Potential is a funny thing.
Potential is what you are supposed to live up to, particularly when you’re young. It can be something you are told you lack by a cold-hearted peer or authority figure. It can get you second chances and can render you a cautionary tale. In sports, potential takes on an even more tangible definition. Arquimedes Caminero is the poster child of physical ability not quite translating to results, but being a living, breathing, mass of “what if?”. It was frustrating watching Caminero struggle to execute last season, despite being affixed with an arm that might be a salvaged piece of alien technology designed to propel objects at such speeds that they create wormholes. At 29 years old, out of options, and with a pattern of inconsistency, the Hellenic-inspired bringer of heat may one day return to the MLB. Even if his journey to Japan is a one-way trip, I hope you can join me in wishing for his success as fervently as any player not wearing Mariners teal.
At some point in life, everyone is the best at something in their circle. Maybe that circle is small and the skill feels insignificant, like being the best at blowing bubbles among your friends. If your superiority in a field catches the attention of others, people may push you to work with, or compete against, other elites. For Arquimedes Caminero, it was throwing fastballs. Fastballs composed of pure electricity like a Nikola Tesla fan fiction. Most of us reach a circle in our skills where we are no longer the best. Arquimedes Caminero was one of only three players to throw a 102 mph pitch last year. The circle he cannot rise to the top of may not exist. Where Arquimedes is going, however, he won’t simply be the best in his circle. The circle will be him, and him alone.
When Caminero’s Yomiuri Giants start their season on Friday, March 31st, 2017, he will almost assuredly be a member of their roster, considering he was paid $1.15 million to join them. At some point in that week he will likely make his NPB debut, at which point he will throw some fastballs. His first one, propelled by nervous energy, may look something like this.
100.1 mph, or 161 km/h. That pitch, which blew away my second least favorite fish-surnamed outfielder in Angels history, would have been the fourth fastest pitch in the history of professional Japanese baseball. The pitch he would be surpassing, incidentally, was a 2014 offering by a 20 year old named Shohei Otani, firing his 128th pitch of the day to a three-time NPB all-star by the name of Dae-Ho Lee. Otani has since reached 162 km/h, or 100.7 mph, twice, and that mark stands as the fastest pitch ever seen in a NPB game. He is tied with another former MLB reliever who saw great success after washing out in the US, Marc Kroon. For context, here are a few pitches Arquimedes Caminero made last year.
Each of these 15 pitches from the future One Pitch Man of Yomiuri clocked in at 101 mph or faster. The average velocity of Caminero’s pitches was 98 mph, but his frequent ascension into triple digits all but assures that at some point next year, the new crown for the hardest throwing pitcher in Japanese history will be worn by a young man from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Throwing a pitch faster than anyone has before is not the typical goal of baseball. If you don’t have control or movement, your velocity will only bring you but so much success within the structure of baseball. Caminero could fall prey to the same struggles that have stalled his MLB career. The NPB is one of the strongest professional leagues in the world, and hitters won’t just roll over at his greatness. They will, however, have literally never seen the likes of him before. He will throw the hardest fastball in the history of an entire nation, and that is a success as soon as it leaves his fingertips. He will be the greatest, and if you can be that in any context, that’s worth celebrating. His potential has not been wasted.