June 22, 2010
Andy Oliver To Replace Porcello?
Rick Porcello was demoted to Triple-A over the weekend to work on his slider and recapture the success he found in his rookie season, but the Tigers did not call up a starter to replace him. Enrique Gonzalez was considered a possibility, but it appears the Tigers may go a different route and call up left-handed pitching prospect Andy Oliver instead.
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted earlier today that a source said Oliver would get the start Friday against the Atlanta Braves. Oliver was a three-star prospect, ranked #5 in the system (and #3 amongst pitchers) heading into the season, with a somewhat unsure future. He had the stuff and potential to be an above-average starter in the majors, but could just as easily become a late-inning reliever. His fastball is there—he hits 93-96 as a southpaw, which is rare, but his slider doesn't complement it very well, leaving him as more of a bullpen looking arm.
This hasn't hurt him at Double-A yet, as the 6-3 lefty has whiffed 8.2 batters per nine in his 77 1/3 innings there. He's also allowing 0.8 homers per nine there, which is not bad but given it's Double-A, could be a problem when he makes the jump to the majors, at least initially (his G/F ratio is 0.8, so he's a severe flyball pitcher).
Oliver was drafted last year, which is why at 22-years old he hasn't made his debut for the Tigers yet, but if he is called up for a start this weekend, they're showing a lot of confidence in him like they have for many other pitching prospects over the years. The difference being, of course, that Oliver's ceiling is nowhere near as high as that of Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, or even a pre-injury Jeremy Bonderman.
He may be more appealing than other options though, as pitchers like the aforementioned Gonzalez are more like replacement level quality, and the goal here is just to have someone pitch a bit better than Porcello's level while the young right-hander sorts out his troubles in the minors. Oliver's fantasy value may not be very high given this particular situation—he hasn't been to Triple-A yet, so we're not 100 percent on how much his strikeout, walk and homer rates will suffer by skipping a level and hitting the majors with such limited experience (Oliver doesn't even have a PECOTA forecast on the website or in our annual, which has 1,600 player projections)—but in deep AL-only leagues, he may be worth a look.
If we get word that Oliver is officially called up, we'll let you know via an update