Much of the heavy lifting has been done in free agency. But there are still a few major players, a host of solid veterans, and no shortage of intriguing reclamation projects left on the open market. Here, we’ll look at a few available hurlers who have previously established significant MLB ceilings and are only entering their age-30 or younger seasons … albeit with significant injury histories that have altered their career trajectories.
We’ll go youngest to oldest:
Edubray Ramos: The still-youthful hurler — he celebrated his 27th birthday just yesterday — endured a highly disappointing 2019 season, struggling through shoulder problems and ultimately throwing only 15 MLB innings. But he was quite effective in 2018 and could be an interesting bounceback candidate after getting some rest over the offseason (though he is pitching in Venezuelan winter ball).
Taijuan Walker: Walker worked back from multiple arm injuries, only to end up as a surprising non-tender from the Diamondbacks. It’s certainly notable that his own club wasn’t convinced, but that won’t stop others from reaching their own risk/benefit assessments. Walker threw 157 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball in his last full season, 2017. In his brief return to the bigs in 2019, Walker was already exhibiting most of his prior velocity and spin rate, so there’s reason to hope the physical tools are still intact.
Aaron Sanchez: It has long been a rollercoaster for the other 27-year-old starter on this list. He has battled through with finger injuries, then showed flashes in 2019 before going down to shoulder surgery. That procedure made it inevitable that he’d be non-tendered by the Astros, but the talent that led the Houston organization to take a shot will surely still intrigue rival organizations.
Alex Wood: He was held up to open the 2019 season and struggled with the long ball when he finally did appear for the Reds, but the southpaw did make it back to the bump. He showed typical velocity, swinging-strike, and K/BB numbers in his seven-start stint to finish out the year. Wood has thrown 839 innings of 3.40 ERA ball in his career, with peripherals that largely match, so don’t sleep on his upside.
Arodys Vizcaino: Over 2017-18, Vizcaino threw 95 2/3 innings of 2.54 ERA ball. The Viz Kid way outperformed his peripherals in doing so, but has always had swing-and-miss stuff. It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll bounce back from shoulder surgery, and he was hardly a perfect pitcher beforehand, but Vizcaino remains an interesting player to watch.
Shelby Miller: Okay, so Miller is going to have to bounce waaaay back if he’s to return to effectiveness. Since the fateful trade that sent him from the Braves to the Diamondbacks after the 2015 season, he has thrown just 183 innings of 6.89 ERA ball. Miller fell far short of a comeback last year with the Rangers, but did show 95 mph heat and is still only 29 years of age.
Jerad Eickhoff: Quite effective through the first forty starts of his MLB career, Eickhoff took a step back in 2017 and then ran into an injury wall. He made it back to the mound for the ’19 campaign but was only good for a 5.71 ERA in 58 1/3 innings. Eickhoff will need to regain some arm speed and figure out how to adapt to a longball-lofting set of opposing hitters.
Danny Salazar: Thirty in January, Salazar remains an intriguing talent. He has exhibited plenty of strikeout ability and found no small amount of success in the majors, but hasn’t yet shown he can find his way back from health issues. It’s unclear as yet what course his career will take, but the upside is tremendous.
Tony Cingrani: Cingrani hasn’t pitched a full season since 2016 and didn’t throw a pitch in the Majors in 2019 due to shoulder surgery. But looking at what the 30-year-old lefty did in parts of two seasons after being traded from Cincinnati to Los Angeles is eye-opening. Cingrani faced 172 hitters as a Dodger and struck out 64 of them (37.2 percent) while walking only 12 (6.9 percent). His swinging-strike rate in L.A. topped 14 percent. Considering the left-handed relief market was thin to begin the offseason and is now largely devoid of proven options, he’s a sensible buy-low target.
Drew Smyly: In addition to being one of those guys who’s younger than you thought every time you look, Smyly was also probably better at his peak than many fully realized. Times have been tougher of late, as he missed all of the ’17 and ’18 seasons and had a brutal run to open the 2019 campaign with the Rangers. But he finished on a better streak with the Phillies after fiddling with his pitch mix, posting a 4.45 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in a dozen starts. The velo and swinging-strike numbers are right back where they used to be. Smyly is a sneaky interesting target.