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Swinging for the Fences: Looking at the lefties

Which southpaws will be pitching in the Tribe bullpen in 2014?

Swinging for the Fences: Looking at the lefties
November 19, 2013
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Many Cleveland faithful would prefer to forget the name Rich Hill sooner rather than later. However, as tough as he was to watch on the mound at times this season, he was only a symptom of an ongoing issue for the Indians in 2013. After the departures of left-handed relief mainstays Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez, the process of bringing in and testing new southpaw recruits proved to be more difficult than the team probably had envisioned.

Over the course of the last two seasons, we’ve seen names such as Hagadone, Barnes, Huff, Seddon and Maine were on the backs of Tribe jerseys as left-handed relievers. The latter three have since moved on while the aforementioned Hagadone and Barnes remain in the Indians system as southpaw options in addition to a new host of hurlers vying for a spot in the big league bullpen.

Right now heading into 2014, the only reliever of the left-handed variety who will likely be guaranteed a spot in the bullpen is newly-acquired Marc Rzepczynski, who came to Cleveland in a midseason trade from the Cardinals in exchange for low-level infield prospect Juan Herrera. Other than that, the candidates are mostly made up of minor league prospects either trying to take their first stab at the major league level or are still trying to make the proper adjustments to eventually stay in the big leagues.

Marc Rzepczynski 2013 Stats (Indians)

Games

W-L

ERA

IP

Hits

Runs

ER’s

HR’s

BB’s

K’s

27

0-0

0.87

20.1

11

4

2

1

6

20

 

Since we’re already talking about him, let’s break down the 2013 season for good ole’ Scrabble. Believe it or not, it wasn’t much to write home about before he made the trek to Cleveland. In 11 appearances, the left-hander had amassed an ERA well over seven as he had given up nine earned runs in just 10.1 innings of work. Then he got the call at the trade deadline and it would seem a change of scenery was just what the doctor ordered as he dominated during the remainder of the 2013 season with the Tribe.

Rzepczynski’s 2013 splits against right-handed and left-handed hitters may seem unbalanced as far as batting average is concerned (.179 average against lefties and a .298 average against righties). However, he can face both in an appearance and get quality results. My guess is heading into 2014, he will be used in matchup situations, but will also pitch full or multiple innings if needed.

Nick Hagadone 2013 Stats

Games

W-L

ERA

IP

Hits

Runs

ER’s

HR’s

BB’s

K’s

36

0-1

5.64

31.1

24

21

19

4

21

30

Nick Hagadone is a special case at this point. There’s no denying that the left-hander has good stuff, but command, composure and consistency continue to be ongoing issues for him. As a hard-thrower who pitches at a downward trajectory, one would think that Hagadone would have the advantage of velocity and deception. However, those attributes have yet to translate to the big league level on a consistent basis.

By now, fans should be familiar with Hagadone’s infamous punching-the-wall incident in 2012. This season, he had a golden opportunity to redeem himself and failed to take advantage. As one of the main pieces of the Victor Martinez trade in 2009, high expectations have been on him from the start. But even then, one has to wonder if his time is running out.

Scott Barnes 2013 Stats (AAA)

Games

W-L

ERA

IP

Hits

Runs

ER’s

HR’s

BB’s

K’s

23

3-3

7.81

27.2

30

24

24

4

20

35

The role that Scott Barnes has with the Indians organization is questionable right now. Of course, he will be considered for a role during spring training, but his lack of inconsistency during his limited exposure in the big leagues plus his inconsistency in the minors make me wonder how many more opportunities he will get.

After being drafted by the Giants in 2008 and being traded to the Tribe in exchange for Ryan Garko in 2009, Barnes was originally viewed as a starter. More recently, however, he’s been used more out of the bullpen after getting his first taste of the major leagues in 2012. Barnes spent most of 2013 on the disabled list with a left wrist sprain, so the team will have to first see if he is fully healthy before deciding anything.

Kyle Crockett 2013 Stats (Minors)

Games

W-L

ERA

IP

Hits

Runs

ER’s

HR’s

BB’s

K’s

21

1-0

0.36

24.2

16

2

1

1

5

32

Outside of Clint Frazier, soft-tossing lefty Kyle Crockett has been one of the more exciting players from the Indians’ 2013 draft class. In just his first season of pro ball, Crockett slingshot his way all the way up to the AA level before the season ended. While he appeared in only 21 games along the way, his cumulative 0.36 ERA and 32 strikeouts in only 24.2 innings speak for themselves.

As a fourth round draft pick in the 2013 draft, you could say not too much was expected of Crockett, but his dominance at every level thus far may make him a factor sooner rather than later on the big league club. In a way, it’s not too surprising given that soft-tossers are starting to become successful in the majors (i.e. Bruce Chen). In an era where flamethrowers are the predominant choice of pitcher, throwing in a soft-tosser does throw off hitters’ timing since they’re not used to expecting an 82 mph fastball or 75 mph curve.

Giovanni Soto 2012 Stats (AA)

Games

W-L

ERA

IP

Hits

Runs

ER’s

HR’s

BB’s

K’s

22

6-9

3.93

121.1

111

62

53

10

49

100

Like AAA teammate Scott Barnes, Giovanni Soto had his season cut short by injury in 2013 as he only appeared in nine games and had an ERA of 5.19. Prior to this season, however, Soto was on track to becoming a big league factor as soon as 2013, if not for injury. Also like Barnes, the left-hander has pitched primarily as a starter over his minor league career, but current implications seem to point to Soto pitching out of the bullpen once he gets to Cleveland.

Soto came to Cleveland in the 2010 trade of Jhonny Peralta with Detroit, who drafted the left-hander in the 2009 draft. As a starter, Soto put up solid numbers both before and after the trade as he’s posted a 2.63 ERA over the four minor league seasons prior to 2013, including a no-hitter in 2012. If healthy, Soto could prove to be a factor at some point in 2014.

Colt Hynes 2013 Stats (Minors)

Games

W-L

ERA

IP

Hits

Runs

ER’s

HR’s

BB’s

K’s

41

2-0

1.52

47.1

43

11

8

1

2

58

If you ask me, Colt Hynes could be the most interesting option of the bunch. Yes, he did have an ERA of nine for the Padres last season, but in AAA, he posted a mark of 1.52. Plus, he held lefties to a .150 batting average this season. Only problem is he would likely be best used exclusively as a matchup lefty as right-handed hitters crushed the ball hitting .364 off the left-hander.

Hynes spent the majority of his career in the Padres organization after being drafted in the 31st round of the 2007 amateur draft. He’s another soft-tossing southpaw who relies mostly on his slider and fastball. He’s been a reliever by trade, although he did have one relatively unimpressive season as a starter in 2012. This offseason, Hynes was traded to the Indians for cash considerations. It’s likely he will join the Tribe in spring training as he hopes to make his case for a bullpen job.

Jake’s Takes

Cabrera, McCutchen win MVP awards… Of all the award categories, this year’s MVP race in both leagues was unique in that a legitimate case could be made for all six of the candidates. Once again, it comes down to what the definition of MVP is. For me, it’s which team would suffer the most adverse effects if they lost that player? WithMiguel Cabrera, we kind of saw what that would be like since injury limited him late in the year and into the playoffs. And Andrew McCutchen is definitely one of the biggest reasons why the Pirates made such a strong push in 2013.

The runner-ups for the award in both leagues do deserve honorable mentions for what they accomplished this season. Yadier Molina and his bat and leadership behind the plate, Chris Davis and his power swing, Mike Troutand his five-tool ability and last but not least, Paul Goldschmidt and his breakout season. Definitely a lot of talent to praise all over in 2013.

Omar Vizquel hired as Tigers first base coach… All I have to say is say it ain’t so, Omar! Of course I’m not blaming or criticizing our old friend for taking the job since it is a great coaching opportunity. Still, having him in a Tigers uniform won’t be easy to watch next season. I know this is my irrational fan side speaking, but it’s already hard enough having to watch Victor Martinez play for Detroit. Regardless, I wish Vizquel all the best.

Giants agree to 2-year/$23 million deal with Tim Hudson… Well, you can cross Tim Hudson off the list of starting pitching options for the Tribe. After the Indians had reportedly been one of the leading teams in pursuit of the free-agent veteran starter, Hudson elected to stay in the National League and switch coasts.

If San Francisco is willing to commit $23 million to a 38-year-old pitcher, good for them. If that’s what it took to sign him, I’m not sorry the Indians passed up on him. I know in this inflated pitching market, we’ll have to play their game eventually, but an aging starter coming off a major injury is not the time to do so.

In Conclusion…

With the departure of Rich Hill, what the Indians need is a go-to match-up lefty when it’s late in a close game and they need to get a tough left-hander out. Of course, Marc Rzepczynski could easily assume that role, but one of the candidates above could also become that guy if they step up and prove they’re capable, but doing that is easier said than done.

There’s certainly potential in this group, but the team has to decide if they want to fill the vacant role with one of those in-house options or bring in another more established southpaw via trade or free-agency. That route is not unlikely. However, with a healthy Barnes and Soto, the addition of Hynes and Crockett knocking on the door of the majors, the current left-handed relief depth is more substantial.

Follow me on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake for all the latest Cleveland Indians news and baseball chat.

User Comments

Rich
November 20, 2013 - 8:21 AM EST
Scott Barnes with 35 K's in 28 innings. The stuff is there if he could just command it. Same with Hags. You just have to hope that at some point they learn to locate their pitches, but time is running out for both of them.
Jake D.
November 19, 2013 - 5:01 PM EST
I only saw Crockett a couple times in AA Akron last season and I seem to remember him only topping out at 89-90 mph. If his arm is more live than that, I'll certainly take it. Either way, he's an intriguing prospect to watch next year.
shy
November 19, 2013 - 4:43 PM EST
I agree w Tony and Walter that to characterize Crockett as a soft-tosser is mistaken. Dude has a way live arm and he comes right after you. He reminds me of Craig Breslow an Indian cast-off who has forged a very nice career. It took 3-4 years bouncing around for Breslow to get what Crockett has right now. Lots of near term potential in this kid, in my opinion.
Walter
November 19, 2013 - 3:55 PM EST
Since when did throwing 90-92 is considered as soft tossing. If that the case I would take Mariano Rivera any day of the week. I don't think his cutter for 20 years was clocked over 94mph. Its all about command and location.
Tony
November 19, 2013 - 1:07 PM EST
Depends what you consider "soft-tosser". Crockett sits 90-92 from the left side and touches 93 and I think I recall a 94 or too. That's not bad at all, especially from the left side.
Jim
November 19, 2013 - 12:49 PM EST
There's more to Soto than meets the eye. Shy, trust me on this...he's a control specialist. But, he's so finesse...

I don't have his walk rate in front of me, but my guess is that it wasn't good over the past year or two because of arm issues. If he gets it right, he could be a factor, but he's NEVER played an entire season healthy...I'd be shocked if he did this year...or ever really.

Of course...he's young...23 or 24...so there's time...

but it's more injury than non-control.
shy
November 19, 2013 - 12:32 PM EST
Barnes and Soto and Hagadone don't have the command. Good hitters wait for them to get behind in the count and either walk or sit on a meatball. I like Crockett and Marc Elevenletters. Haven't seen Hynes, but his numbers against lefties suggest he could be a formidable match up guy. Take Barnes and Soto and Hagadone and trade them for a Cuban batboy.
Kenneth
November 19, 2013 - 12:29 PM EST
Kyle Crockett is a soft tosser? Really? I did not know that. Bummer.

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