ERA.
Senzatela, 25, is 27-22, with a 5.33 ERA in 84 games over three seasons. Not a bad start to a pitching career. But last year was challenging for him, as he went 11-11 with a 6.71 ERA in 25 starts. He began the year on the injured list, due to an infected right-heel blister, and dealt with an in-season option to Triple-A Albuquerque.
“I want to be here a long time,” Senzatela said. “I recognize I need to eat better, stay healthy, treat my body like an athlete. Candies and everything, keep it away from me right now. It’s hard, but when you put your mind on something, you try to do it every time."
He reports the fridge is almost empty.
“My wife cooks," Senzatela said. "We keep doing empanadas, just one a month – and we're really careful. And she makes really good cakes, but she’s not making them now. We don’t put anything in the refrigerator.”
“He’s going to move better within his delivery,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “He hasn’t lost any strength. I think it might make his arm move a little quicker because his body is moving better.”
Before camp, he was considered part of a competition for two open rotation spots, but Senzatela has carried himself as if there’s just one spot, and so far he has performed that way. In his second inning on the mound, he left two pitches over the plate, giving up singles to Ronald Guzmán and Rob Refsnyder. Rather than use one of his secondary pitches, Senzatela threw his heavy fastball and forced Scott Heineman to ground into a double play. (T Harding - MLB.com - March 5, 2020)
2020 Season: After losing 15 pounds in the offseason, Senzatela was ready to compete. He made three starts in spring training, allowing four runs on six hits over 10 innings. He also struck out eight and walked just two, posting a 3.60 ERA.
After the hiatus due to COVID-19, Senzatela started 12 games for the Rockies and ended up being their most consistent starter. In those 12 starts, he posted a personal 5-3 record, but the Rockies had a team record of 6-6 when Senzatela took the mound. He was the only one of the “Four Horsemen” to post a personal winning record. During his 12 starts, he pitched such highlights as an eight-inning shutout performance against Zack Greinke and the Houston Astros on August 18 (the Rockies lost on a walk-off) and a complete game against the Oakland A’s on September 15. Six of his 12 starts were quality starts. If Senzatela was on the mound, you felt like there was a chance.
Some of Senzatela’s newfound success could be attributed to a rise in velocity on his four pitches:
Most notably, his fastball velocity is back up to where it was during his rookie season in 2017 and there has been a steady rise in his slider.
According to Baseball Savant, Senzatela also threw a greater mix of pitches. He only threw his fastball 55.9% of the time — down from 61.9% in 2019 and 64.1% in 2018. He still relied heavily on his slider as his main secondary pitch, but started utilizing the changeup more often as well alongside the curve. He used the changeup less in 2019 due to finger pain, but it was a successful pitch for him this year. Heading into summer camp, pitching coach Steve Foster had praised Senzatela’s offseason work:
“The greatest offseason strides of all the guys (in the rotation) is Antonio Senzatela,” Foster said. “It was the things done behind the scenes last year at the end of the season, that he stuck with through the offseason and came into spring training with. His velocity is up. His breaking pitches are sharper.”
After struggling with injuries and lack of success in 2019, it was a welcome sight to see Senzatela’s early season success. As the dreadful 2020 season dragged on, his continued success ended up being a bright spot for the Rockies. Everything came together for him. Senza is arbitration-eligible for the first time during this offseason, so it will be interesting to see what the Rockies will do. (Samantha Bradfield@SammieB_27 - Nov 6, 2020)
Jan 12, 2021: “Senza’s next step is to continue doing what he did in 2020, the COVID year,” pitching coach Steve Foster said. “That is disciplined attention to his delivery, using his mix of pitches and being unpredictable, getting ahead of hitters, trusting his preparation and making in-game adjustments.
“He can be one of the best in the game. I call him ‘El Tigre.’ Tigers never quit until the job is done.”
Senzatela went 5-3 with a 3.44 ERA and turned in the Rockies’ only complete game (a six-hit, 3-1 home victory over the Athletics at Coors Field on Sept. 15) last season, thanks in large part to the new approach to his pitch mix.
After going 10-6 with a 5.68 ERA as a rookie in 2017, Senzatela went 17-17 with a 5.73 ERA in 48 games (38 starts) over the next two years. According to Statcast, Senzatela threw his four-seam fastball 72.3 percent of the time in 2017. Those figures dropped, but usage rates of 64 percent in 2018 and 62 percent in 2019 were not enough to keep hitters from sitting on his main pitch.
“Some of what makes Antonio Senzatela so incredibly tough on the mound is he is a stubborn guy,” Foster said in August. “He’ll be the first to tell you. And it’s taken a while to convince him, but the timing had to be right.
“Some of it was convincing him that, ‘Your numbers since you’ve been in the Major Leagues have been good, but they can be great, and if you’re willing to try some things that we’ve been trying to get you to do …’ As a coach, we don’t force change. Change comes at the right time.”
In 2020, Senzatela used his curve more strategically and reached career highs in usage of his slider (24.6 percent) and changeup (9.2 percent). According to MLB Quality of Pitch, the better pitch sequencing and deception, plus the quality of his changeup helped Senzatela succeed even though his other pitches saw reduced vertical break.
His strikeout rate remains among the lowest in the sport—13.1 percent in 2019, and 13.5 percent in 2020. But Senzatela lowered barrel rate and hard-hit rate in 2020, and became more effective. (T Harding - MLB.com - Jan 12, 2021)
Senzatela's best pitch is his slider. The 26-year-old had a breakout season in 2020, posting a 3.44 ERA in 12 games started. Since 2017, Senzatela’s slider has seen an uptick in velocity each season, with the 2020 version averaging 86 mph. The slider was used on both sides of the plate and produced a 54% ground ball rate.
- 2021 Season: 1.3 rWAR
One of the best things about the Rockies’ disappointing 2020 season was the emergence of Antonio Senzatela, who put up a sterling 3.44 ERA (151 ERA+) over 72.1 IP. After getting in better shape, the young Venezuelan’s command was greatly improved, resulting in a career-low walk rate. His confidence improved, and his groundball-generating skills remained intact. And while there were questions about how repeatable it was, Senzatela entered 2021 locked into a legitimate top four rotation spot for the first time in his career.
How did it go?
The results were good. The final line: 28 GS, 4.42 ERA (108 ERA+), 156.2 IP, 3.61 FIP, 1.34 WHIP. Those are very solid 4/5 starter numbers by themselves, but it was a weird season. It started with a stinker against the Dodgers (3.1 IP, 7 ER) and ended with the worst start of his MLB career at Arizona (0.2 IP, 6 ER), and if you take those away, his ERA goes down to 3.77. I know it’s cherry-picking, but still. Senzatela didn’t really have any overwhelmingly dominant stretches, but he was consistently good. From June 2 to September 26, a 17-start sample, he pitched 6+ innings in all but two starts.
Senzatela was one of the best pitchers in baseball at avoiding walks and homers, and his strikeout rate increased compared to 2020. (Mario DeGenz Nov 6, 2021)
- As of start of the 2021 season, Antonio had a career record of 32-25 with a 5.00 ERA, having allow (ed 454 hits and 56 home runs in 423 innings.