This time last year, fringy almost-kinda-sorta major league pitchers were dropping out of the organization like flies, in part because the front office was dead set on remaking the staff (for good reason). This offseason, we may also see a particularly high turnover rate of pitchers in the organization, but not so much because the team is likely to add a bunch — more that there are just too many to keep, and some 10-15 candidates for “last man on the staff,” including at least a few too many currently on the 40-man roster. If you’re one of those candidates, your threshold for making the roster isn’t “good enough to be a major leaguer” — it’s a little higher than that. And if it looks like becoming a lockdown pitcher is not in the cards, it’s probably better to be very useful in some situations than it is to be marginally useful in lots of situations.
For the team, then, the idea could be to take one or five of these guys that probably or definitely won’t be worth much, and try to make them worth more than that. Playing with release point? Probably. Back to that soon. But I’ll raise you another option: a delivery that might look even more bizarre than Brad Ziegler‘s.
Call it the Carter Capps Leap. MLB ruled it legal, and I guess it is — maybe similar to abandoning one’s regular throwing motion to learn forward and throw darts off of one foot. Throwing like this is less likely to stay legal than throwing sidearm, although for the life of me, I can’t figure out how MLB could rewrite the rule to disallow it. That doesn’t necessarily matter if we’re trying to make something from nothing, though, right? If a pitcher with major league velocity and decent command — or great command and not-quite-major-league velocity — there’s nothing to lose.
The D-backs may have found themselves a diamond in the rough in Zack Godley by blessing or encouraging his relentlessness pitching at the very bottom of the strike zone. Could they be willing to encourage a minor leaguer or two to try learning the Carter Capps Leap? It’s worth a try, right?
There are at least a handful of candidates:
- Matt Stites, who has had garbage results in the majors, but who averaged 93.9 mph on his fastball this year per PITCHf/x. I’ll just repeat something I said in July: “why not have a guy like Matt Stites try to incorporate a mound leap like the one Capps uses? Stites has velocity as a calling card, but his velocity is down this year, and even at 95 mph he wasn’t exactly blowing guys away. Stites is kind of on the usefulness bubble right now, and yet is close enough to being effective that a Capps Leap could vault him right into ‘very good’ range.” Right?
- Enrique Burgos, who has already upgraded his outlook in a big way once with a mechanical change. Burgos almost definitely gets more rope, and probably doesn’t fit this model for that reason. Still, despite a fastball that averaged 96.51 per Brooks Baseball this season, Burgos’s results were below average, and most of the good things came from his slider (which he threw a crazy 50% of the time). Just saying: if a Capps Leap left hitters feeling like Burgos was throwing over 100 mph, he won’t exactly have to dance around the strike zone.
- A.J. Schugel, who probably will wash out this offseason. Schugel might be the best candidate of the bunch to get a sidearm tryout, too, at least among RHP. The man is an athlete and has the endurance, and he fits the “nothing left to lose” model. As is, he doesn’t fit the franchise’s model.
- Dominic Leone, who dominated as a rookie last season for the Mariners, but fell apart with Seattle at the beginning of this season and didn’t really find it in the D-backs organization after the Trumbo trade. Maybe there’s upside here, and the D-backs have something to lose by trying him on a Capps Leap. It really depends on the franchise’s player development guys and major league coaches (maybe a Dave Duncan project?). Leone is pretty far down the depth chart at this point, but likely to stay on the 40 man, and in close enough range to break camp with the team if he looks dominant in the spring. Considering his verage fastball velocity has fallen 1 mph per season from 96.67 mph in 2013 to 94.19 mph in 2015, doing nothing seems unlikely to make Leone a better option than the 10 other bullpen candidates who promise to be fringy or merely average.
Got any more? Maybe we’re not looking for a guy who definitely can’t contribute any other way; we’re looking for a guy who almost definitely won’t contribute irreplaceable innings any other way. I would think leaving Evan Marshall alone probably goes without saying — and you wouldn’t ask him to get closer to the plate. Otherwise, he’d be a guy here. Matt Reynolds, perhaps? Time to amp up the volume for Allen Webster? Go get Bo Schultz and give him another shot? If you answer “Keith Hessler,” please be clear whether you say so because you think it’d work, or because you never want to see him throw the same way ever again. The Capps Leap is a conversation worth having, and it’s far from over — better to be ahead of the curve.
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