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July 6, 2011

Transaction Analysis Blog

The Cubs Find Another Starter

by R.J. Anderson

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Baltimore Orioles
Placed OF-L Luke Scott on the 15-day disabled list. [7/5]
Recalled RHP Mitch Atkins from Triple-A Norfolk. [7/5]

Although there were no sure indications that the Orioles were looking to move Scott, his right shoulder and knee injuries could kill whatever trade interest existed. It’s not quite the David DeJesus situation all over again, as Scott might return in time to prove his health, but no team wants to see one of its most tradable assets lost at this phase of the game. There is the potential for a positive development, though, as Nolan Reimold will receive more time in left field. Reimold has hit .271/.362/.492 in 69 plate appearances for the Orioles this season. The hourglass on Reimold’s prospective career in Baltimore was beginning to run low, however this opportunity could be just the thing to flip it right side up again.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Chicago Cubs
Purchased the contract of RHP Ramon Ortiz from Triple-A Iowa. [7/5]
Optioned RHP Casey Coleman to Triple-A Iowa. [7/5]
Recalled RHP Chris Carpenter from Triple-A Iowa. [7/5]
Placed RHP Marcos Mateo on the 15-day disabled list. [7/5]

Ortiz struck out seven Nationals in six innings of work on Tuesday, which marked his start since the 2010 season started. That’s an impressive total, given that Ortiz went the entire 2008 and 2009 seasons without appearing in the major leagues. Another impressive total is 10, which is the number of pitchers who have made a start for the Cubs this season. With such luminaries as Casey Coleman, Doug Davis, and Rodrigo Lopez included, it is not a stunning turn of events to find out that the Cubs have the lowest rate of quality starts in the league, at just 38 percent of their starts. The Orioles, who have the second-lowest rate, are at 43 percent.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Colorado Rockies
Recalled 3B-L Ian Stewart from Triple-A Colorado Springs. [7/5]
Optioned OF-R Cole Garner to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [7/5]

Stewart’s season has been impossible to figure out. The Rockies sent him to the minors after reaching base four times in his first 28 plate appearances before he found himself back in the majors come May. After another 24 plate appearances, again with four reaches, Stewart headed back to Colorado Springs. All the while, Stewart’s OPS in the minors this season is nearing 940. There has been talk about a swing change—and some have opined that Stewart needs an attitude adjustment—but the bottom line is that Stewart needs to get back to hitting the ball as he did between 2008-2010, otherwise, the Rockies will have to move on without him.

For Garner’s part, he made his major league debut on July 4 and received one at-bat before heading back to the minors. Not only were Stewart and Garner both drafted in 2003, but the pair also attended the same high school, thus adding to the twinge of awkwardness.  

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Washington Nationals
Designated RHP Collin Balester for assignment. [7/5]
Recalled LHP Ross Detwiler from triple-A Syracuse. [7/5]

In 2008, Kevin Goldstein ranked Detwiler and Balester as two of the four best pitching prospects in the Nationals system. Detwiler, the Nats first-round pick in 2007, looked like a safe bet to become an above-average starter. He threw from the left side with a good, sinking fastball, had the body to project more weight onto, clean mechanics, and even good command. There was a chance Detwiler could develop into a star, or at least a front of the rotation option.

Four-plus years later, Detwiler has made 20 major league starts and has just over 100 innings thanks to a torn hip labrum and slow recovery. Detwiler’s return comes after an unimpressive 87 1/3 innings pitched in Triple-A this season. With the Nats rotation stretched thin after a doubleheader on Saturday, the team decided to give Detwiler a spot start, in which he turned in 5 1/3 innings of work, allowing four hits, two runs, and fanning one in a winning effort against the Cubs.

Always lacking the potential for stardom that made Detwiler special, Balester was one without a real strength or weakness, which left him with middle-to-end of the rotation starter aspirations. Uninspiring pitching in the high minors forced the Nationals to move Balester to the bullpen—a transition that he struggled with throughout 2010—and his work in Triple-A this season has been encouraging. Still, with the ceiling of a middle reliever, the Nationals felt no obligation to keep Balester on the 40-man roster, whether another team wants to give a fresh arm a shot is to be determined.


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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