Aaron started out 2011 with a bang. He had a 2.08 ERA, which he rode into the All-Star game as the Royals’ only invitee. The problem was that he was riding a bit of a lucky streak led by a .243 BABIP. He regressed quite a bit in the second half of the season when his ERA jumped to 4.34 because of a .393 BABIP. Also in the second half of the season, he did not record 1 Save or Hold. He was though able to accumulate five Blown Saves during that time frame.
Going into spring training, he attempted to become one of several relief pitchers league wide to transition into becoming a starting pitcher. After a few weeks, the experimentation was stopped when Joakim Soria was lost for the season and Crow was moved back to the bullpen.
Some think Crow could be a dark-horse closer candidate for the Royals. This move to closer is not going to happen for two reasons. First the Royals have better options for the closer role. Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland will get first stabs at it. Both have excelled at the role in the past, even though Holland’s stay was short lived last season. Besides Broxton and Holland, the Royals have flame thrower Kelvin Herrera waiting to help in the bullpen.
The second and more important reason Crow will not be the closer is that he can’t get left-handed hitters out. There has been several possible reasons stated for this trait, but it mainly come down to him being able to throw an off speed pitch. This flaw is also the main reason he hasn’t made it as a starting pitcher. Here are his numbers vs RH and LH hitters:
Hand, K/9. BB/9, HR/9, BABIP, FIP
vs LHH, 8.3, 4.2, 1.7, 0.354, 5.06
vs RHH, 10.2, 4.8, 0.8, 0.229, 3.41
Crow is just not able to get out left-handed hitters. The best way to utilize him is as a ROOGY against the other teams’ best right-handed hitters. It will take many injuries to the Royals’ bullpen before Crow gets a chance of closing in 2012.
Truthfully, I had never heard of Drew Smyly until he was announced as the Tigers fifth starter this past Sunday. I probably should read more of the prospect material here at Fangraphs. Here is Marc Hulet’s take on him as the #3 prospect in the Tigers’ minor league system:
The first of three solid southpaw prospects, Smyly was pushed aggressively through the system but, unlike a number of other prospects, was deserving of the move. He has both polish and an impressive four-pitch repertoire; he understands how to mix his pitches throw off hitters’ timings. Smyly doesn’t throw as hard as many of Detroit’s “typical pitching prospects” but he shows decent velocity in the 87-92 mph range and keeps the ball down in the zone. He has a solid pitcher’s frame but the southpaw has battled arm injuries in the past, leading to concerns about his ability to throw 180-200 innings on a consistent basis. He should open 2012 in double-A.
Jason Catania had him as the 49th top fantasy propsect going into the season. He had the following to say about him:
Oliver has already pitched in the majors, albeit unsuccessfully (31.2 IPs, 25 ER, 23:21 K:BB), and Smyly has all of 45.2 innings above A-ball, but the final spot in the Tigers’ rotation could wind up being a case of musical chairs between these two and Jacob Turner, who’s the best prospect of the three. Considering the other four starters already in Detroit’s five-man are all righties, the southpaw Smyly might be a surprising sleeper, and it’s not like Detroit has any issues with putting pitchers on the fast track.
With that background, what statistically can be expected of him this season? Here are his stats in A and AA last year:
League: K/9, BB/9, GB% (from firstinning.com), ERA
A: 8.6, 2.4, 48%, 2.58
AA: 10.4, 3.0, 50%, 1.18
He performed decently and I can see why the Tigers are high on him. But these stats were only generated in 112 innings. Here are the 2012 ZiPS and Oliver projections for him in the majors:
Projection System: K/9, BB/9, ERA
ZiPs: 4.9, 3.8, 4.90
Oliver: 6.8, 3.6, 4.46
I definitely like the Oliver projection if I was thinking of picking him up in a league. The ZiPS projection has him near the 2011 versions of Jake Westbrook, Jason Hammel and John Lannan. Not really fantasy relevant in all but the deepest of leagues. The Oliver projection has him more like the 2011 versions of Edwin Jackson and Jhoulys Chacin. Much better.
For right now, I may look to pick him up and see how he does in his first start. If roster space is not available, owners should keep an eye on his K/9 and swinging strike rates for his first couple of games and get an idea of the stats he may produce.