The Tigers have claimed right-hander Edwin Uceta off waivers from the Diamondbacks, per a team announcement. Uceta was designated for assignment by Arizona as a corresponding move for the D-backs’ signing of veteran Evan Longoria.
Uceta, who turned 25 just two days ago, has spent time in the Majors in each of the past two seasons, tossing 20 1/3 innings for the Dodgers in 2021 and 17 innings for the D-backs in 2022. He’s struggled to a combined 6.27 ERA in that time, fanning 23% of his opponents against a more troublesome 11.5% walk rate. He’s generally done a decent job limiting hard contact — 88.4 mph average exit velocity, 37.4% hard-hit rate — but Uceta has struggles considerably with runners on base, as evidenced by a dismal 50% left-on-base percentage (roughly 23% lower than league average).
Indeed, when Uceta has had the benefit of pitching with the bases empty, he’s yielded an awful .189/.268/.216 to his opponents. With men on base, those numbers skyrocket to .288/.383/.591. Those glaring splits come in near-identical samples — 82 batters faced with the bases empty, 83 with men on base.
Uceta has roughly average velocity on his fastball (93.4 mph average), though he spins it at a well above-average clip. He complements that offering with a changeup and more seldom-used slider — the latter of which generated above-average spin this past season as well. He has a minor league option year remaining, and while his bottom-line results in Triple-A haven’t been particularly impressive (4.81 ERA in 78 2/3 innings), he’s fanned more than 30% of his opponents at that level. Walks have again been an issue in the upper minors, which is obviously a concern for a pitcher who’s struggled with runners on base.
That said, Uceta’s knack for avoiding hard contact, quality spin profile and ability to miss bats are all surely sources of intrigue for the Tigers. Detroit has thinned out its bullpen this winter, trading Gregory Soto to the Phillies and Joe Jimenez to the Braves while watching Andrew Chafin and Wily Peralta depart as free agents (though both Chafin and Peralta remain unsigned). That should create ample opportunity for Uceta to earn a look at some point, perhaps as early as Opening Day if he impresses during Spring Training.