Four relievers enter but only one can leave.
A post today on four potential relievers that the Giants might consider to replace Sergio Romo if his elbow prevents him from beginning the year with the Giants. The four relievers are: Billy Salder, Justin Miller, Brandon Medders, and Osiris Matos. For now, I’m assuming that either Taschner or Hinshaw will make the team if the Giants decide to carry just 11 pitchers. Both could make it if they carry 12 pitchers. Either scenario leaves the team with 1 remaining bullpen position — Romo’s vacated spot — to fill.
Merkin Valdez doesn’t make the list because he’s yet to throw this ST and his health is always a major concern. Keiichi Yabu has been optioned to AAA and Sabean will look to “trade” him, but I’m not sure any team would actively trade for Yabu. I just can’t see that happening. The one pitcher that I left off this list of four that could make the team is Luis Perdomo. But, Rule 5 picks are generally a longshot and he doesn’t have a whole lot of minor league data to examine. He’s your basic live arm with slight control problems and promising stuff.
The following graphs depict K/9, BB/9, HR/9, and FIP. Also, the 2009 CHONE projection is included. Let’s check them out.
Candidate #1 is Billy Salder. Salder had a brief — if unspectacular — run in the majors last season. Salder throws a fastball in the mid-90′s that he compliments with a big curveball around 79-80mph. What Sadler doesn’t have is control. Over two years in AAA, he’s posted BB/9 rates of 6+ per nine innings. His K/9 rate went from very strong in the minors — 12.54 in ’07 and 11.18 in ’08 — to slightly above average in the National League. The average K/9 rate of a NL reliever in 2008 was 7.5, Sadler posted a 8.53. During his callup, Salder was still walking almost 6 guys per 9 innings — not good. His control will most likely continue to be a problem for him going forward. CHONE does project Salder to boost his K/9 to around 10 per innings — which would be above average — but his BB/9 will hold steady at slightly under 6 walks per 9. CHONE has his FIP projected at 4.18. In my WAR calculations, I’ve set the replacement-level for relievers at 4.50. So, Sadler does beat the RL in this projection.
Justin Miller is probably my favorite candidate to fill Romo’s vacancy. He was drafted by the Rockies in the 5th round way back in the 1997 First Year Player Draft. He was primarily a starting pitcher in the minors but it was a role he never had much success with. Around 2005, he started relieving and he ended up with the Marlins in 2007 as a reliever and posted some great numbers. His work in the ’07 bullpen for the Marlins stands out: 3.06 FIP, 10.80 K/9, and a 3.50 BB/9. He battled elbow inflammation problems in 2008 with the Marlins and was eventually released. When Miller is healthy, he throws a 89-91mph fastball and a ton of sliders. In the last two seasons with the Marlins, he went to his slider 46-48% of the time. CHONE is projecting a similar season to 2008. His projected FIP of 3.60 it the best among our group of relievers today. If Miller is healthy and can get past his elbow problems, he’s got a decent chance to break with the team if Romo is hurt.
Brandon Medders is another pitcher in camp with Big League Experience(tm). The Giants seem to be evaluating him heavily because he’s already thrown 4 innings for the team. Medders is the definition of a replacement-level reliever. His 2005 with the D-Backs was a little flukey because of an unsustainable LOB% of 89.4% in 30.1 innings of relief. He’s only thrown about 40 innings combined over the last two years, but the spike in his walk-rate is a little concerning. Medders chances will rest on how well he performs this ST and how heavily the Giants will weigh his BLE. All things considered, he’s my least favorite reliever of this bunch. CHONE has him projected to throw a 4.47 FIP, pegging him exactly at replacement-level.
Matos is a 24-year-old reliever that made the jump to the majors last season after working in AA and briefly in AAA over the past two years. Matos is a two-pitch reliever that relies on a fastball/slider combo to get by. Be sure to look at his AA stats with a skewed eye, because he was pitching in one of the best ballparks for pitchers in the minor leagues — Dodd Stadium. In 88 innings pitched over two years in AA Matos only gave up 3 HRs, that’s more to do with his pitching environment than any skill-set he possess. In the majors last year he was an extreme flyball pitcher — 51% of his BIP were of the flyball variety. A few prospect followers really like Matos — Sickels had him rated 12th in the system this year which I thought was laughable — but during his time in the majors, I didn’t see much. He throws a fastball in the 90-92mph range and has an average slider. I’m not sure where his ceiling is, but it’s most likely in middle relief and not a setup or closers role. For 2009, CHONE has him projected to a 4.35 FIP, ever-so-slightly better than RL.
A Ranking to Wrap Things Up
If I had to rank the relievers in order of most desirable to least desirable, I’d probably go with something like this:
- Justin Miller – He’s had the most success as a reliever at the major league level and he offers to best chance for better than replacement-level production. Health is a concern, but if he’s feeling good, he’s the guy.
- Billy Sadler – I hate myself for picking Salder as the #2 — I’m convinced he’ll be the type of pitcher that will forever tease you with potential but will never deliver — but he is somewhat tantalizing. If he could ever improve his control from ‘terrible’ to just ‘bad’ he could be useful. I’ll keep wishing…
- Osiris Matos – I think his upside is small, but he’s young-ish and could prove me wrong. In his brief time in the majors last season, I just didn’t see the appeal. He pitched well for two years in one of the best minor league parks for pitchers. I just can’t get over that. His 9 innings pitched at Fresno last season doesn’t do anything to quell my park-related apprehensions.
- Brandon Medders – I think he should get the Brad Hennessey reward for relievers. They remind me a lot of each other. Both have four-pitch arsenals but really lack a one true strikeout pitch. He would be a decent 12th reliever on a team, but if we’re replacing Romo, we want someone who can handle higher-leveraged situations.
Comment Starter: Give me your ranking for replacing Romo.