Kevin Correia has done well as a starter since he spot-started in the Atlanta series on August 14th. Since then, Correia has started 4 games and has been good for a 2.44 ERA in 22 IP with 3 wins and no loses. With Correia’s strong starts to finish the year, should the Giants eye him as a possible rotation member in 2008?
John Shea, from the Chronicle, speculates that:
Correia will remain in the rotation until the season ends. If he continues to shine, he’ll likely be the favorite next spring to win the final spot in the rotation.
Correia’s success has been a nice surprise, one that I’m thankful for, but I think penciling him into next years rotation would be a mistake. If Lowry is still on the team on 2008 – caveats being if he’s healthy and un-traded over the offseason – that leaves only one spot left in the rotation for the Giants to fill, like Shea states in his recap.
Correia only has 4 starts under his belt this year and it would be foolish to put too much into those 4 starts. Yes, he’s been good in those 4 starts, but the sample size is so small you can’t honestly judge if this is the real Correia or not. If the Giants are looking to fill the rotation from within, they should look at Jonathan Sanchez for 2008.
I have absolutely hated the way that the Giants have handled Sanchez up until this point. The Giants have flip-flopped Sanchez between relief and starting so many times that Sanchez has never had the chance to continue starting and developing as a starter. Only recently towards the end of this year was Sanchez starting again in the minors. Chances are that if the Giants have left him in the minors to continue starting, developing arm strength, and working his pitches, he would be the one starting right now. Instead, the Giants had to convert a reliever who once started, to fill the rotation. It seems like poor planning to me.
Let’s take a look at both Kevin Correia and Jonathan Sanchez to try and determine who is better suited for the rotation.
Kevin Correia is a 6’3″ RHP that was drafted in the 4th round of the 2002 player draft. The Cal-Poly product has three pitches which all rate at average. His fastball has good movement on it when he’s throwing well. You’ll see the fastball from anywhere in the 88-92 range. His other two pitches are a slider that is probably his best pitch next to the FB and he also throws a changeup. If Correia ever makes it into a major league rotation, he’s going to grade out as a 5th starter.
Jonathan Sanchez is a 6’2″ LHP that was drafted in the 27th round in the 2004 player draft. Sanchez has a plus-fastball, for a lefty, that touches the mid 90′s but usually works in 91-93 range. Sanchez also possesses a plus-change and a developing slider that he struggles with sometimes because of his low 3/4 delivery, finding it tough to stay on top of the ball. There have been rumors that Sanchez has been working on developing a knuckle-curve. Sanchez was ranked as the #2 prospect in the Giants system for 2007 by Baseball America. He projects as a #3 starter if everything goes well.
Minor League Track Record
(The table columns are sortable too, click any column to sort that column.)
It’s not hard to see that Sanchez is the more gifted prospect out of the two. In his minor league career he’s posted an excellent K/9 (11.33), given up less hits than IP, and kept the ball in the park with a low HR/9 (0.43). Correia also kept the ball in the yard (0.75) and posted a stronger BB/9 (3.26) than Sanchez.
Some critics of Sanchez have questioned if he can handle a full season of starting. He’s got a thin build, his listed weight is 165, and he’s never thrown more than 125.2 innings in a full season of baseball. I think this criticism is unfair because 1) Correia has never thrown more than 105.1 innings in a season and 2) There have been other successful pitchers with similar builds of Sanchez (6’2″ or taller and 165lbs or less). Thanks to the handy BB-REF Players Index you can search by that exact criteria. Here is the results of a search I did.
Some of the data is from very early baseball – early as 1922 and as recent as 2007 – but it shows that pitchers with similar builds to Sanchez have been successful. The comparisons that first pop out are the 2006 season of Ervin Santana and the 2004 season of Oliver Perez. The Oliver Perez comparison is the most interesting to me because both Perez and Sanchez are lefties with good heat, have similar builds, and both throw from a low 3/4 delivery. I think the best case scenario would be that Sanchez would turn into a Oliver Perez-type pitcher
Look familiar? Perez is on the left and Sanchez is one the right.
The Giants should let Sanchez start in 2008. He could work on his arm strength over the offseason and be ready, strengthwise, to start in Spring Training. Correia profiles more as a reliever than he does a starter and he doesn’t have the upside or stuff that Sanchez possesses. With the Giants not likely to contend in 2008, the Giants should explore Jonathan Sanchez more than just a bullpen option. If he can’t handle the rigors of starting, he could then be moved to the bullpen.
Meanwhile, if Lowry is moved for a prospect, I would have no problem with either Correia, Misch, or Blackley fighting for that rotation spot. But for now, the Giants should give Sanchez the opprotunity to start in ’08.
Edit: Since I was making the comparison between Perez and Sanchez, I thought I should also include his minor league numbers.
You can see that Sanchez and Perez, from a minor league track record, are very similar pitchers. Perez threw almost 140 more innings in the minors but they have very comparable H/9, HR/9, and K/9 rates. Sanchez has had trouble with command sometimes and so has Perez, maybe a result of their deliveries? What they both have in common was that they can both get K’s when they needed to.
Perez had a fantastic 2004. That year he was one of the best pitchers in the NL. He had a 2.98 ERA with 239 K’s in 196 IP and a ERA+ of 139. After his breakout year, Perez scuffled some in 2005 and 2006 before being traded to the Mets last year. Perez’s control did him in 2005 and he just couldn’t find the strike zone, walking 70 batters in just 103 innings, that’s good for a BB/9 rate of 6.12. The next year he still was having control issues and posted another near 6 BB/9 ratio. I seem to recall discussions that the Pirates were monkeying with Perez’s mechanics and trying to turn him into a control pitcher. I think that could have been a big source of the problem. Plus, Pittsburgh isn’t the top of my list when I think about quality organizations.
Perez has rebounded since he went to the Mets and started working with Rick Peterson. This year he has a ERA+ of 122 and has been a vital part of the Mets rotation.