In part 5 of the 7-part series, we will look at 4 pitchers who have a chance to break camp with the Major League club, but do they belong on the ideal-25-man roster? If you’re new to the series, Parts 1-4 can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4. Let’s begin by discussing the only candidate who is on a “make the team or go home” path this spring.
Atlanta Braves’ Freddy Garcia
Freddy Garcia has a 75% chance to make the Braves’ roster. Smoke and mirrors…that is really the only justifiable explanation for Freddy Garcia’s career-rebounding success in a Braves’ uniform. Starting Spring Training where he ended in ’13, The Chief has all but done away with throwing a traditional fastball and relies on benders and sinkers to get people out. However, since his sinker has about the same velocity as his fastball (and the sinker being his “out” pitch), I guess he’s realized the redundancy of throwing a fastball.
With a 6-pitch arsenal that ranges from 72-87 MPH, Garcia still has the deception needed to be successful, but it’s only a matter of time before BABIP adjusts and Garcia goes from hero to zero. The tell-tale sign? Garcia had a collective 4.37 ERA last year between the Orioles and the Braves and his BABIP against was 20 points lower than his career average and 30+ points away from league average. If those numbers regress to the mean, Garcia would be a 5 ERA pitcher. However, with Andrelton Simmons over his right shoulder, the chance for The Chief to continue to outduel the norm is more likely. At best, I see Garcia being a mid-4’s ERA pitcher that can provide a lot of insight to the younger players in the organization. Does Freddy Garcia provide value for the ideal 25-man roster? My answer…for the price? Yes.
Atlanta Braves’ J.R. Graham
J.R. Graham has a 25% chance to make the roster. J.R. Graham was well on his way to becoming one of the best pitching prospects in baseball after his 2012 campaign. A combined 2.80 ERA between High-A and AA boosted Graham to a Top-100 prospect ranking for Minor League guru John Sickels and it looked as though we had our next top of the rotation starter coming through the pipeline. It was expected by many that Graham would either jump the prospect rankings to elite status or find his way into the MLB rotation (in 2013). Then, 2013 happened… and the oh so dreaded shoulder injury showed its ugly head. He went down in May, rested a month, attempted to come back, went down again, received a “stem cell platelet-rich plasma” injection, and didn’t pitch the rest of the season.
Fast forward to this spring…it seems like the injection might have served its purpose and Graham is back to throwing and throwing hard, albeit not as hard as before (and probably a good thing). He’s admittedly rusty and out of game practice but he could rebound quickly and force the Braves make a hard decision. Truthfully, I see no reason to rush him to the Majors into relief, especially if the Braves still think he could be a #2 or #3 starter. With 2 pitches that grade out as plus-plus, 1 that grades out at plus, and another that is developing, relief, especially if healthy, would be selling J.R. short. Does J.R. Graham have a spot on the ideal 25-man roster? My answer: No.
Atlanta Braves’ David Hale
David Hale has a 50% chance to make the roster. In ERA alone David Hale has improved every step in the Minor Leagues. Here are the yearly results from ’10-’13: 4.13, 4.10, 3.77, 3.22. Explanation? His left on base % increased every year and for the most part, his BABIP against decreased (exception being 2013). It’s quite funny, but each year that his ERA decreased, his FIP increased.
Most projections have Hale as a mid-4’s ERA Major Leaguer and that seems about right to me, if he’s left a starter. However, as a reliever, I think his 3 pitch selection could work to his advantage in lesser innings per outing. With only a 10 MPH differential in the 3 pitches, I think he would be very vulnerable after multiple times through a lineup. Truthfully, with the talent in the organization, Hale should never be a full-time starter for the Braves. Like others with underwhelming stuff, he’ll have to rely on pinpoint accuracy to be successful. Can he do that and is he a candidate for the ideal 25-man roster? My answer: Yes!
Atlanta Braves’ Gus Schlosser
Gus Schlosser has a 15% chance to make the roster. It’s not often that a sidewinder makes it this far in a pitching career and is still listed as a starter. However, if Schlosser makes it to the Major Leagues with the Braves, he’ll likely be forfeiting his starting gig for some ‘pen action.
A College pitcher, Schlosser picked up the sidearm delivery after he was suggested to “drop down” by one of his coaches. Apparently he was having trouble repeating mechanics overhead and the change felt natural. Self-admittedly, Schlosser doesn’t have dominant stuff and relies on pitching “around” the strike zone to be successful. His K-rate has been lower the last few years and that is more due to starting than anything else. Likely filling the ROOGY role (like most sidearmers, his splits are more significant), Schlosser would have to overcome both Cory Gearrin and Luis Vasquez and since both of those guys are on the 40-man roster, I don’t see that happening.
Does the Schloss have what it takes to make the ideal 25-man roster? I’d be reading too much into 3 innings of Spring Training stats to say yes. My answer: No (but on a side note, if either of the above fail to produce in the first few months, Schlosser would be my pick to take the spot and Schlosser’s Flossers could be a great upper-deck fan-club at The Ted).
Part 6 of 7 will be up in about 2 days time. Thanks for reading!