11 April 2017

Arrivals and Departures: Hope is a Person Named Alec Asher (3/11/17)

Orioles are attempting a shotgun approach
to finding a starting pitcher.
The season is young, but the club has provided a bit of evidence illustrating that Kevin Gausman, in flashes, and Dylan Bundy are both able to be true top of the rotation arms.  The year has also made many yearn for the quick and successful rehabilitation of rotation stalwart Chris Tillman with Wade Miley's improbable five shutout innings and Ubaldo Jimenez looking expectedly awful.  If there is one question mark for the Orioles season, it is that while the club has a rotation and Norfolk depth. that rotation and depth are cringe inducing.

To some extent, this situation is somewhat reflective of the dire straights of the 2012 season where the club opened up with Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, Brian Matusz, and Wei Yin Chen as the starting rotation.  Arrieta, like Gausman, was considered ready to break out and achieve what everyone thought he could be (though, admittedly, Gausman is beginning this season with considerably more accomplished than Arrieta then).  Matusz, like Bundy, was a big question mark with a history of extraordinary praise.  Hammel, a Tillman type with less luster, was acquired from the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie and was considered a stabilizing force.  Hunter and Chen were wishes and dreams (though I was a major Wei Yin Chen fan).

That season rolled into a major operation in damage control.  Arrieta, Hunter, and Matusz all washed out of the rotation with Hammel being shut down with injury.  The club frantically tried to find pieces to give the team some chance until it could hand things over to the bullpen.  The experienced left us with memories, some persistently scrubbed clean from our collective memory, of Dana Eveland (Dan Duquette had acquired Eveland in a trade and suggested he found some wondrous new pitch, which was kindly exaggerated), Zach Britton (who needed more than his old two seamer as a starting pitcher), Steve Johnson (who was Steve Johnson), Randy Wolf (who was no longer Randy Wolf), Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and a resurrected Joe Saunders.  Strangely, having lived through it, I imagined that list to be about ten names longer.

Anyway, the carousel found incredibly useful pieces like Gonzalez and Tillman in the system as well as Saunders coming over cheaply with a salary exchange.  Let us assume that Tillman comes back in May and pitches something like he used to.  That would be big.  Beyond him, the club has the periodically respectable Ubaldo Jimenez and the frequently terrible Wade Miley.  Jimenez, being in his last year, is a short spell of wretched away from being released.  Miley may have some life as a southpaw bullpen arm if things fall apart, but I figure he has to be consistently awful to be jettisoned.  That might restrict opportunity for others down in Norfolk, but we full we expect opportunity to arise with Tillman's delay and a probable implosion by one pitcher or another.

Using a historical based projection model, we can throw some probabilities out there just to get a frame of reference about where each pitcher stands.  For Jimenez, the model is most excited about him by giving him a 5% chance of being a two slot pitcher.  No one else in this group has that in their expected range of possibilities.  It also thinks that there is a 55% chance that he is a bust. The field from which to choose from includes bullpen arm Tyler Wilson and minor leaguers Mike Wright, Jayson Aquino, Alec Asher, Richard Bleier, Logan Verrett, Gabriel Ynoa, and newly signed Edwin Jackson (who somehow is only 33 years old).  How does the model like them?
3 Slot
Tyler Wilson 70% 30% 0
Mike Wright 75% 25% 0
Jayson Aquino 75% 25% 0
Alec Asher 45% 55% 15%
Richard Bleier 85% 15% 0
Logan Verrett 85% 15% 0
Gabriel Ynoa 85% 15% 0
Edwin Jackson 75% 25% 0

*post print edit - Chris Lee is in the rotation in Norfolk, for now, the model sees him as a 95% SP bust.

For the most part, the numbers above are not all that exceptional.  For a bunch of retreads, we should expect a potential of about 1 in 4 chance that they could deliver some backend arm production.  Nothing too grand, but also much more likely to fail.  The hope is that the innings racked up in Norfolk can provide useful information as to which of these arms may actually pay out.  Duquette's drive to acquire pitchers with options may be very useful to keep a deep and fresh pen as well as maybe getting one more hitter on the bench, but could also provide a sandbox to see which of these arms were overlooked.

One name that surprisingly explodes off the page is Alec Asher.  He is a pitcher that is well known to scouts and well ignored.  The basic book on him is average.  He has average command.  Asher heavily uses his sinker to induce groundballs, but AAA hitters hit those groundballs very hard.  He has no offering that misses any bats.  That certainly is what his career looks like.
Register Pitching
Age Lev ERA IP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/6/2017.

Ages 23 and earlier, he appears as a pitcher who performs well  in his league, but looks troublesome as a big leaguer.  Strikeout rate collapsed each year and hit rate slowly increased with walk rate staying normal.  That is the general go of it, but a pitcher with a 3.1 walk rate and a 5.0 strikeout rate in the majors is quite less than desirable.  However, something strange happened last year.  Across levels and into the winter leagues, Asher simply dropped his hit rate by more than 20%.  When batters hit him, they hit him hard. Though, those batted balls found more and more gloves.

How?  Asher dedicated himself to his sinker last year.  MLB performance does not show it with a 38% ground ball rate, but he put up a 52% across all levels and in his winter league.  That is what the bet is on and what the model likes about Asher.  If somehow Asher can generate a 6 k/9 and a 2 bb/9 while delivering a 50% ground ball rate, then this is a pitcher who can fill out the backend of a rotation and, perhaps, even break out as a mid rotation arm. 

However, it seems unlikely.  Whatever Asher did in the minors, the only thing that appeared at the Major League level was a decrease in hits.  Major League hitters were able to avoid the groundballs and they did not miss the ball.  The ball simply turned into outs.  In Philadelphia, Asher had a .231 opponent BABIP, which would have led the league last year among qualified starting pitchers.  That knowledge in and of itself would suggest that there should be a major regression in store for him.  That would have been fifth best in baseball.

Maybe there is something there.  I do not believe it, but he is someone to look at to determine whether he might well be a pitcher that scouts miss.  The model likes him  though and the model, for some reason, thinks the hit rate will remain low.  To some extent, this was about how the model saw Miguel Gonzalez when he signed.  It brings the question whether this will be a rotation best experienced with strong faith or one where you set your expectations low enough to concern your parents.

40 Man Roster and Options
Usually, I break down the transactions since the last iteration, but it has been almost four months since then and so much has changed.

Jayson Aquino 3/12/2014 7/6/2016 4/2/2017 Yes
Alec Asher 7/31/2015 3/15/2016 3/30/2017 Yes
Richard Bleier 3/30/2017 Yes
Brad Brach 4/16/2012 5/18/2013 2/25/2014
Parker Bridwell 3/18/2016 3/8/2017 Yes
Zach Britton  3/29/2011 6/6/2012 3/23/2013
Dylan Bundy  3/16/2013 3/14/2014 3/16/2015
Miguel Castro 5/3/2015 6/25/2016 3/13/2017 Yes
Oliver Drake 3/15/2012 3/9/2015 3/31/2016
Andrew Faulkner 4/16/2016 3/6/2017 Yes
Jason Garcia 3/14/2016 3/8/2017 Yes
Kevin Gausman 6/13/2013 3/29/2014 6/21/2015
Mychal Givens 6/25/2015 Yes
Donnie Hart 7/24/2016 Yes
Ubaldo Jimenez NA
Chris Lee 3/18/2016 3/8/2017 Yes
Jesus Liranzo 3/8/2017 Yes
Wade Miley NA
Vladimir Nuno 5/31/2013 4/5/2015 Yes
Darren O'Day NA
Chris Tillman NA
Logan Verrett 6/7/2015 6/12/2016 3/30/2017 Yes
Tyler Wilson 3/28/2015 7/3/2016 Yes
Mike Wright 3/20/2015 6/2/2016 4/2/2017 Yes
Gabriel Ynoa 3/17/2015 3/15/2016 4/2/2017 Yes
Caleb Joseph 8/22/2016 Yes
Welungton Castillo NA
Chris Davis  NA
Ryan Flaherty  5+ Service
J.J. Hardy  NA
Manny Machado  Yes
Trey Mancini Yes
Jonathan Schoop  3/23/2013 Yes
Craig Gentry 3/29/2016
Adam Jones  NA
Hyun Soo Kim Player Approval
Joey Rickard Yes
Anthony Santander Rule 5
Seth Smith NA
Mark Trumbo NA

No comments: