July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; USA pitcherDanny Hultzen
throws a pitch during the third inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports
Last week I posted my Mariner’s hitter projections for the upcoming season. This time, I am going to talk about my predictions for the rotation in 2013. Like before, I used FanGraphs’ projection system. For pitchers, the system asks you to pick a stat range for the following categories: Games, Pitcher Role, IP/Game, Wins, Losses, ERA, K/9, BB/9, and HR/9. It then takes those ranges, and puts them together to create a more accurate and coexisting stat line, as opposed to the person just picking their own numbers that may not jive together.
Here are my projections for the starters I see playing a significant role this year. There are sure to be more due to injuries and such, but those are difficult to project, so I didn’t worry about them. Side note, you will also notice that the pitcher stats are less specific than the hitting stats, and that a lot of the numbers will be similar from one pitcher to the next.
With the extension under his belt, I expect big things from the King this year. He was around where you would expect last year, posting a 2.84 FIP, 3.20 xFIP and 6.1 fWAR. As you can see above, I expect a pretty similar season across the board, with the only significant change being a lower ERA. He could very well be even better than this, and there’s a chance we have yet to see Felix at his best. He is entering his prime at the age of 27, and should be poised for a big season. Assuming there is no elbow trouble, and his velocity doesn’t drop any more, we could see Felix earn his 2nd Cy Young Award in 2013.
After being hidden at the end of the bullpen to start the year, Iwakuma made a big impact in the rotation last year. He made 14 bullpen appearances before getting his first start in July, and staying there for the rest of the year. He posted a 3.16 ERA, although his 4.35 FIP suggests that he didn’t actually pitch quite that well. He doesn’t do anything particularly well, but also doesn’t do anything horribly bad. He gets a decent amount of strikeouts, limits walks, and gets a solid percentage of ground balls. On second look, he does need to reduce the amount of homers he allows, but it isn’t awful at 10.9%. As seen above, I expect a year fairly similar to last year, with the major difference being a regression in his ERA. He should be a decent stop gap for the next two years until the kids are ready.
Saunders is basically a Vargas clone, but was better overall than Vargas last year. He posted a 4.07 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 4.25 xFIP and 2.5 WAR split between Arizona and Baltimore, two hitters parks, whereas Vargas put up a 3.85 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 4.45 xFIP and 0.8 WAR in the friendly confines of Safeco. Now, it was also a down year for Vargas and an up year for Saunders, and some regression back to the norm is to be expected from both. They have been pretty much equal for their careers, with a slight edge to Saunders. The fact that we are essentially getting Vargas’ clone and Morales instead of just the real Vargas makes for a win-win situation. But if Saunders does what he did last year, or better, than that’s just net gain.
Like Iwakuma, Erasmo got limited opportunities as a starter, due to both being stuck in the pen, and then getting injured later. He also made the most of his limited time, and really impressed me. He is undersized, but still manages to hit 94-95 at times, and has solid secondary stuff. He limits walks and homers, while getting a decent amount of K’s. He has always been a solid performer, and was probably overlooked because of his size, which happens much to often. It shouldn’t matter how big he is if he gets the job does, and Erasmo does. It should be more of the same next year, and I expect him to be the second best starter on the team next year behind Felix.
Beavan is the lesser of two evils between himself and Noesi, and is often talked down upon. And I understand that. He doesn’t strike many people out, is susceptible to the long ball, and is just kind of boring to watch. But he hasn’t been horrible for his purposes. In 41 starts he has posted a 4.37 ERA and 4.85 FIP. Not good, but keep in mind he is a back end starter who is only there because there were no other options. There’s a good chance this is the last year that he has a rotation spot, and may not even stay there for the whole year. But if he can up his strike out rate like I project above, he could be at least a presentable back end starter until he is replaced by one of the prospects.
Despite his ending of last season, I see Hultzen pitching his way onto the major league roster at some point during the year. He said that his struggles in AAA Tacoma last year (5.92 ERA, 7.95 BB/9) were due to fatigue. He had never pitched that much in his career, and was trying too hard. He knew that he had lost some speed and movement, so he had to overcompensate by throwing harder, or pronating further, and that caused him to lose control. I haven’t lost any confidence in his ability to be a successful pitcher in the bigs as early as this season. I see him coming up sometime in mid-late June, and pitching into early-mid September before being shutdown as to not overdo it again.
Those are the guys I see getting significant time in the rotation next year. I could go into the bullpen, but the personnel, and success of the personnel fluctuate so much from year to year, that I didn’t feel like making projections made much sense. I will say that I expect, for the most part, the ‘pen to consist of Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge, Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, Oliver Perez and Tom Wilhelmsen, but that’s about as far as I’ll go into it. It looks to be a solid bullpen on paper, but judging bullpens before actually seeing them that year is never a safe bet.
Once again, feel free to make your own projections and share them in the comments. Also, stay tuned for the post-offseason win projection poll, so we can see how people’s opinions have changed after seeing the moves Jack and company made.