Signed out of Venezuela in 2006 as an international free agent, the hard throwing 19 year old got his feet wet pitching in the Venezuelan Summer League. He got his first real taste of pro-ball in 2007 when the Sox would have him debut in rookie ball. Though he threw just 33 innings Infante showed he could be an effective strikeout pitcher, posting a 8.82K/9 mark - though he also displayed how incredibly raw he was, walking 6.15 per nine innings.
Following his debut year, Infante had a bit of a walk through the jungle. The fastball that carried him through the lower minors was no longer enough to get A-ball hitters to swing-and-miss the way they did in the Rookie Leagues. It was at that point that the Sox began to get him to work more extensively to develop his off-speed pitches, a curve ball that could flash plus and a changeup to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball.
Though he generates very good velocity, working in the 95-96mph range, Infante's delivery isn't by any means clean or particularly repeatable and it's manifested itself in continued control problems throughout his Minor League tenure. Still he pairs his hard fastball with a power curve in the 82mph range that gets good depth and a changeup he throws from 85-86 that has the solid velocity differential you want, but it's still a bit flatter than you'd like and he could stand to improve his arm speed on the pitch. Both pitches are the fruits of his labors in the minors and the product of his need to add something to continue his climb. He could still benefit from improved command on all three pitches, but working from the bullpen he should be able to mask that deficiency.
Finally in 2010, he had his break-through, lighting up both High-A and AA hitters and earning the aforementioned late-season call-up, and showing improved, more consistent command. He's likely never going to pitch with impeccable control, but the 4.00-range walk rates he showed in 2010 will give him a chance to be very effective out of a Major League bullpen.
Infante will enter the 2011 season at just 23 years old but he's fully equiped to succeed now. He's profiles a lot like current Sox reliever Sergio Santos going forward and should give the White Sox another young power arm they can throw out in the 7th and 8th innings. I worry about using pitchers like that as true setup men becasuse their control can leave them prone to giving up walks, or untimely passed balls when you really need to strand a runner at third. Still, I seem him being a very good option for the White Sox for many years to come.
Corey Ettinger is a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net and 312Sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog AL Central In Focus.