How did Josh Stinson get to the big leagues?

Do you ever look at a major league roster and wonder how so-and-so got there? For me this is usually accompanied by angrily mumbling the names of 10 Triple-A players who deserve the spot more than so-and-so, and today that so-and-so is Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Josh Stinson, who will start today against Toronto.

Just how Stinson became a major leaguer, let alone a starting pitcher, is sort of baffling. Stinson was drafted by the New York Mets in the 37th round of the 2006 draft out of high school in Louisiana. A righty with a big frame (6-foot-4, 210 pounds), Stinson worked his way up the minor league ladder, dabbling in the bullpen and as a starter and maintaining mediocre to solid numbers. When I did a list of the best Mets prospects back in 2009, Stinson couldn’t crack the Top 40 (or the honorable mentions).

Stinson eventually hit Double-A Binghamton in 2010, still splitting time starting and relieving, and found success: a 4.24 ERA and 9-3 record overshadowed a poor 68:50 K:BB ratio in ~110 innings. This earned him a brief trip to Triple-A Buffalo, where he had some of his best outings yet, finishing with a 2.57 ERA (despite a 4.88 FIP) in just 28 innings. This earned him a trip back to Buffalo for 2011, and there his poor K:BB finally haunted him: he posted a 7.44 ERA and walked more batters than he struck out in ~61 innings before he got sent back down to Binghamton.

He improved significantly at Double-A, lowering his FIP to 3.09 by striking out 39 in ~47 innings. When the rosters expanded in September, the Mets rewarded Stinson with a call-up to the big leagues, willing to take a shot given their poor record and even worse bullpen. Stinston started out hot, not giving up an earned run in his first five appearances. Eventually he got hit hard, and in 13 innings finished with a 6.92 ERA, despite a respectable 4.41 FIP (4.57 xFIP). Here was one big league scouting report on him:

And while he didn’t quite put up the prettiest numbers in Queens—or in Buffalo for that matter—the 6’4″ righty did showcase the kind of stuff that gives him every chance to stick in the Met ‘pen long-term. Namely, Stinson features an excellent hard-sinking fastball which he can regularly dial up to the mid-90’s when he pitches in short spurts. While his secondary offerings—namely a slider/curve mix—are rather pedestrian, his fastball alone has driven superb ground ball rates at virtually every level.

As the 2012 season was set to begin, Stinson was placed on waivers by the Mets and claimed by Milwaukee, who sent him to Double-A Huntsville. Stinson primarily started (24 times in 29 appearances), but a 3.16 ERA in ~145 innings looked prettier than his underlying stats reveal; he still was walking too many (4.40/9) and striking out too few (5.64/9). Still, the Brewers called him up for some coffee at the end of the year, and in 9.1 innings he held a 0.96 ERA despite terrible 5.79 xFIP.

This past March, Stinson was claimed off waivers by the A’s, who quickly put him on waivers again. He got snagged by Baltimore. After two starts in Triple-A (where he had a 0.77 ERA and 7.71:3.09 K:BB ration in 11.2 innings), Stinson got his first early season call to the majors. He’ll pitch for Baltimore this afternoon.

The book is still completely out on Stinson, but at 25 and with plenty of high-level playing experience, the numbers just don’t look good. Despite decent stuff, Stinson does not miss bats and walks far too many. Steamer currently has him projected for a 5.04 ERA and 4.84 FIP, which are both below replacement level. We’ll see how his first outing goes today.

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