When GM Dave Stewart “listed” Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster with Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson as penciled into the rotation, it was probably, in part, a way to talk up the recently-completed Wade Miley trade. Fair enough. As Nick Piecoro wrote yesterday morning, the gap probably comes after Collmenter and Hellickson, and I agree that those are the only two starters with a good chance to make the April rotation even if they have a poor spring training.
I took a look at some of the candidates for fifth starter last month, but I did not cover everyone. Yoan Lopez is theoretically a possibility, although just as with Archie Bradley, the team stands to gain little by installing him right away; though old for an amateur, he’s still an amateur, and as such could be kept in the fold for an extra year if the team plays its cards right. We may still see Lopez at Chase Field this season, especially if the team wants to make good on the idea that it offered Lopez one of the easiest paths to the majors, but it’s likely later on.
As Piecoro wrote in the piece linked above, there will be 18 starting pitchers in camp, 12 of whom “could be viable candidates for rotation spots.” Guys who could pitch in the rotation out of the gate are Chase Anderson, Bradley, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Chafin, Collmenter, RDLR, Randall Delgado, Hellickson, Daniel Hudson, Vidal Nuno, Robbie Ray and Webster.
Bump Bradley from the discussion since there’s a principled reason to keep him down for at least a while. That pushes him into a second wave of rotation candidates, which include Bronson Arroyo, Patrick Corbin, and potentially Aaron Blair. In previous discussions, we had also included Daniel Hudson here, noting that the most likely outcome for the 2015 for him was to start in the bullpen and transition to the rotation at some point later this season.
But should that be the case? Banish Delgado to the bullpen permanently, release Cahill, and factor in, say, two significant injuries for the other folks. That still leaves a boatload of pitchers available for the rotation later in the season. The D-backs have a nearly ridiculous number of rotation options in April, and yet they’re likely to have more toward the end of the season. What would be useful, then, is to have one or two pitchers who could throw early in the season, but not late. That would complement the guys who are likely to pitch only later in the season.
The baseball equivalent of Murphy’s Law will kick in and sideline 1-4 starting pitchers during the season, and that’s reason enough to stilt one’s options toward the end of the season. The D-backs are well equipped to handle any kind of pitching apocalypse this year.
Still, Daniel Hudson doesn’t need to be an option late this season. If he is to pitch in the rotation at all, it doesn’t really matter when. So why not April?
I’m not a doctor, and I sure as hell am not Hudson’s doctor. But it seems to me like there are only three possible explanations for Hudson requiring a second Tommy John surgery. Dr. Glenn Fleisig (a biomechanics doctor who works with Dr. James Andrews) has stated that second surgeries in quick succession tend to be caused by the rehab process, rather than some kind of surgical error. Another possibility is something specific to Hudson’s arm. But so long as the rehab process has been administered carefully for Hudson… what’s the problem, really? Either he’s going to break easily, or he’s not. Teams cannot handle him with kid gloves for the rest of his career.
Hudson’s second Tommy John surgery was performed on June 18, 2013. He returned in a relief role on September 4, 2014. That was being cautious. By Opening Day, Hudson will be more than 21 months removed from surgery, and spring training offers a more friendly ramp-up to a starting role than working in the bullpen for a few months would. An innings cap would be totally reasonable, but it doesn’t really matter whether that means he really only starts up in June or whether he gets shut down in July or August.
The Hudson situation is going to be interesting to monitor this year, and not just because he still offers one of the highest ceilings of the bloated pitching staff. It’s Huddy’s contract situation that could add the most intrigue; he is a free agent after his $800k club option for this year expires. Right now, Hudson is in a good position to help the D-backs win games — but in terms of building for 2016 and 2017, any start that goes to Hudson is a start that doesn’t go to one of the bevy of arms listed above. This is an awkward financial/club control situation right now, and it’s only going to get more awkward as the season progresses.
Maybe the best way out for the D-backs is to keep him in the bullpen all year and trade him in July, or move him from the bullpen to the rotation in May and use him as a kind of trade-and-sign asset before the deadline.
Or maybe, just maybe, the D-backs could try to sign him right now. I imagine that Hudson sees the next offseason as his ticket to the first significant contract of his career, and he’s probably right. He does not yet have that kind of lifelong financial security that even one single FA deal could give him. What if the D-backs approached him with a significant salary for 2016, though, maybe in the $3M range? I’d like to see that from the D-backs’ perspective, and it could work for Hudson, too; this winter he could end up maxing out at a 3 year, $20M deal or something like that (obviously, much depends on his 2015 performance), but after spending a year and a half back in a rotation with his plus stuff back, he could be looking at something more like the recent Brandon McCarthy contract (4 years, $48M).
On to the links:
- We led off with this at the beginning of Episode 14 of The Pool Shot, but it bears repeating: this education program at the D-backs’ Dominican Republic academy is pretty awesome. As Nick Piecoro reports, the D-backs just graduated five D.R. prospects from that country’s equivalent of a GED program, including legit prospect Jose Martinez. It may not matter for the top international amateur types (fortunate, since the D-backs can’t sign any of those between July 2015 and June 2017), but this absolutely could make the club more competitive for less sought-after prospects. Here’s more on the D-backs’ education program by Josh Rawitch, the D-backs Senior Vice President of Communications.
- Speaking of The Pool Shot: we played a really entertaining game on the last episode (starting at 30:00) involving “No. 1 Comps” from Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for the D-backs. Listen first (don’t ruin the game!), but I thought I’d re-link the ZiPS projections.
- Also from Nick Piecoro: some Tony La Russa comments about pace of play. I agree with TLR that if things work in the minors (as they seemed to in the AFL last fall), they will almost certainly make their way to MLB. Pitching within 12 seconds when the bases are empty sounds doable, but I’d really rather hear from some pitchers on that. And as for 20-second pitch clocks… this just sounds like something that will have a number of unintended consequences. Will this start to become an element to base stealing? Do you take your secondary lead at first base at 19 seconds, regardless of what position the pitcher is in? Some of the other possibilities gathered by Piecoro also bear the marks of something that could get out of control, such as limiting the number of pickoff attempts (chances are, if the limit is 3, we will almost never see a full three thrown, given what that would do for the runner). Actually, it seems like a lot of these would benefit runners, which could help accomplish new Commissioner Rob Manfred’s goal of cultivating offense. A little extra excitement never hurt, either. As for TLR’s suggestion that the game start back up right after commercial breaks, it’s hard to see that happening. Speaking as a fan, how about we do that… but also shorten the breaks by 15 seconds?
- At MLB.com, Steve Gilbert gets into Brad Ziegler‘s recovery from microfracture surgery on his knee. I like the optimism for recovery, but at the risk of pumping the breaks… note that it would still probably hurt Ziegler’s knee to pump the breaks if he were driving with his left leg. Microfracture surgery isn’t a long term solution; all it does is poke holes in the bottom of the femur in hopes that some stem cell goodness will ooze out and form a kind of fake cartilage. Fingers crossed, and it’s not like Ziegler is a marathon runner, or left-handed, or in line for another ten MLB seasons anyway. Even if he’s not quite 100% this year, there’s every reason to think Ziegler will still be very effective.
- At the Sports Kave, Derek Montilla has nice overlook on the 2015 D-backs season. This really highlights how many moving parts there have been in D-backs land over the last 12 months, starting with the Patrick Corbin Tommy John surgery in March last year. This team is oh so different from that team.
- Some interesting Zeke Sprull and framing notes in David Laurila’s most recent notebook. Spruill is apparently guarded about his pitching grips, but shared some thoughts on pitching mentor Mike Parrott‘s way of teaching. As far as I can tell, Parrott is still the pitching coach for Triple-A Reno — I’m excited by what Spruill had to say about Parrott’s approach. And sticking with coaching: Laurila also spoke with Jerry Weinsten, a catching instructor with the Rockies, who agrees that framing has been “emphasized more from a development standpoint.” Check that out, and make sure to look out for Laurila’s Sunday notebooks on a continuing basis.
- Jeff Wiser already put together all of the D-backs Top 10 prospect lists out there, but today is a good day in baseball: the Baseball Prospectus Top 101 list just got released. It’s free! Go read it! Just three D-backs in the list, but they all did well, and Touki Toussaint is in the “just missed” category.
- At Snake Pit, the D-backs MVP award goes to a player you’d never guess. Okay, you’ll probably guess. 52% of the vote sounds about right. I like the confidence in the top reliever in the voting results there, who got an impressive comp from ZiPS.
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