Yes, the title brings the Breakfast Club and the group Simple Minds to memory for those of us old enough to remember both. This offseason, however, it could be a common thread in the starting pitcher free agent market.
Let’s look at a few names that could go under appreciated this offseason (in alphabetical order):
Scott Baker – Baker was a very solid pitcher for the Twins for a number of years in the Metrodome, which really hurts his stats. He has missed almost two full seasons recovering from elbow injury, but he did have two very nice starts in September this year before hitting the Braves on a big hitting day. He’s a 32 y/o righty with previous lines of 2.1 bb/9 and 7.2 k/9 in his career.
Bruce Chen – Yes, he’s 37, yes, he’s not flashy or sexy or anything like that. That said, Chen always seems to find his way into the rotation when he’s not in the preseason plans for the rotation. This last season he put up numbers of a 3.27 ERA (126 ERA+), 1.18 WHIP, and a 2.17 k/bb. He is left-handed, and the best part is that he likely will come cheap, likely in the $3-5M range.
Freddy Garcia – “The Chief” is well-known in the Atlanta area for his performance in 2013 down the stretch and even in the playoffs. I don’t expect a 1.65 ERA or 1.02 WHIP out of Garcia (I wouldn’t expect that out of anyone short of a prime Maddux!), but he showed last year that if used correctly, he could give the team a good back-end starter that won’t put the team in huge issues with walks. He would come cheap, and he could put up a season akin to his 2011 season he had with the Yankees.
Jason Hammel – While I’m not really hoping the Braves are in on this guy, he is flying under the radar for sure. He doesn’t seem to stay healthy, and outside of 2012, he’s not exactly been stellar, but much of that was in Colorado, so there’s hope that he could be a solid back-end guy.
James McDonald – Designated for assignment midseason, McDonald is a guy whose shown a lot of talent but struggled to harness it. The worry would be his health as it was his shoulder that was giving him problems this season and led to him missing most of the season in 2013.
Jeff Niemann – Niemann has pitched seldom in the last two seasons because of shoulder issues, and those are definitely worrisome, but when healthy, Niemann has been a solid back-end guy even when pitching against the AL East as part of the Rays. He could be worth a flyer.
Felipe Paulino – He’s only 30, and he had seemingly figured something out in Kansas City before missing most of 2012 and all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery. Paulino is a high velocity, high movement pitcher that could slot into the bullpen well if he didn’t work as a starter as well.
Clayton Richard – Many look at his 2013 season with a 7+ ERA and scream “Run away! Run away!” However, looking deeper, he posted league-average production and would slot as a decent lefty at the back end of a rotation. He is only 30, but he is also coming off of a dreaded shoulder injury.
Johan Santana – Once again, the dreaded shoulder injury has plagued Santana nearly since he left Minnesota. He was good, but not great in his 2012 before he was let go WAY too long in his no-hit bid. There was a time he was considered a future Hall of Famer. He could be a solid pickup with low expectation.
Kevin Slowey – His hot 2013 start gave him a look of a pitcher that he’s really not, but he’s a solid control pitcher who won’t put a ton of guys on base via walk. He’s only 30, and his rough overall stats have a lot to do with pitching at the Metrodome to start his career. He did post 1.8 bb/9 and 7.4 k/9. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy, and having the Braves stellar defense behind him could really help his numbers.
Jerome Williams – It seems as if Williams has been around forever for those who have followed prospects for an extended amount of time. Williams rocketed up the Giants system, hitting AAA at 20, but he flamed out quickly after the Giants traded him at 22. Williams has been similar to Chen the last couple of seasons – he’s not assumed as part of the rotation to start the year, but he finds his way there.
So none of these guys is going to make headlines this offseason, but as I stated in the offseason overview, the team has a good ability to take a cheap pickup and get solid production from that player. These guys could all fit into that category for the Braves in 2014. Any others that you think are being undervalued this offseason?