August 7, 2011
Transaction Analysis Blog
Braves, Rays Make Rotation Moves
When Millwood jumped from the Yankees to the Red Sox in May, he figured the line awaiting entry to the major leagues would be shorter—he appears to have been wrong. The Red Sox have started 10 pitchers this season, including recent appearances by Kyle Weiland, Andrew Miller, and Erik Bedard, yet Millwood never seemed to be the next in line and it was difficult to tell if he was ever really in line to begin with.
Now Millwood will hit the open market again, but this time with better results. During his time with Pawtucket, he managed to fan nearly a batter per inning pitched while holding a 4.28 earned run average. That does not mean his stuff is playable in the major leagues, but if a team was willing to give him a go after his rough experiences in the Yankees farm system, then it figures some team will give him a shot now.
There goes one of the league’s six-man rotations, as Cobb left his Saturday night start early with discomfort in his throwing hand. Pitchers without frontline potential tend to get lost in the Rays organization, and Cobb lacks the stuff of a David Price or James Shields, the draft pedigree of a Jeff Niemann, or the prospect status of a Jeremy Hellickson or Wade Davis. What he did not lack, though, is results. In nine starts, he managed roughly six innings per, a 3.42 earned run average, and a 3.58 FIP—the third-best in the rotation.
The Rays went to a six-man rotation as a way to curb the innings of Hellickson, Price, and Shields, and it worked as a way to display Cobb to other teams. Tampa Bay is going to need a few upgrades between now and next season, and acquiring a good player is more likely through trade for them than through free agency. Cobb might appeal to teams more than Niemann or Davis because of his affordability and length of team control, but there is stuff to like about his pitching game besides those facets. He features strong secondary stuff, durability, and a stoic nature on the mound that draws comparisons to Hellickson.
Rather than rush top prospect Matt Moore to the show, the Rays will simply revert to a five-man rotation for now.
The extremity in negative reaction after a team loses a starter with a 2.63 earned run average is a good litmus test for how much pitching depth said team has. In the Braves case, nobody is (or should be) fretting about Jurrjens heading to the disabled list with a right knee strain. That isn’t a knock on Jurrjens, who is a good pitcher and one that any team would love to have as their fourth starter, but rather a testament to how stacked the Braves are with depth. Just take the ERA projections PECOTA is offering for Jurrjens (3.79) and Minor (3.89)—the difference over three or four starts is negligible.
Don’t take Minor’s 4.59 ERA in the majors this season seriously, as his peripherals suggest he pitched better than the results. Factor in Minor’s minor league dominance—he tossed 100 2/3 innings, fanned 99 batters, held a 3.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and posted a 3.13 ERA in Gwinnett—and there’s no reason he can’t make the projection hold up during Jurrjens’ absence. Minor will begin that attempt on Sunday with a start against the Mets.
Happ’s success with Philadelphia in 2009 never felt genuine. Here he was, a pitcher without much stuff, posting an earned run average that started with a two inside of a hitter’s paradise and without the peripherals to match. Reality has a way of catching up to pitchers like that, and it’s fair to say reality has lapped Happ once or twice this season already. Consider that the only pitcher with 30-plus innings and a worse FIP on the Astros this season is their Rule 5 pick from last winter, or that Happ allowed 110 runs over his first 289 innings as a major leaguer, but has allowed 92 runs in 119 innings this season. Because he is left-handed with a semblance of big league success, expect at least another opportunity or two to recapture the magic in his future.
Shuck is the most notable of the other moves, as he is another piece of the Astros youth movement. There are some things to like here, as Shuck has shown an ability to get on base (a career minor league on-base percentage of .384), but he hits for little power (seven minor league home runs, despite spending a good amount of time in the Pacific Coast League) and he lacks the defensive chops for center field. Shuck’s upside is probably as a fourth outfielder, which is something the Astros could use for the time being.
Baseball sometimes works in curious ways. A Tommy John surgery is what kept Eovaldi on the board for the Dodgers to snatch him in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, and a Tommy John surgery is what opens the door to a big league rotation for him, just over three years later. Eovaldi is well-built, at 6-foot-3, and can get his fastball into the upper 90s. He won’t turn 22 until next February, so the sky is usually the perceived limit for pitchers with that package, but it isn’t out of the question that he winds up in the bullpen.
Still, Eovaldi’s 2011 season has to be encouraging, as he managed his best strikeout rate in a season where he completed 90-plus innings pitched by fanning 99 batters in 103 innings at Chattanooga. He carried that same flair for strikeouts into his first major league start on Saturday, fanning seven Diamondbacks in five innings of work while walking just two and allowing four hits. If nothing else, Eovaldi should provide some excitement for Dodgers fans feeling the blues over De La Rosa’s injury.