Arms on the move, part oneby Harry Pavlidis
August 03, 2010
More than three dozen pitchers found themselves in new organizations during the final flurry of non-waiver trades. They comprise a cross-section of professional baseball: from established superstar to obscure prospect. The 40 names I found on the transaction wire landed among 21 organizations, with nine clubs somehow not finding a new pitcher within their fold after the dust settled on July 31.
All the pitchers discussed below were moved in a trade between July 25 and 31, the final week of the non-waiver trade period. This is part one of two; we'll fall just short of two dozen pitchers profiled today.
Dan Haren (Diamondbacks)
For all you need to know about Haren, I refer you to Mike Fast's recent article on the newest Halo starter. Haren's departure was one of the harbingers of a busy deadline period in Arizona. Another member of the D-Backs' rotation would be gone before long, and six new pitchers would be in the fold.
J.A. Happ (Phillies)
Mark Melancon (Yankees)
Happ takes over for some guy who used to drive a bulldozer, or something like that. He's a 6-foot-6 lefty coming off a solid rookie season and a forearm injury. Happ's walk rate shot up before he hit the DL, but he's been handing out free passes at an above-average clip since Triple-A.
Happ doesn't have strikeout stuff, featuring a 90 mph fastball, a low-80s change-up and slider and a curveball (74). He's also a mild flyball pitcher, something right-handed batters should find handy in the Minute Maid Park. Happ will turn 28 later this year, so he is smack in the middle of his prime.
The Yankees sent Melancon over in the Big Puma trade, giving the Astros a 25-year old groundball specialist. Melancon will battle his control, but he's throwing sinkers and four-seamers in the mid-90s with a low-to-mid-80s breaking ball (possibly two, a curve and a slider). He'll mix in some change-ups, but he's probably well-served attacking hitters with the power sinker. A reliever by trade, the 6-foot-2 right-hander could help Houston's bullpen sooner than later.
Kyle Farnsworth (Royals)
The Farns returns to Atlanta for a second playoff run, five years after another trade from the nether regions of the American League Central. Supposedly mellowed from his days in Chicago, Farnsworth is making full use of his arsenal in 2010. He's a power pitcher who could be described as a fastball/slider guy, but he's actually slider (86), cutter (90), sinker (94) and fastball (97).
Farnsworth can be an average ground ball pitcher, but he tends to slide into fly ball mode. That hasn't been his problem this year, but his control has declined a bit. I'm pretty sure he can still body slam and pummel Paul Wilson with ease.
Nick Greenwood (Padres)
Jake Westbrook (Indians)
When I heard about the three-way deal among San Diego, St. Louis and Cleveland, two thoughts ran through my head: Trading Ryan Ludwick doesn't seem to make sense, but acquiring Westbrook does. The Cardinals won't need to impart any new philosophies on this pitcher—he's a heavy user of both their favorite pitches.
Dave Duncan's newest advanced pupil throws a sinker (91) and a cutter (86), along with a change-up (80) and a curveball (80). As you'd expect, Westbrook is a groundball machine. He also doesn't walk or strike out many batters, but moving to baseball's weakest division will make pitching to contact a lot more fun for the former Indian.
Greenwood is another groundball pitcher. He's left-handed and just 22 years old. He's pitching in the Midwest League, but may not be far from moving to Advanced-A. He doesn't strike out a lot of hitters, but he's very stingy with the walks. What I can find about Greenwood (mostly via scout.com) isn't surprising—he's not a hard thrower, throws sinkers, change-ups and curveballs. Like Westbrook, Greenwood's acquisition is consistent with the St. Louis approach to pitching.
Kyle Smit (Dodgers)
Brett Wallach (Dodgers)
In a trade that wasn't about pitching for the North Siders, Smit and Wallach came in the Theriot/DeWitt/Lilly swap.
Smit has put up some ugly numbers in the minors, but he's been moved from starter to reliever and he's kicked it into gear. The Cubs sent him to Double-A, where he had been for less than a week as a Dodger. If his recent success holds up, he'll be a good find. During his 2010 stint in the Advanced-A California League, Smit was better than average in groundball, strikeout and walk rates.
Wallach's dad is none other than Tim Wallach of Expos fame. A year younger than Smit, he's just in his second year of pro ball, and it's been a lot of strikeouts and walks so far. The Cubs seem to like Wallach's makeup, but he's simply going to have to pitch better. A sinker/slider pitcher, Wallach's line drive rate in 2010 tells me he's struggling with his command. But that's reading tea leaves, and high walk rates.
D.J. Carrasco (Pirates)
Patrick Corbin (Angels)
David Holmberg (White Sox)
Daniel Hudson (White Sox)
Rafael Rodriguez (Angels)
Joe Saunders (Angels)
The past two years have been a crazy shuffle for Arizona pitching. To name a few, Max Scherzer out, Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson in. Now Jackson is out (see below) and young Mr. Hudson is in. And don't forget that their erstwhile ace, Dan Haren (see above), is out while Saunders of Anaheim is in.
Carrasco is a fun pitcher. A 33-year old veteran, he changes arm angles and speeds, throws a ton of cutters (88) and a bunch of sinkers (91). He mixes speeds and arm slots on his breaking stuff, giving hitters a look at everything from curveballs (75) to slurvey sliders (79). He'll also throw in some change-ups just below cutter speed (86). He'll struggle with his control—which isn't a shock given his approach and relief role—but when he's on he'll produce poor contact and a reasonable amount of missed bats.
After what looked like a poor run in rookie ball, Corbin's stock could be rising. Despite looking hittable, Corbin's walk and strikeout rates were good, especially the lack of free passes. Just past his 21st birthday, the 6-foot-3 southpaw doesn't have electric stuff, but his control has been impressive.
A 19-year-old lefty with what's already been described as a soft body, Holmberg was a second round pick in 2009. He's working as a starter in rookie ball, and neither walks nor strikes out many batters. I can't quite get a peg on his batted ball profile yet, which is no big deal. He's a long way away from making a splash with the big club, so there's plenty of time to gather data and reports.
While Corbin and Holmberg are a bevy of question marks, and Carrasco a middle-reliever, Hudson is a big ole chunk of upside. His first start as a Diamondback was an impressive eight-inning outing that included just one walk. Believe me, the lack of walks was noted by Chicago sports radio, who lamented his lack of control during his stints in the South Side rotation. Control was not a problem for Hudson in the minor leagues, which he's basically cruised through to the show, where he should stick at age 23.
Hudson has impressive stuff, a 93-94 mph fastball (and some sinkers), what I'll call a slutter (87) for now, a change-up (84) and a curveball (75). He should be a solid, bat-missing, pop-up inducing power pitcher. That's assuming he can bring consistent command of the zone to the majors full-time.
Along for the ride in all this is Rodriguez, who will remain in the Pacific Coast League for now. With some big league service time under his belt, he's still young,—only 25—so he doesn't have the experience of Carrasco. Rodriguez throws a 92 mph sinker from the right side and is a bona fide ground ball pitcher. Rodriguez doesn't miss many bats or walk many hitters. His secondary pitches are a hard change-up (87) and slider (88).
Adding Saunders to the rotation maintains a bit of a veteran presence, and a guy who can probably get 200 innings in a full season. Thing is, Saunders is an extreme pitch-to-contact guy with a mediocre ground ball rate. Sounds horrible for places like Phoenix or Denver, but okay in San Diego, San Francisco and Chavez Ravine. He's a well known commodity, a lefty who throws fastballs (two- and four-seams) around 91 mph, a sloppy curveball (77) and a good change-up (82). The latter is his saving grace.
Octavio Dotel (Pirates)
Ted Lilly (Cubs)
Around the time we're carving turkeys, Dotel will be celebrating his 37th birthday. And, no, we're not done with 30-something relievers unloaded by the Pirates last week. Dotel came up with the Mets in 1999 as a starter. By 2000, he was a reliever. Now he's on his ninth club.
Dotel has posted nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings over his career. He's done it with a fastball that still comes in at 93 mph with cut. He'll mix it up with an 80 mph curveball, some sinkers (92), sliders (82) and change-ups (82). But it's all about that hard, moving fastball. His game is all about air—bats swing through it unfettered (.300 whiff rate in the PITCHf/x era) and the skies high above the infield are a regular stop-over for balls that do manage to get themselves struck (his pop-up rate is 88 percent higher than league average since 2007). The other air that Dotel utilizes is beyond the reaches of the strike zone, which tends to put a damper on things.
It was tough to see Lilly leave town, but the word has come out—through the media and his neighbors—that he hopes to return in 2011. Lilly his known for his lack of velocity and his curveball. He shouldn't. Okay, the velocity is less than the lesser amount it used to be.
The curveball is my bone of contention. Take 2010 as an example: Through July 27, Lilly had thrown 847 four-seam fastballs (87 mph), 363 slider/slutter/cutters (81), 298 change-ups (78), 117 curveballs (71) and 47 two-seam sinkers (86). The curve is also Lilly's least effective pitch—save the sinker—by a long shot. Lilly fills the strike zone and gets an inordinate amount of fly balls. He'll also strike out more hitters than you may expect.
Ramon Ramirez (Red Sox)
Javier Lopez (Pirates)
Ramirez throws 93 to 94 mph, sometimes with sink, and has a nasty slider (88) and an ineffective change-up (88). His strikeout rate has been down over the past season and a half, but he has been avoiding the dreaded base on balls. Ramirez will be 29 this month, and looks to have found his ceiling in middle relief.
Joining Ram-Ram in middle relief will be our final thirty-something former Pirate, the side-arming Lopez. If you like soft-tossing left-handers with unconventional deliveries, Lopez is your man. If you like nothing but ground balls and walks, he's your best man. If you're lucky, he'll pile up nearly identical quantities of walks and strikeouts.
Corey Kluber (Padres)
Giovanni Soto (Tigers)
In a recent interview, John Coniff asked Kluber a question I wish more people asked.
When we hear the word fastball, it means so many things; four-seam, two-seam, cutter and sinker. What do you throw?
Kluber's response was straightforward and enlightening—see, it's not so bad to talk about stuff with pitchers!
I throw a four-seamer and two-seamer, along with a slider and change-up. In the past, I would only throw the two-seamer to the arm side of the plate but now I’m throwing it to my glove side too.
He didn't say "sinker," which fits his fly ball tendencies. He does strike out a lot of opponents, but has struggled with his control. 2010—his second and longest stint in the Texas League—has been impressive. The 6-foot-4 right hander is 24 years-old and might be a called-up by September 2011.
Soto is not the Cubs catcher, but a tall, skinny, left-handed teenager. Barely 19, he's a starter in the Midwest league. That's at least a couple years younger than most starters at that level. He's a groundball pitcher with above average strikeout and walk rates. His name is often spelled Geovany, but I believe Giovanni is the correct spelling, despite what's in the MLBAM database. However you spell his name, it will be interesting to see if Soto can continue to succeed as he grows and moves up—scouts and prospect watchers don't seem particularly sold on him despite his youth and numbers in Single-A.
Will Ohman (Orioles)
Omar Poveda (Rangers)
Evan Reed (Rangers)
Disclosure: I generally add the fictitious middle-name "Bad" to Ohman's moniker. It has to do with his days as a Cub.
An old, crafty lefty who's been picked up by the Marlins—who apparently have sought his services for some time now—Ohman keeps pumping an almost even mix of fastballs (91) and sliders (83), with the rare appearance of a change-up (84) or sinker (91). When not eating sunflower seeds in the bullpen, Will enjoys walking batters and creating jams. His ability to get ground balls seems to have returned from a five-year hiatus, but will that last long enough to make-up for the free passes?
To be filed under "longer-term projects", Poveda changes disabled lists in the midst of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The 22-year-old Venezuelan's strikeout rate plummeted in 2009, likely a bad omen that foretold his future surgery. See how I did that? Bad Ohman, bad omen. This is a long article, I have to make sure you're still awake.
Marc Hulet had this to say about Reed prior to the 2009 Arizona Fall League:
[N]abbed in the third round of the 2007 draft as a college reliever who was expected to make it to the majors quickly. However, the Rangers tried to make him a starter and that backfired in 2008 when he imploded.
As Hulet also points out, Reed's return to the bullpen—and repeat of the California League—put him back on track to being a big league set-up guy. Reed picks up a lot of strikeouts, but his walk rate takes a bite out of their value. Outside of his failed stint as a starter, Reed looks like an average-to-above-average groundball pitcher with a knack for getting popups.
Take a break, shake of the Bad Ohman jokes and meet me back here Friday morning with the rest of the bunch. Just 17 more to go!
References and Resources
PITCHf/x data from Sportvision and MLBAM, related pitch classifications by the author. Batted ball data from MLBAM. The scout.com network of sites was leaned upon heavily for information on prospects. Transactions from MLB.com.
Harry Pavlidis admits he has a baseball problem. He is the founder of Pitch Info LLC, His pitch classifications power the player cards at Brooksbaseball.net. Feedback, questions and comments are appreciated - Email email@example.com and Twitter @harrypav