FanGraphs Scouting: Bird-Dogging Charlie Furbush

Bill Singer
Director of Pro Scouting
Washington Nationals

Mr. Singer:

I am writing you to report on a pitcher I recently scouted who may be of value to the Washington Nationals organization. The American League Central division is a very winnable race for the Detroit Tigers and the club should be looking for veteran help in July. One player of interest in the system, who may be attainable is left-handed, triple-A starter Charlie Furbush. The organization’s first call-up option from the triple-A rotation should be Andrew Oliver, leaving his fellow southpaw as an expendable item for the right price.

Background: A former Cape Cod League star in ’06, Furbush was drafted out of Louisiana State University in the fourth round of the ’07 draft by the Detroit Tigers. He has a solid start to his pro career but blew out his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and missed all of the ’08 season. After getting his feet wet again in high-A ball in ’09, Furbush blew through the minors in ’10, playing at three levels (A+, AA, AAA) and ranked second the minors in strikeouts with 183.

2011 Season: Furbush is averaging about 6.0 innings per start in 2011 after making 27 starts in 2010. This season he has a 3.48 FIP (2.91 ERA) in eight starts. Against triple-A hitters, he has a strikeout rate of 10.68 K/9. He’s struggled with his command but has shown solid control with a walk rate of 2.72 BB/9. Furbush has given up just 29 hits in 46.1 innings but hitters have been making hard contact against him and his BABIP sits at just .219. After giving up 21 homers in ’10, Furbush has seen batters go yard six times already this season.

Scouting Strengths: Although he doesn’t have a plus fastball, Furbush has been a strikeout machine in the minors thanks to his deception and unusual delivery. He throws with a low three-quarter to sidearm delivery, and hides the ball well. That causes his fastball to play up at times, especially when he works down in the zone. If he can command his fastball consistently, it will help his curveball and changeup. He does a nice job of pitching off his fastball. Furbush looks much more comfortable against left-handed batters and displays a tighter, more effective breaking ball to them; he may benefit from a true slider or a cutter.

Scouting Weaknesses: Furbush is not over-powering, but he has a solid three-pitch repertoire: 87-92 mph fastball, curveball, and changeup. None of his pitches rate higher than average. With the elbow surgery in his past, durability may be a concern but he has a solid pitcher’s frame at 6’5” 215 lbs. He did miss a year of development (2008) due to his injury. Furbush struggles with his arm slot and release point but these are all correctable issues with further experience and good coaching; his delivery doesn’t have much effort but it’s not smooth, which leads to command issues. He works up in the zone too much, and gets hard because his heater lacks life. He is a fly-ball pitcher so will benefit from a spacious park and/or good outfield defense. He needs to uses his changeup more often to right-handed hitters. Furbush needs to learn to command the inner half of the plate against right-handed batters.

Projection: Furbush hasn’t walked a lot of batters in the minors but his control is currently ahead of his command so expect to see his walk rates increase in the Majors as he faces more patient hitters. His strikeout rates will also likely fall but he’s shown an ability to get a solid number of ground-ball outs. He has the potential to pitch at the level of a No. 3 starter for a few years but is more of a No. 4 starter. He would provide excellent insurance for the Nationals’ starting rotation and could be used as a long man out of the bullpen in 2011. Furbush was probably hurt by the missed year of development but he could be a solid bullpen contributor at the MLB level with the potential to see his value increase if he can improve his fastball command and tighten up his secondary pitches.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

12 Responses to “FanGraphs Scouting: Bird-Dogging Charlie Furbush”

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  1. Josh says:

    Love the write-up but are the Nationals really a team that needs another 4-5 starter? It seems like they already have 4 in the rotation.

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    • slamcactus says:

      Furbush could be better than a 4-5 starter. Reports this year say he’s added a tick to each of his pitches, and his pitchability is pretty great.

      89-92 isn’t exactly finesse lefty territory, and Furbush has made batters swing and miss at every level.

      I’m a fan.

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  2. Eric says:

    FYI Furbush has already been called up to Detroit and is going to pitch in a long relief roll out of the pen. The Tigers starters have been very good this year, but their bullpen (aside from Valverde) has been atrocious.

    Detroit would probably be willing to part with a pitching prospect, though, because they are kinda loaded at the SP position in the organization right now. Verlander, Scherzer, and Porcello look to be mainstays for years and the AAA and AA ranks have guys like Furbush and Andy Oliver and Duane Below and Jacob Turner and Casey Crosby all pitching well. At some point, there isn’t room for all of them in Detroit.

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  3. brett says:

    So what kind of help could Furbush bring back? Is Tyler Clippard a reasonable match or is that asking too much? The Tigers’ bullpen is beyond miserable.

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    • PatsNats28 says:

      I highly doubt we trade Tyler Clippard. I don’t know how well Furbush would fit with us to be honest, we have a lot of okay/decent starting pitching, and several lefties too (Lannan, Gorzelanny, Detwiler in AAA). To be completely honest, from the Nats’ perspective, this trade doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in general. I mean, maybe if it’s for a guy like Todd Coffey, but I doubt it happens.

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  4. BooleanSyntaxBear says:

    Wow. He’s through 1.2 and looks great so far. 5 outs, 3K, 1H, 1BB. From what I saw, the BB looked quite a bit like strike three to Sean Rodriguez.

    Eff Tyler Clippard. I’m buying a Furbush jersey-tee tomorrow.

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  5. Terry Boers says:


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  6. Peter Rose says:

    I wouldn’t bet on any trade for Furbush. How can anyone say this name without cracking up?

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  7. Ree says:

    Also, his last name is Furbush. Totally should buy into him.

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  8. Paulie the Tiger says:

    Sorry guys, with two great outings and a need for solid middle relievers, the Tieger aren’t going to let Charlie go.

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  9. I Hit #2 For the Tigers! says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlie was starting soon the way Coke is pitching. Of course he has been doing a tremendous job as a long RP when one of these guys gets thumped early in a game and he is required to come in and get some innings to stop the bleeding.

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