We checked in yesterday on the position players that have carved out major roles despite signing minor-league deals over the winter. Today, we’ll turn to the hurlers, where it’s generally more difficult — but hardly impossible — to find serviceable assets in the rotation than in the bullpen.
These pitchers have to this point filled rotation slots with their organizations despite inking non-roster deals entering the season (presented by order of innings pitched):
- Tyson Ross, Padres: Thus far, Ross has been a jackpot signing for the Pads. He won’t be cheap if he keeps performing, as his deal includes a base salary of $1.75MM with another $4.25MM in potential incentives, but that’s still plenty reasonable given what Ross has shown thus far. The 31-year-old has rediscovered much of his pre-injury ability to miss bats and currently owns a 3.28 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, and a 47.3% groundball rate through 35 2/3 innings. Oh, and he very nearly threw a no-hitter.
- Bartolo Colon, Rangers: The ageless wonder was just named the Rangers’ player of the month, if you’re looking for a concise explanation of how things are going for both player and team. He’s allowing less than a walk per nine while carrying a .225 BABIP-against. That’s not really sustainable, but while Statcast suggests some good fortune, it also indicates that Colon is legitimately drawing poor contact (.251 wOBA vs. .326 xwOB).
- Derek Holland, Giants: Though he’s coughing up 5.76 earned runs per nine and has only averaged five innings in his five outings, Holland is filling an important need for the Giants and has probably thrown better than the results. He owns a 25:11 K/BB ratio, after all, and fielding-independent pitching metrics value him as a more serviceable hurler thus far (4.57 FIP, 4.61 xFIP, 4.33 SIERA). Holland can earn up to $4MM if he reaches all his incentives.
- Jeremy Hellickson, Nationals: After signing late and getting up to speed, Hellickson has stepped into the Nats rotation and been a useful fifth starter. He’s not getting many strikeouts, and his FIP numbers look more like Holland’s, but he has worked to a 4.11 ERA over 15 1/3 innings. Unless injury or a trade acquisition intervened, Hellickson will have a chance to maintain his role. He’s earning $2MM with another $4MM possible via incentive pay.
- Anibal Sanchez, Braves: Sanchez spent camp with the Twins after agreeing to a non-guaranteed MLB deal. He collected the portion that was guaranteed when he was released late in camp and shortly thereafter joined the Braves on a minors arrangement. While he’s currently working back from the DL, and will need to hold off impressive youngster Mike Soroka and others, Sanchez has been rather impressive in Atlanta. He has allowed just two earned runs in 14 innings while recording 14 strikeouts and six walks, with a swinging-strike rate (11.2%) that sits near his career peak.
A few other minor-league signees have taken starts, such as Miguel Gonzalez, but no others have produced useful results over a relatively sizable number of innings. That could still change, of course. Wade Miley is up for the Brewers, while Brett Anderson is slated to take the hill for Oakland tonight. A few other hurlers — Kris Medlen is a candidate to step up for the D-backs next week — could press for rotation opportunities before long.