Born: June 6, 1986
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 200
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Drafted: 4th round, 114th overall, 2004 (Expos)
How Acquired: Minor League Free Agent
High School: Huntington Beach (CA) HS
Agent: Reynolds Sports Management


Balester quickly established himself as a good prospect during his first couple years in the Expos/Nats farm system.  His performance never really matched his rep, though, as he didn’t have high K rates and never dominated after getting past class A.  He threw his fastball in the low 90s as a starter, but his velocity increased to 93-94 as a reliever.  His curve has been considered his out pitch and he also throws a change, although he hasn’t used it much as a reliever.  He’s a flyball pitcher and has had strong platoon splits in the minors.  The Pirates signed Balester to a minor league contract for 2014.

R:  1-2-0, 2.19 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 24.2 IP, 1.8 BB/9, 7.7 K/9

Balester had a brief but very good debut in rookie ball.

A:  8-6-0, 3.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 125.0 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 6.8 K/9

The Nationals jumped Balester to low A in his first full season and, apart from a low K rate, he pitched very well.  After the season, Baseball America rated him the Nats’ second best prospect.

A+:  4-5-0, 5.20 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 117.2 IP, 4.1 BB/9, 6.7 K/9
AA:  1-0-0, 1.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 19.2 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 4.6 K/9

Balester got off to a rough start in high A as the Nationals tinkered with his delivery to tone it down.  His stuff dropped off and he got hammered in his first nine starts.  After he went back to his old delivery, his stuff rebounded and he pitched much better.  He finished the season with three good starts in AA.  BA rated him the Nats’ top prospect after the season (albeit in a weak system), as well as the #95 prospect in baseball.

AA:  2-7-0, 3.74 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 98.2 IP, 2.3 BB/9, 7.0 K/9
AAA:  2-3-0, 4.18 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 51.2 IP, 4.0 BB/9, 7.0 K/9

Balester had a solid, but hardly dominant, season, with 17 starts in AA and ten in AAA.  His pitching was similar at both stops, except for more walks in AAA.  BA rated him the #86 prospect in baseball after the season, but he had more hits allowed than innings pitched and his K rate remained ordinary.

AAA:  9-3-0, 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 78.2 IP, 2.6 BB/9, 7.3 K/9
MLB:  3-7-0, 5.51 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 80.0 IP, 3.2
 BB/9, 5.6 K/9

Balester pitched about the same in 15 AAA starts, except for improving his control.  The Nats called him up at mid-season and he remained in their rotation the rest of the way, making another 15 starts.  He got hit hard in the majors, with opponents putting up a 288/354/473 line against him.

AAA:  7-10-0, 4.44 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 107.1 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 6.0 K/9
MLB:  1-4-0, 6.82 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 30.1 IP, 4.2 BB/9, 5.9 K/9

Balester went back to AAA, except for a seven-start callup beginning in late July.  He regressed at both levels.  In AAA, opponents batted .300 against him and his K rate dropped.  In the majors he simply got hammered, allowing a HR every three innings.

AAA:  3-3-0, 5.87 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 69.0 IP, 4.2 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
MLB:  0-1-0, 2.57 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 21.0 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 12.0 K/9

After five rough starts in AAA, the Nats moved Balester to the bullpen, where he pitched much better.  They called him up in late July and he pitched out of the bullpen in the majors for the rest of the season, except for a few weeks in August.  Apart from a high walk rate, he pitched very well in the majors, striking out far over a batter an inning.

AAA:  2-1-1, 4.35 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 39.1 IP, 3.4 BB/9, 10.5 K/9
MLB:  1-4-0, 4.54 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 35.2 IP, 3.5 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Balester rode the shuttle between AAA and the majors, getting three brief callups before he came up for good in early August.  He didn’t pitch especially well at either spot, although he at least had good K rates.  After the season, the Nats traded him to Detroit.

AAA:  1-1-1, 3.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 47.0 IP, 2.3 BB/9, 8.6 K/9
MLB:  2-0-0, 6.50 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 18.0 IP, 5.5 BB/9, 6.0 K/9

Balester opened the season with Detroit and struggled, giving up a HR every three and a half innings.  The Tigers outrighted him to AAA in late May.  He pitched better at that level, cutting way down on the number of baserunners he allowed.  After the season he became a free agent and signed with the Rangers.

AAA:  1-4-0, 7.33 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 27.0 IP, 3.0 BB/9, 7.3 K/9

The Rangers moved Balester back to starting.  He struggled through five starts and one relief appearance, but ended up having Tommy John surgery in June.

R:  0-1-0, 54.00 ERA, 9.00 WHIP, 1.1 IP, 13.5 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
R+:  0-0-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 6.2 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
AA:  1-4-1, 6.55 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 11.0 IP, 7.4 BB/9, 8.2 K/9

Balester started his rehab at the end of June and eventually pitched out of the Altoona bullpen.  Some pitchers, such as Charlie Morton, are able to recover quickly from Tommy John surgery and pitch well.  Some, including Balester, aren’t.

Balester never figured to do anything other than rehab in 2014.  He would have been a free agent again, but he signed a minor league deal with the Pirates for 2015.  Probably that’s something the two parties contemplated all along.  It’s hard to see him having any value at this point.  He hasn’t had much success at any level since 2007, but maybe getting fully healthy will make a difference.  He was not, however, on any roster at the start of the 2015 season.

Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
2009: $410,000
2012: $489,000
2015: Minor League Contract
Signing Bonus: $290,000
MiLB Debut: 2004
MLB Debut: 7/1/2008
MiLB FA Eligible: 2015
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: 6/30/2008
Options Remaining: 0 (USED:  2009, 2010, 2011)
MLB Service Time: 1.145
June 7, 2004: Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 4th round, 114th overall pick; signed on July 19.
June 30, 2008: Contract purchased by the Washington Nationals.
December 9, 2011: Traded by the Washington Nationals to the Detroit Tigers for Ryan Perry.
May 23, 2012: Designated for assignment by the Detroit Tigers; outrighted to AAA on May 29.
November 3, 2012: Became a free agent
November 28, 2012: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Texas Rangers.
November 5, 2013: Became a free agent.
November 20, 2013: Signed as a minor league free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
October 4, 2014: Signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.