Potentially Valuable Non-Tendered Players: Pitchers
Here’s the first half of the list of intriguing non-tendered pitchers. I will look at the rest of the list in the next post.
This past year, Reyes finished his best season in the majors; unfortunately for him, it only resulted in a 0.7 WAR backed by a 4.90 FIP and 4.58 xFIP. According to 2010 league-wide FIP values, Reyes’s FIP would rank in the 10th percentile of all pitchers. In short, Reyes is not very good.
However, he posted his best BB/9 rate this season - 3.07 - and has shown an ability to induce ground balls at a pretty high clip in the past - in 2008, he sported a 48.8 GB%. Reyes just turned 27; if he can continue to improve his BB/9 rate and induce ground balls at the rate he used to, Reyes could be a valuable emergency starter and/or long reliever.
Reyes is worth at least a minor league contract, if not a one-year deal for a spot on a second-tier team’s pitching staff.
Since 2008, Joe Saunders has averaged 199.8 IP and 1.65 WAR per season. Unfortunately, he just finished his age 30 season and has yet to post a sub-4.00 FIP or xFIP. Saunders doesn’t strike many people out - 4.58 K/9 - and gives up walks at a slightly below league average rate - 2.84 BB/9. His velocity has gradually dropped over his career, with his fastball now sitting at 89.6 MPH.
However, between 2006 and 2008, Saunders had a couple of above average years. During this three year stretch, Saunders used his changeup 27.3 percent, 23.0 percent, and 21.2 percent of the time respectively, the three highest changeup rates of his career. In two of the three years, he posted positive wCH/C values. Between 2006 and 2008, he had the 15th best changeup among pitchers who pitched over 350 innings. In 2008, he had the 12th best changeup among pitchers who pitched more than 150 innings. Since then, Saunders’s changeup has vanished - it has been below average for the past three years.
Saunders should be a valuable #5 starter, and could, if he rediscovers his changeup, be better than that.
At first look, Hensley looks like a very attractive buy-low option; he’s only a year removed from a 2.16 ERA/2.87 FIP/3.34 xFIP season. However, and it’s a big however, Hensley benefitted from a 80.9 LOB%, 10 percent higher than his career average of 70.7 percent. He also posted an extremely low 4.9 percent HR/FB rate, which bounced back to 10.7 percent in 2011. Furthermore, his last good year in the majors was in 2006, when he was a promising 27 year old starter. Hensley’s now a 32 year old reliever, and while everything seemed to break in his favor in 2010, he will likely never be that good - or lucky, if you prefer - again.
Hensley’s worth a minor league contract for a team looking for pitching depth.
In his career, Moylan has posted extremely high ground ball rates. In 2010, Tim Hudson had the best ground ball rate among all qualified pitchers - 64.1 percent. Moylan’s career ground ball rate is 64.0 percent. Furthermore, he has a career 77.2 LOB%. While some of this may be luck, Moylan has pitched over 250 innings, a decent sample size.
However, after posting a couple of average BB/9 numbers in his first few years, his control escaped him; Moylan posted a 4.32 and 5.23 BB/9 in 2009 and 2010 respectively, his last meaningful playing time in the majors. Moylan only pitched 8.1 innings in 2011 because of back surgery and a torn rotator cuff. He also underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008,
Despite his wildness and injuries, Moylan has shown the ability to get ground balls and keep runners from scoring; if he can regain his control, and comes back healthy by Spring Training, (as expected), Moylan could become a very valuable bullpen option in 2012.
Moylan’s worth a one-year incentive-laden contract for a team looking for bullpen help.
Sonnanstine pitched well in 2008 on the strength of his command - 1.72 BB/9 - and his cutter - 1.59 wCT/C. Unfortunately, Sonnanstine has lost both his command and his cutter’s effectiveness since that season. He has thrown cutters at a much higher rate in recent years at the expense of his fastball and slider. This seems to have affected his cutter’s effectiveness, which has gradually decreased since 2008, to a career-low -1.78 wCT/C in 2011. Fortunately, Sonnanstine will only be 29 at the start of next year, so he does have a few years to figure things out. A switch from the AL East to the National League, as well as a change in pitch frequencies, may help Sonnanstine regain his form.
Sonnanstine’s worth a minor league contract.
Rich Hill posted a solid season as a starter in 2007, and many expected him to blossom into a #2/3 starter for the Cubs. Unfortunately, things quickly went south for Hill. His K/9 rate fell by about 1.6 points, while his BB/9 rate spiked to 8.24; during the 19.2 innings that he pitched in 2008, he gave up 18 walks against 15 strikeouts. While his K/9 bounced back soon after his rough 2008 stretch, his BB/9 rate remained extremely high until 2010, when he began to turn things around. Here are his innings pitched and BB/9 rates in 2010 and on:
2010 Cardinals (AAA): 46.0 IP, 5.87 BB/9
2010 Red Sox (AAA): 53.0 IP, 4.92 BB/9
2010 Red Sox: 4.0 IP, 2.25 BB/9.
2011Red Sox (AAA): 16.0 IP, 2.81 BB/9
2011 Red Sox: 8.0 IP, 3.38 BB/9
While the improvement in his BB/9 rate could be a factor of the small sample size, it’s worth noting that he had three different stints with an improved BB/9 rate. Unfortunately, Hill is coming off of Tommy John surgery, and has had some back and shoulder trouble in the past, so an injury risk does exist.
Despite the risks, Hill has the potential to be a good high-leverage reliever. Hill’s worth a minor league contract, if not an incentive-laden major league contract.