Pitchers are more malleable than positional talent. Every MLB scouting director, GM and minor-league manager has a dozen names in his head at any given time, guys he wants to get his hands on. Some pitchers need a new weapon in their repertoire–Dan Haren and Cliff Lee famously saved their careers when they learned cutters. Some need a role change, as when Brian Matusz made the move to the bullpen for the 2012 Orioles and became a very good lefty specialist for two months. Others just need an opportunity, even one nothing widely known about them can justify. That’s how the White Sox got 136 innings of 115 ERA+ ball out of Jose Quintana.
A lot of those inexplicably unsuccessful, woefully underappreciated or simply underutilized hurlers hit open water Friday. Here are five who might have an exciting career still ahead:
Tom Gorzelanny: No role adjustment necessary here. Under baseball’s least heralded bullpen genius (Davey Johnson), Gorzelanny moved to the bullpen in mid-2011, and made 59 appearances there for Washington. He averaged 4.6 outs and 24 pitches per relief appearance, and allowed an OPS under .700. A lefty, Gorzelanny is best used as a stretched-out, multi-inning weapon who can nonetheless be pulled to avoid crummy match-ups with right-handed hitters in key spots. He earned a mid-market southpaw reliever deal, and should see at least $3-4 million from someone in short order.
John Lannan: A teammate of Gorzelanny only briefly in 2012, Lannan spent most of the year at Triple-A as a casualty of baseball’s deepest rotation, and one of its most durable.
Lannan is an above-average pitcher, a lefty who can start with fewer problems than Gorzelanny presented in that role, a middle-class man’s Paul Maholm. Devoid of strikeout ability, he provides no safety net. Lannan can’t become Gorzelanny. He’s a crafty lefty, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is poor and he must keep the ball down. As pitchers with small platoon splits usually do, though, he avoids hard contact, and Lannan slots in as a back-end starting option for the Astros or Twins, if no one better, in 2013.
Jeff Karstens: Hey, speaking of back-end starters and former Pirates…
Seriously, I don’t know why Pittsburgh would dismiss Karstens this way. The man has a 234:64 strikeout-to-unintentional walk ratio since the start of 2010. Let’s generously pretend this move signifies only and simply faith in the development of Gerrit Cole.
Peter Moylan: The Braves actually lack right-handed relief depth right now, so this was a strange choice. It’s defensible: Moylan has been hurt a lot the past two seasons. However, looking forward, it probably would have made sense for them to keep him off the open market.
Atlanta did use the deadline to acquire Jordan Walden, who fills what might otherwise have been Moylan’s role. Moylan better fits a right-handed specialist role, anyway. He might find his way right back to the club, but he’s got a chance to look elsewhere now.
Scott Atchison: Relief pitchers are fungible. Good on Boston’s front office for not over paying for a single breakout season from Atchison.
Still, he’s not a result (or not entirely a result) of fluky indicators. Atchison struck out 36 batters and only gave up six unintentional walks in 2012, and allowed a .485 OPS to lefty hitters. That’s a very good sign the right-handed Atchison could fill more than a specialist’s role in some bullpen. He’s a full-inning guy, and in fact, went more than that 16 times in 2012. He also pitched 10 times on no rest. He’s the next Shawn Camp, for someone, except maybe even better.Next post: Chicago Cubs Clear Roster Space for Big Week With Dump of Ian Stewart, Others
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