We took a look last week at American League Central hitters who are seeking bounce-back seasons in 2020. Let’s shift gears to the pitching side…
Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Indians:
Carrasco was one of the top starters in the game from 2015-18, but a frightening leukemia diagnosis shelved him for three months last season. Thankfully, Carrasco was able to return in September, functioning as a reliever in all 11 appearances then. The plan is for Carrasco to return toward the top of the Indians’ rotation this season, but he has battled much less serious health problems – mild hip and elbow issues – this spring. A return to Carrasco’s usual production would be especially welcome for the Indians, who traded Corey Kluber in the offseason and will go without the injured Mike Clevinger for a while.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Twins:
It was only two seasons ago that Chacin was an integral member of the Brewers’ rotation, as he amassed 192 2/3 innings of 3.50 ERA/4.03 FIP ball for the then-division champions. But last year represented a massive decline for Chacin, who took the ball for the Brewers on Opening Day but fared so poorly throughout the season that they released him in August. Chacin wound up finishing the season with the Red Sox, though that experiment went haywire for Boston. All said, the 32-year-old recorded a 6.01 ERA/5.88 FIP, walked over four batters per nine and put up his lowest groundball rate (37.5 percent) since 2012. His hard- and soft-contact rates went in troubling directions in the process. However, as a team with a bit of uncertainty in its staff (at least until Michael Pineda and Rich Hill come back), the Twins may gamble on putting Chacin in their season-opening rotation after signing him to a non-guaranteed contract during the winter.
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, White Sox:
If we’re to believe fWAR (2.3), Lopez’s 2019 was the same as his 2018 – respectable. On the other hand, his run prevention went way downhill. Lopez was quite durable, accumulating 184 innings, but he ranked second to last among qualified starters in ERA (5.38) and FIP (5.04). Like many, the home run bug bit him last season, as he allowed them on 14 percent of fly balls after surrendering HRs around the 9 percent mark in prior years. There are still some positives to take from the 26-year-old Lopez’s most recent performance, though. He continued to average 95.5 on his fastball, increased his strikeouts, upped his swinging-strike rate, and saw his numbers improve dramatically in the second half of the campaign.
Kelvin Herrera, RHP, White Sox:
The White Sox haven’t gotten much value from the once-dominant Herrera, whom they inked to a two-year, $18MM guarantee entering last season. Herrera, trying to rebound from the Lisfranc injury he suffered with the Nationals the prior year, posted easily his highest ERA (6.14) and FIP (4.58) over the course of 51 1/3 frames in 2019. While his K/9 (9.29) spiked compared to his 7.71 from the previous season, his BB/9 shot from 2.03 to 4.03 at the same time. That said, the hard-throwing Herrera was the victim of some poor fortune. His hard- and soft-contact percentages took favorable turns, yet hitters still managed a .347 batting average on balls in play against Herrera, while his strand rate checked in at just 65.9 percent.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, Royals:
The hard-throwing Rosenthal was often a a lights-out late-game force in St. Louis from 2012-17; however, he underwent Tommy John surgery late in the last season of those seasons and hasn’t returned to form since. Rosenthal missed all of 2018 and returned last year (as a member of the Nationals and then the Tigers) as someone whose control abandoned him. He walked an incredible 26 batters in only 15 1/3 innings, also yielding 23 earned runs on 11 hits in that span. As a result, the soon-to-be 30-year-old settled for a minor league deal with the rebuilding Royals over the winter. While it’s tough to put much stock in spring training numbers, it’s encouraging that the flamethrowing Rosenthal has notched four scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and zero walks during the exhibition season. Perhaps he and/or fellow buy-low reliever Greg Holland will regain relevance in KC this year.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals:
Montgomery was a useful swingman – even a 2016 World Series hero – for the Cubs earlier in his career, but last season knocked his career off track. He divided it between Chicago and Kansas City, which acquired him in July, and logged personal-worst numbers in ERA (4.95) and FIP (5.52) over 91 innings. Significant increases in hard-hit rate and home run-to-fly ball percentage, not to mention a sizable decrease in soft contact against, all haunted Montgomery a season ago. Nevertheless, the 30-year-old looks like a lock to begin 2020 in the Royals’ rotation.
Alex Wilson, RHP, Tigers:
Despite a dearth of strikeouts, Wilson was at times a low-ERA reliever in his first Tigers tenure from 2015-18, thanks in part to above-average control. The Brewers expected something similar when they signed him to a major league pact going into last season. Instead, however, Wilson delivered a mere 11 1/3 innings for the club, yielding 12 earned runs on 15 hits and an uncharacteristic nine walks. Wilson ultimately spent most of the season as a member of the Brewers’ Triple-A club, with which he produced positive results, but the organization released him in August. He’s now back with Detroit on a minors pact and trying to earn a spot in its bullpen.