The D-backs are in agreement on a minor league contract with right-hander Brian Ellington, reports Zach Buchanan of The Athletic (Twitter link). The MVP Sports client was released by the Marlins earlier this month. Buchanan notes that he’s working his way back from a biceps injury and, as such, as not yet been assigned to a minor league affiliate with the Snakes.
Ellington, 27, is one of the hardest-throwing relievers in baseball, having averaged a blistering 98.1 mph on his heater in 77 2/3 innings from 2016-17 with Miami. Control has been a longstanding issue for the former 16th-round pick, however, as he’s walked 64 batters, hit 10 more and uncorked eight wild pitches in 102 2/3 innings at the big league level.
Early in his career, Ellington’s strikeout rate didn’t match up with what one might expect from a pitcher with that type of velocity, though his ability to miss bats has trended upward over the past couple of seasons. Last year, he averaged 9.7 K/9 in 44 2/3 innings to go along with a hearty 12.6 percent swinging-strike rate, but he also averaged 7.1 walks per nine innings pitched.
About three quarters of Ellington’s offerings are fastballs, with only occasional deviations from the heater for a curveball and an even more seldom-used changeup. Last year’s uptick in strikeouts was accompanied by a massive spike in walk rate and a significant dip in his chase rate, but if Ellington (once healthy) can cut his walks back to 2016 levels (4.4 BB/9) and maintain any of the gains he made in terms of missed bats, he’d seemingly be a nice bullpen piece. That’s easier said than done, of course, and the immediate focus for both team and player will be more on his health than anything else.