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In his latest piece for Fangraphs, Tony Blengino breaks down the Indians‘ pitching staff and why the team’s ERA has yet to live up to its peripheral stats. Blengino points out the lack of quality infield defenders as well as some difficulties in limiting contact that make it unlikely for Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister to live up to their own peripherals. Blengino concludes that while the staff is better than its 3.97 ERA, it’s not as good as its 3.40 FIP would indicate, and it isn’t good enough to save Cleveland from a mediocre defense and middling offense that ranks 12th in the AL in runs, 12th in OBP and last in slugging percentage.
More out of the AL Central…
- Scott Carroll, who is on the mound for the White Sox against the Cubs tonight, may not have been in the Majors were it not for a stroke of good luck, writes Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Carroll was home rehabbing from Tommy John surgery when he saw an “HBO Real Sports” special in which Steve Delabar explained how a weighted ball program saved his career following an injury. Carroll decided to try the program, and eight months removed from surgery, he had his fastball up to 94 mph.
- While many Tigers fans are calling for Corey Knebel to replace Phil Coke in the team’s bullpen, Chris Iott of MLive.com looks at why that’s unlikely at this time. While the club will likely have to switch to six right-handers eventually, it’s more likely that that scenario will happen when Joel Hanrahan is ready to join the team. Iott spoke with GM Dave Dombrowski, who said: “It is good for [Knebel} to continue his development. At this point, we have not discussed moving him, but that does not mean it cannot happen if we decide this is the best thing for him.”
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that the Twins never officially asked Matt Guerrier to move back his opt-out clause before selecting his contract today. Guerrier says that he’s very happy to be back with the Twins, with whom he spent the first six years of his career. “This is where I wanted to be,” said Guerrier.
New Cardinals prospect Aledmys Diaz participated in team drills with the club on Monday but will return to Mexico next week to receive a work visa that will allow him to compete in Spring Training games, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. GM John Mozeliak said the club will have Diaz focus on shortstop rather than trying to carve out a utility role. However, asked about the overlap between Diaz's contract and that of fellow offseason signee Jhonny Peralta, Mozeliak simply said, "Jhonny Peralta is our shortstop. We think he's really good."
Here's more from baseball's Central divisions…
- The Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel writes that the Cardinals were Missouri native Max Scherzer's dream team growing up. Scherzer told Hummel he always envisioned playing for the Cards as a kid, and he had the chance to do so when St. Louis drafted him in the 43rd round out of high school. However, Scherzer honored his commitment to Mizzou and now doesn't think about his old Cardinals aspirations: "The thing is that now I’ve gotten to the big leagues and I’m in this position, it’s really hard to still dream about that when you’ve got this clubhouse and you look around and see Miguel Cabrera. You see the talent here. This clubhouse can win and it’s so much fun. This is my dream now, playing with the Tigers."
- Left-hander Chris Capuano told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that the Twins showed some early interest in him, but that interest seemed to dry up after the team re-signed Mike Pelfrey in December (Twitter link).
- Indians manager Terry Francona spoke with reporters, including Zack Meisel of the Northeat Ohio Media Group, and said that he would be lying if he knew what the team's third base plans were this coming season. Reports have pegged Carlos Santana as uncomfortable at the position to date. Francona also said he thinks David Murphy will be an excellent addition to the team, adding that Cleveland was able to get him due to a down year in 2013: "If he would've had his normal year, he probably wouldn't have been as available."
- Phil Coke has struggled this spring, and this could be a big week for him, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. The Tigers can cut ties with Coke this week and only owe him $316K of the $1.9MM the two sides agreed to in arbitration. However, Beck expects Coke to hang around at least until the end of Spring Training; Detroit would only owe him $475K were they to cut him at that point. Detroit made a similar move with Brennan Boesch last spring, and Casey Crosby's return from injury gives the team another left-handed option out of the bullpen. MLive.com's Chris Iott also expects Coke to hang around beyond Wednesday's deadline.
11:49am: MLBDailyDish's Chris Cotillo tweets that Coke will receive a $1.9MM base salary and receive an additional $50K in bonuses for reaching 60, 65 and 70 appearances on the season, meaning he can earn a total of $2.05MM in 2014.
9:04am: The Tigers have avoided arbitration with left-hander Phil Coke by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract, the team announced on Twitter. Coke is represented by Full Circle Sports Management.
While terms of the deal have yet to surface, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected Coke to earn $2.1MM via arbitration this offseason. That salary was enough to make Coke a non-tender candidate in my mind, as he was coming off a difficult season and has long struggled against right-handed batters.
Coke posted a 5.40 ERA with 7.0 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 45.5 percent ground-ball rate in 2013. While he's normally been solid against lefties, they roughed him up to the tune of a .299/.345/.416 slash line this season. Coke has long struggled against right-handed batters, yielding a .298/.373/.435 batting line to those opponents.
The Tigers don't have much bullpen depth, however, and probably feel more comfortable gambling on Coke returning to form against fellow lefties than adding a free agent left-hander on a multiyear contract or a more lucrative one-year deal.
With just over a week to the trade deadline, there's still been only one significant move for a reliever — Boston's acquisition of Matt Thornton. Plenty of teams are on the lookout for bullpen help, however, including the Tigers, Red Sox, Braves, Diamondbacks and more. With a potential Jason Grilli injury last night, more bullpen rumors could begin to circulate. Here are the latest relief rumblings from around the baseball world…
- The Red Sox, Dodgers and Tigers are all keeping close tabs on Francisco Rodriguez, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. The Sox and Dodgers, in particular, were said by Crasnick to have scouts "all over" Rodriguez this week. Detroit, meanwhile, isn't as interested as it once was due to the strong recent performance of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly (Twitter links).
- Former closer Brian Wilson threw for Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen catcher Billy Hayes yesterday, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. The session was a personal favor to Wilson and not an indicator that a deal is coming, Baggarly writes. However, Wilson looked nearly Major League ready, and Baggarly feels that the willingness to afford Wilson this favor suggests that any ill will between the two sides following Wilson's offseason non-tender has subsided.
- The Braves continue to search for left-handed relief help, tweets Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio, who lists Oliver Perez, Mike Dunn, Glen Perkins, Scott Downs and James Russell as potential targets. Bowden notes that Perkins is unlikely, likely because of the numerous reports that the Twins won't move their closer.
- While the Twins aren't interested in moving Perkins, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves may have interest in another Minnesota lefty who may be available — Brian Duensing (Twitter link). Duensing has two years of team control remaining and will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason.
- One more note from Crasnick, who tweets that the Braves also checked in on Phil Coke in their quest for lefty relief help, but nothing came of the talks with the Tigers. Coke has had a brutal season because of overexposure against right-handed hitters, but he's held lefties to a .231/.271/.346 batting line.
- For more on the relief trade market, check out my examinations of the market for left-handed relievers and the market for right-handed relievers. Also, for all fantasy players out there, be sure to follow @closernews on Twitter to keep up to speed with closer injuries, performance, usage and more.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Atlanta Braves | Boston Red Sox | Brian Duensing | Brian Wilson | Chicago Cubs | Detroit Tigers | Francisco Rodriguez | Glen Perkins | James Russell | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Miami Marlins | Mike Dunn | Milwaukee Brewers | Minnesota Twins | Oliver Perez | Phil Coke | San Francisco Giants | Scott Downs | Seattle Mariners
Dozens of players will agree to terms with their respective teams today and avoid arbitration. We'll have detailed posts on the top earners around MLB, and we'll track more modest agreements — those worth less than $4MM — right here. MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker will have all of the details.
Teams had until 12pm CDT today to exchange filing numbers with their arbitration eligible players. Generally speaking the deadline creates lots of discussion and leads to early deals. Plus, for ‘file and trial’ teams this marks the final chance for negotiations in advance of a hearing. Here are the latest agreements from around MLB…
- The Padres announced that they have avoided arbitration with Edinson Volquez. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
- The Red Sox announced that they avoided arbitration with Andrew Bailey ($4.1MM), Daniel Bard ($1.8625MM), Andrew Miller ($1.475MM), and Franklin Morales ($1.4875MM). Terms courtesy of WEEI.com's Rob Bradford.
- The Mets and Bobby Parnell avoided arb with a $1.7MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
- The Red Sox avoided arbitration with Alfredo Aceves, agreeing to a deal worth $2.65MM plus incentives, according to O'Connell Sports Management, Aceves' agency (on Twitter via Jon Heyman).
- The Cubs avoided arbitration with James Russell and Jeff Samardzija, Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com reports (on Twitter). Samardzija obtains $2.64MM while Russell gets $1.075MM, Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com reports (on Twitter).
- The Diamondbacks announced that they avoided arbitration with Chris Johnson ($2.2875MM). The team also avoided arbitration with Brad Ziegler ($3.15MM), agreeing to a one-year deal, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports (on Twitter). Terms courtesy of Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter).
- The Nationals announced that they agreed to terms with Tyler Clippard, avoiding arbitration (via Amanda Comak on Twitter). The Nationals avoided arbitration with Ian Desmond, agreeing to a one-year, $3.8MM deal, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports (on Twitter). The Nationals also avoided arb with Roger Bernadina according to the outfielder's agent, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports (on Twitter). The Nationals and Ross Detwiler agreed to a one-year, $2.3375MM contract, according to CAA (via Twitter).
- Brennan Boesch and Phil Coke avoided arbitration, agreeing to one-year deals with the Tigers, Jason Beck of MLB.com reports (on Twitter). Boesch will earn $2.3MM while Coke will earn $1.85MM. The Tigers also avoided arbitration with Alex Avila, agreeing to a one-year, $2.95MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (all Twitter links). Austin Jackson agreed to a deal worth $3.5MM for 2013, Heyman reports. Doug Fister obtained a one-year, $4MM deal from Detroit, Heyman reports.
- The Dodgers and A.J. Ellis avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $2MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Ronald Belisario agreed to a one-year, $1.45MM deal, MLB.com's Ken Gurnick reports (on Twitter).
- The Mariners announced that they avoided arbitration with Kendrys Morales and Brendan Ryan on one-year agreements for 2013. Morales will obtain $5.25MM plus performance bonuses, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Ryan obtained $3.25MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- The Rockies avoided arb with Tyler Colvin, agreeing to a one-year deal, the team announced (on Twitter). Colvin will earn $2.275MM, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes (on Twitter).
- The Braves avoided arbitration with Cristhian Martinez, agreeing to a one-year deal, MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports (on Twitter). The Braves avoided arb with Kris Medlen, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports (on Twitter). Medlen will earn $2.6MM in 2013. They also avoided arb with Jason Heyward, agreeing to a one-year, $3.65MM deal, Bowman reports (onTwitter). The Braves agreed with another young player, avoiding arb with Jonny Venters, O'Brien reports (on Twitter). It's a $1.625MM deal. Earlier today the Braves agreed to a one-year deal with Eric O'Flaherty, avoiding arbitration, Bowman reported (on Twitter). He'll earn $4.32MM plus awards bonuses, Bowman adds.
- The Athletics announced they avoided arb with Jerry Blevins and Brandon Moss, agreeing to one-year deals for 2013.
- The Cardinals avoided arb with Mitchell Boggs and Edward Mujica, B.J. Rains of FOX Sports MidWest reports (on Twitter).
- The Indians announced that they avoided arb with Matt Albers and Justin Masterson. Albers will earn $1.75MM in 2013, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports (on Twitter). Masterson will earn $5.6875MM according to Bastian (on Twitter). The Indians and Joe Smith avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.15MM deal, Bastian reported earlier today (on Twitter). The Indians also avoided arbitration with Lou Marson, Bastian reports (Twitter links). The catcher will earn $1MM on a one-year deal in 2013.
- The Astros avoided arb with Wesley Wright, agreeing to a one-year deal, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports (on Twitter). Wright will earn $1.025MM, according to Heyman (on Twitter). Earlier today the Astros and Bud Norris avoided arb with a one-year, $3MM deal, McTaggart reports (on Twitter). The Astros and Jed Lowrie avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.4MM deal with awards bonuses, according to his representatives at CAA Baseball (on Twitter).
- The White Sox announced that they avoided arbitration with Alejandro De Aza, agreeing to a $2.075MM deal for 2013. The White Sox also avoided arb with Gordon Beckham, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.925MM for 2013, MLBTR has learned.
- The Orioles announced that they avoided arb with Chris Davis and Brian Matusz (Twitter link). Matusz gets a base salary of $1.6MM while Davis gets $3.3MM, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (Twitter links). The Orioles also avoided arbitration with Troy Patton. The sides agreed to a one-year, $815K deal, his agency, CAA Sports, announced on Twitter.
- The Brewers avoided arb with right-hander Marco Estrada and reliever Burke Badenhop, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Estrada will earn $1.955MM while Badenhop will earn $1.55MM, Haudricourt reports.
- The Rays avoided arbitration with Matthew Joyce and Ryan Roberts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (on Twitter). Joyce will earn $2.45MM and Roberts will earn $2.95MM plus incentives, the Rays announced. The Rays also avoided arbitration with Sam Fuld, agreeing to a one-year, $725K deal, Topkin reported (on Twitter). Earlier today the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeff Niemann. The sides agreed to a one-year, $3MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
- The Royals announced that they avoided arbitration with Luke Hochevar, agreeing to a one-year deal for 2013. Hochevar will earn $4.56MM plus performance bonuses, Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star reports (on Twitter).
- The Yankees avoided arb with Boone Logan, agreeing to a one-year, $3.15MM deal (via CAA Sports on Twitter).
- The Padres avoided arb with John Baker, agreeing to a $930K deal (via CAA Sports on Twitter).
- The Twins and Brian Duensing avoided arb with a $1.3MM deal for 2013 (via CAA Sports on Twitter).
- The Marlins avoided arbitration with Ryan Webb, agreeing to a $975K deal, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (on Twitter).
- The Blue Jays announced that they avoided arbitration with Emilio Bonifacio by agreeing to a one-year, $2.6MM deal. The Blue Jays also announced that they avoided arbitration with J.A. Happ, agreeing to a one-year, $3.7MM deal for 2013.
- The Angels and Tommy Hanson avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.725MM deal, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.
- The Giants avoided arb with Gregor Blanco, agreeing to a one-year, $1.35MM deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
- The Phillies announced that they avoided arbitration with Antonio Bastardo with a $1.4MM contract for 2013.
- Gaby Sanchez and the Pirates have reached agreement on a one-year, $1.75MM deal plus bonuses to avoid arbitration, according to the Beverly Hills Sports Council (on Twitter).
Full Story | Comments | Categories: A.J. Ellis | Alejandro De Aza | Alex Avila | Alfredo Aceves | Andrew Bailey | Andrew Miller | Antonio Bastardo | Arizona Diamondbacks | Atlanta Braves | Austin Jackson | Baltimore Orioles | Bobby Parnell | Boone Logan | Boston Red Sox | Brad Ziegler | Brandon Moss | Brennan Boesch | Brian Duensing | Brian Matusz | Bud Norris | Burke Badenhop | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Chris Davis | Chris Johnson | Cleveland Indians | Colorado Rockies | Cristhian Martinez | Daniel Bard | Detroit Tigers | Doug Fister | Edinson Volquez | Edward Mujica | Emilio Bonifacio | Eric O'Flaherty | Franklin Morales | Gaby Sanchez | Gordon Beckham | Gregor Blanco | Houston Astros | Ian Desmond | J.A. Happ | Jason Heyward | Jed Lowrie | Jeff Niemann | Jeff Samardzija | Jerry Blevins | Joe Smith | Josh Thole | Justin Masterson | Kansas City Royals | Kendrys Morales | Kris Medlen | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Lou Marson | Luke Hochevar | Matt Albers | Matt Joyce | Miami Marlins | Milwaukee Brewers | Minnesota Twins | Mitchell Boggs | New York Mets | New York Yankees | Oakland Athletics | Phil Coke | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | Roger Bernadina | Ronald Belisario | Ross Detwiler | Ryan Roberts | Sam Fuld | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Seattle Mariners | St. Louis Cardinals | Tampa Bay Rays | Tommy Hanson | Toronto Blue Jays | Transactions | Troy Patton | Tyler Clippard | Tyler Colvin | Washington Nationals
In advance of tomorrow's 11am central time deadline to exchange arbitration figures, settlements will be rolling in today. Follow all of the action with MLBTR's arbitration tracker. The latest for players under $4MM:
- The Braves and Eric O'Flaherty avoided arbitration, Mark Bowman of MLB.com tweets. O'Flaherty will earn $2.49MM, just shy of his projected $2.6MM salary.
- The Orioles and Jim Johnson have avoided arbitration, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. The right-hander will earn $2.625MM in 2012, just north of his projected $2.5MM salary.
- The Red Sox avoided arbitration with Franklin Morales, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets. The left-hander had a projected salary of $1MM and agreed to an $850K deal.
- The Rays avoided arbitration with J.P. Howell, agreeing to a $1.35MM deal for 2012, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. Matt Swartz had projected a $1.4MM salary for the left-hander.
- The Royals avoided arbitration with Chris Getz, agreeing to a $967,500 deal for 2012, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. Matt Swartz had projected a $1.2MM salary for the infielder.
- The Nationals announced they've avoided arbitration with catcher Jesus Flores. Flores, who is represented by Praver/Shapiro, received $815K, MLBTR has learned.
- The Brewers avoided arbitration with outfielder Nyjer Morgan, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The ACES client received $2.35MM, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
- The Royals announced they've avoided arbitration with catcher Brayan Pena, a client of Wasserman Media Group. Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star says the deal is worth $875K; Matt Swartz had him at $900K.
- Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day avoided arbitration for a deal worth $1.35MM, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Matt Swartz had projected the same for the Beverly Hills Sports Council client.
- Yankees righty Phil Hughes agreed to a deal worth $3.2MM plus performance bonuses, tweets his agency CAA. The 25-year-old gets a $500K raise after a lost 2011 season.
- The Tigers announced they've avoided arbitration with lefty Phil Coke. Coke, a client of Full Circle Sports Management, gets a $1.1MM base salary with $50K in incentives for appearances or starts, MLBTR has learned.
- The Angels avoided arbitration with infielder Alberto Callaspo, signing him to a one-year deal worth $3.15MM, tweets ESPN's Keith Law. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz nailed this one, projecting a $3.1MM salary. Callaspo, a client of Eric Goldschmidt, received a $1.15MM raise for his second time through arbitration.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Alberto Callaspo | Atlanta Braves | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Brayan Pena | Chris Getz | Darren O'Day | Detroit Tigers | Eric O'Flaherty | Franklin Morales | J.P. Howell | Jesus Flores | Jim Johnson | Kansas City Royals | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Milwaukee Brewers | New York Yankees | Nyjer Morgan | Phil Coke | Phil Hughes | Tampa Bay Rays | Transactions | Washington Nationals
It seems like MLB teams, even good ones, are always on the hunt for starting pitching. The Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, Cardinals and Diamondbacks acquired starting pitching at the trade deadline and other contenders inquired on starters before moving on to other targets.
Quality starting pitching is scarce and expensive so teams sometimes convert relievers to the rotation in case they can add value as starters. Here's a look at the four converted relievers have who started extensively in 2011. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando, Rangers - What a find for the Rangers. Ogando has a 2.88 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 125 innings as a starter. The converted outfielder has averaged 94.8 mph with his fastball, but it's hard not to wonder if he'll tire toward the end of the season. Ogando's previous professional high in innings is 70 2/3.
- Phil Coke, Tigers – Coke lost his rotation spot midway through the season after posting a 4.91 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 77 innings. The left-hander was solid in April and May, but put together a string of ugly outings in June and is now pitching out of the 'pen again.
- Kyle McClellan, Cardinals – McClellan, who replaced the injured Adam Wainwright, lost his rotation spot when St. Louis acquired Edwin Jackson. McClellan returns to the bullpen after posting a respectable 4.21 ERA in 104 2/3 innings from the rotation.
- Phil Humber, White Sox – The 28-year-old former third overall pick has a 3.44 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 117 2/3 innings. Though his last three starts haven't been pretty, Humber's emergence allowed the White Sox to part with Jackson last week.
From the moment they're drafted to the day they retire, starting pitchers are generally more highly coveted than relievers. They're selected earlier on draft day, they earn more in arbitration and they sign more lucrative free agent contracts. There are exceptions of course: Drew Storen was a first rounder, Jonathan Papelbon earned nearly $30MM through arbitration and most starters would love to match Mariano Rivera's free agent earning power. But for the most part, teams invest more in starters.
So when a rotation opening emerges or a pitcher is particularly impressive out of the 'pen, baseball officials are often tempted to convert relievers into starters. This year has been no exception, so let's take another look at converted relievers. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando, Rangers – Ogando has been tremendous for the Rangers. The converted outfielder has a 2.86 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 97 2/3 innings. His ground ball rate has dropped to 36.3%, yet his average fastball velocity is impressively high at 94.7 mph. After successfully converting C.J. Wilson in 2010 and Ogando this year, will Texas move Neftali Feliz to the rotation in 2012?
- Phil Coke, Tigers – Coke lost his rotation spot last week after posting a 4.91 ERA with 4.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 77 innings. The left-hander was solid in April and May, but put together a string of ugly outings in June.
- Kyle McClellan, Cardinals – McClellan, who is replacing the injured Adam Wainwright, has a 4.27 ERA with 4.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 through 90 2/3 innings. McClellan's ERA has jumped two runs this year and he has already set a career-high in innings pitched. He has not surpassed 100 innings since he was a starter in the Midwest League seven years ago.
- Phil Humber, White Sox – It took a while, but Humber is finally putting it together in the Major Leagues. The former third overall pick has a 2.69 ERA with 5.5 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 46.1% ground ball rate in 103 2/3 innings. Even if Humber's ERA rises – his peripheral stats suggest it will – the White Sox have found themselves a valuable arm.
Converting relievers to starters is potentially rewarding, but difficult to do, as the Rangers have shown in the past 13 months. Last year, they converted C.J. Wilson to the rotation and saw him blossom into a dependable starter who posted a 3.35 ERA, logged over 200 innings and started a World Series game. This year, they attempted to convert 2010 AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz to the rotation, but returned him to the bullpen before the season began.
Here’s the latest on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year, including one player who sat in the bullpen with Feliz last year and now pitches in the rotation along with Wilson. None of the pitchers below had more than two MLB starts to his name before the 2011 season and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Alexi Ogando – A former minor league outfielder, Ogando is accustomed to making major adjustments as a pro player. He has allowed 19 hits and 8 walks in 31 1/3 innings, striking out 21. His 2.30 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and average fastball velocity of 94.3 mph are impressive and he has even lowered his walk rate to 2.3 BB/9. But opponents are hitting just .165 against him on balls in play, an indication that he's not quite this good.
- Phil Coke - Coke has allowed 27 hits and 12 walks in 30 innings this year and his strikeout rate has dropped from 7.4 K/9, where it stayed for 2009-10, to 5.1 K/9. Coke's 4.50 ERA is acceptable for a fifth starter if he can keep it there and his peripheral stats suggest he can.
- Kyle McClellan - McClellan has a 3.23 ERA and a spotless 4-0 record despite peripheral stats (5.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 10.0 H/9, 4.32 FIP, 4.34 xFIP) that suggest the early returns are not sustainable. Even so, McClellan's 48% ground ball rate should allow him to remain the Cardinals' fifth starter, which is all they wanted in the first place.
- Phil Humber - The third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Humber had not come close to putting it together in the majors until last year. Now a starter for the first time in his MLB career, Humber is pitching for his fifth organization in as many years. So far, the results have been tremendous. He has a 3.06 ERA through five starts with a 21K/8BB ratio. Opponents have been unlucky against Humber on balls in play, and only 5% of their fly balls have left the yard, so that 3.06 ERA may climb closer to 4.00. Still, Humber looks like one of the shrewdest waiver claims of the winter.
Here are a few miscellaneous signings from around the league…
- The Tigers have agreed to terms with eight pre-arbitration-eligible players according to MLB.com's Jason Beck. The only big leaguer of the bunch is left-hander Phil Coke, who received $425K. The other seven players are minor league prospects.
- Senior Director of Social Media Alyson Footer tweets that the Astros have agreed to terms with a pair of pre-arb players. Outfielder Jason Bourgeois gets $424K, right-hander Aneury Rodriguez $413K. Houston acquired Rodriguez in this offseason's Rule 5 Draft.
- The Diamondbacks have signed Robby Hammock to a minor league contract according to MLB.com's Steve Gilbert. Hammock, 33, spent the 2010 season in the Yankees' minor league system, hitting .233/.341/.370 in 85 plate appearances while battling injury. He played with the D'Backs from 2003 through 2008, and has experience at catcher, first base, third base, and the corner outfield spots.