I personally believe that relief pitchers are one of the easiest things to replace on a baseball team. I also believe that even good relief pitchers are rather expendable. That doesn’t mean I don’t value them. I sincerely believe that people often undervalue what exactly relief pitchers do and accomplish.
I love reading about WPA (win probability added) and what value they bring to the team. It’s part of why when I did the daily box scores I included relief pitchers in the Top-3 players of the game. Because what they did was significant and it specifically translated into a successful outing and contributed positively towards the out come of the game.
While a lot of people talk about the young arms that are up and coming such as Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and to a lesser extent Jose Campos the Mariners also have a collection of high octane arms that are extremely close to contributing to the big league team.
Josh Lueke and Dan Cortes we know of and while they haven’t yet really pitched like we expected they still have solid velocity and coupled with their potential out pitches should they figure it out they could go nasty on the rest of the league real quick.
Then some of the other guys you may or may not heard of Stephen Pryor and Tyler ‘The Goon” Burgoon each from last years draft. Both have upper echelon velocity with out pitches that have shown the ability to close out games in the lower level. Pryor is the big name to remember as many people think that he’s the “closer of the future” for the Mariners organization.
Whether or not That may or may not be true. But, he is a dynamite picture already and could be ready to pitch in the back of the bullpen as early as September. Burgoon isn’t quiet on the fast track that Pryor is traveling, but already he’s on a few radars and he could be ready by late 2012 or spring 2013.
A third guy to remember is Chance Ruffin, son of former major league pitcher Bruce Ruffin, Jason Churchill has been saying that he is most likely the fourth piece of the Doug Fister trade and is very much in the Josh Lueke/Dan Cortes mold, though he doesn’t throw as hard. He has a good fastball velocity touching 96/97 (according to fangraphs) and sitting 93/94 with good movement and a major league out pitch in his slider. He also has a change-up, as Churchill mentions in reference to him being a potential starter, but it’s not used much and it’s a below average offering. I tend to believe that the Mariners will keep Ruffin the bullpen.
The last guy out there is 3rd round sandwich pick Carter Capps. ESPN MLB Draft blog actually did a write up on him yesterday. Take a look
While he hasn’t faced Division I competition, Capps has been dominant at Mt. Olive. After redshirting his freshman year to make the conversion from catcher to pitcher, Capps went 10-0 in 2010 and 14-1 in 2011. Combined, Capps has a 1.75 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 118 innings with only 82 hits and 18 walks. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Capps is just as imposing on the mound as Armstrong. Capps can touch 96-97 mph, but he pitches effectively around 92 mph. Capps mixes a heavy two-seam fastball to his arm side with a four-seam fastball to his glove side.
He also differentiates his slider — anywhere from 76-82 mph depending if it’s a get-me-over pitch early in the count, or a harder version that he uses as an out pitch. Capps has a tendency to tip the slider by how he breaks his hand behind him out of the glove. This is something that can be easily remedied.
But what makes Capps so impressive, in addition to his pure stuff, is the way he commands the bottom part of the strike zone. Capps is so determined to keep the ball down that he actually comes close to dragging the shin of his back leg along the ground in order to create angle on every pitch.
Capps has put together a stellar summer, posting a 0.41 ERA with 24 strikeouts and only one walk in 22 innings. In the Cape Cod League all-star game at Fenway Park last Friday, he struck out the side in his inning of work, sitting 94-97 mph. Two of those strikeouts came on the slider.
Right now, Capps seems an obvious choice for a set-up role in the bullpen, but the development of a third pitch could create an opportunity for him to start.
Capps, is an interesting guy with a nagging question that’s associated with him: “do you put him in the rotation or do you put him through on the fast track through the bullpen? If he gets put into the bullpen and his career path is accelerated it’s possible that he could be in Seattle as soon as sometime 2012.
The downside of putting him in the bullpen is that scouts don’t like his delivery (it’s a bit violent), his pitches don’t play up in the rotation and he has a history of shoulder issues.
While I believe that relief guys can be easily obtained it’s nice to grow your own and not rely upon the market to acquire such pieces. Not to mention having guys that have potential to really control the situations and be top notch guys in tough situations.