In a Fangraphs post on February 17th, Joe Pawlikowski asked, “Why Hasn’t Kiko Calero Signed Yet”? The answer that came back dealt with Calero’s health, as he had missed basically all of 2008 and parts of the last three seasons due to injuries, mostly involving his right arm/shoulder. Still, THT Fantasy’s Satchel Price was wondering the same thing as Joe in January, saying:
While teams have certainly shown some clear improvement in their ability to evaluate and properly allocate payroll space relief pitchers, it seems that some relievers are still falling through the cracks. In a market that’s been leaning towards the buyer’s all winter, it appears that there are still some major bargains to be had. Even factoring in the injury risk, Calero seems to be at or near the top of that list.
Well, Joe and Satchel should be pleased to know that the Mets have inked Kiko to a minor league deal that will earn him $850k if he makes the major league team, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t:
Calero has had shoulder issues for a big portion of his career. More recently, he tore his right rotator cuff in 2007, missed more than 50 games because of the injury in ’08, then was out of action for 18 games last year because of inflammation in the shoulder.
For the record, Calero said his shoulder now feels “great.” And he agreed that this was a frustrating offseason.
“Yeah, it was frustrating, because last year was my best year, but I had to wait until two weeks after Spring Training started [to sign],” Calero said.
Kiko isn’t lying. To support his gaudy 1.95 ERA, Calero posted a 2.56 FIP, 3.92 xFIP, 2.29 tERA (!), and 1.36 WPA. And how does he get it done? Here’s our own Harry Pavlidis to answer:
Calero’s stuff isn’t overwhelming, although his slurve looks nice. His fastball averages around 89 mph, his slurve 80, his “slow slider” averages 59, and the change-up around 84. That change may be nothing more than a slightly throttled two-seamer, a la Randy Johnson…Keeping the ball away from lefties worked out very well. Of the 32 fly balls Calero gave up when facing a left-handed hitter, 6 were pulled, 14 hit to center and 12 the other way. He was 22, 29, 22 against righties.
Calero threw his slider 54.4% of the time last year and it was 8.9 runs above average. It’s a nasty pitch, but his overall success relies heavily on how his fastball is complimenting it. While Calero’s heater was 4.7 runs above average in 2009, it was -6.4 runs below average entering last season, and usually sits in the upper 80’s.
Finally, let’s see what the experts say about Kiko in 2010:
CHONE: 3.72 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 1.79 K/BB
Bill James: 3.38 ERA, 3.47 FIP, 2.23 K/BB
Marcel: 3.60 ERA, 3.76 FIP, 2.04 K/BB
THT Forecast: 4.33 ERA, 1.72 K/BB, 0.6 WAR
Not bad at all for a guy signed to a minor league contract. With Kelvim Escobar injured and Sean Green coming off a down year, Calero may not only make the team but find himself in lots of eighth innings behind K-Rod. Let’s give Omar Minaya credit where it’s due. On the surface, this looks like a potential steal for the Mets.