AL SP Update: Morrow to DL, Reyes to Rotation

Yesterday afternoon, it was reported that everyone’s favorite sleeper Brandon Morrow would start the season on the disabled list due to right forearm inflammation. Those loud arrrghhs you heard at that time were the collective reactions of the fantasy owners who drafted him. Sure, it was noted that the Blue Jays would backdate his DL-stint to ensure he only misses one start, but this is quite concerning. As you may or may not know, forearm tightness, or inflammation in this case, is often a precursor to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. So Morrow owners should prepare for the worst. In the meantime, former Braves prospect Jo-Jo Reyes, who was acquired along with Yunel Escobar last season, was named to the rotation as Morrow’s replacement. Does he have any potential to generate at least some AL-Only league value?

Reyes has battled a variety of ailments over the past couple of seasons and his statistical track record has been a mixed bag. The 27 year old lefty has thrown 194.0 Major League innings spread out over four seasons and he has posted an ugly strikeout and walk rate combination that has resulted in a career 4.95 xFIP. He uses four pitches (fastball, slider, curve, and changeup) in his arsenal, while, for a lefty, his fastball is thrown at solid velocity in the low 90s.

His best skill during his short career has been his ability to induce ground balls. His GB% sits at 47.5%, which is above the league average typically between 42% and 43%. A major problem for Reyes has been his control as his 4.6 BB/9 would attest. However, in 14.0 innings at Double-A and 47.1 innings at Triple-A in 2010, that was much improved, as he brought his BB/9 rates below 3.0 for the first time. Small sample size caveats apply of course, but we often see young pitchers take several years to fully develop their control, so this leap forward could be a sustainable skills gain.

Reyes has also missed bats at a much higher frequency in the minors. Unfortunately, that prowess has simply not translated to the Majors just yet. Looking back at his Triple-A season last year again, we see in addition to the improved control, his strikeout rate spiked as well. Given his relative success in the minors and apparent improvement, and even factoring in the move to the American League, it seems likely that Reyes will post a strikeout rate above his career rate of just 5.9. Assuming that happens, it is not too far of a stretch to see his skill set looking fairly similar to another groundballing lefty with below average control, C.J. Wilson. I am certainly not suggesting that Reyes will duplicate Wilson’s 3.35 ERA last year (which was lucky in itself, as his xFIP was a less impressive 4.20), but that the seeds are there for Reyes to be a pleasant surprise for both the Blue Jays and fantasy owners itching to speculate.




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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


11 Responses to “AL SP Update: Morrow to DL, Reyes to Rotation”

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  1. gu03alum says:

    Should I stay away from Morrow in my auction this weekend? What would be a good value for him not knowing what this injury could end up being?

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    • Kris says:

      I hadn’t read that article, but I’m not picking up what he’s putting down until he’s got some numbers. Sure, every pitcher that undergoes Tommy John probably had forearm tightness, but have all pitchers with forearm tightness undergone Tommy John?

      I would like more than just “Check out these five examples” as I predict TJ-surgery for Lester and the King.

      It’s not like anyone was predicting 200IP from Morrow, they were just hoping for it.

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      • AA says:

        A forearm strain that Morrow said was very minor and told the pitching staff just to be safe. A little inflammation does not mean something drastically horrible at all. He was going to have an innings cap of 170-175 innings anyways (roughly 20% more than last year) and this just means that instead of shutting him down earlier, we are able to let him pitch later in the season. The DL stint is being backdated to March 22nd and this means he is only missing one start (or else why backdate it). He was trying to convince me that he was good to go and we didn’t need to put him on the DL but we are just being safe and cautious (we do have the depth to do so). If it were a playoff game or an important one, I already mentioned to the National Post that he would have pitched.

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      • AA says:

        “I was a little tight after my bullpen session and I was being safe and let them know about it,” Morrow said. “It sucks because I think I can go. I didn’t think that we needed a DL stint.

        “It feels fine but that’s not what they’re going off of.”

        “I was surprised because I didn’t think we’d need to go on the DL, that’s for sure,” he said. “I thought maybe we’d take a couple of days, throw a bullpen, then make my scheduled start on Monday.

        “My elbow feels all right. I’ve got full extension. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s fine. I didn’t have any concerns before the MRI and it showed that there wasn’t any serious problems, like with a ligament or anything, just a little inflammation.”

        “We took the decision out of his hands,” Anthopoulos said.

        Manager John Farrell stressed that Morrow was shelved as “a precautionary move” and was “clearly the right thing to do for Brandon.”

        Anthopoulos said the decision was not difficult, especially since Morrow will face a yet-unspecified innings limit this season because of his relative inexperience as a starter.

        “It’s one of those things where we’re being extra cautious,” Anthopoulos said of the Morrow decision. “Really, we’re talking about him missing a start. He is adamant that he can go. We just want to let everything (in his elbow) calm down for four or five days. Why try to rush when it’s only one start.”

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    • shibboleth says:

      In my mind, his ungodly K/9 still outweighs a TJS rumor, at least at this point in time. I wouldn’t stay away necessarily, but I might bump him down a round or two. If you take him, be sure to adjust the rest of your team’s risk tolerance accordingly.

      I’ve recently read an interesting article on sliders and pitcher injury risk, of which Morrow apparently meets the criteria. Does anyone on this board share the same concern?

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      • Mike Podhorzer says:

        I’ve read some articles, more speculative than hard research, regarding sliders and injury risk. However, Morrow only throws his slider about 15% of the time, so he wouldn’t fit into that camp anyway.

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      • Rudy Gamble says:

        I write a lot about slider rates on my risky pitcher posts on Razzball.

        I had Morrow on my top 20 risky pitcher list. His slider rate is kind of borderline. The part that scares me is that it’s his 2nd year as a starting pitcher and it’s just a tough year for a lot of pitchers – particularly if they were yanked b/w starting and relieving the prior year like Morrow.

        I agree that he’s worth drafting….assuming you’re not paying a hyped-up price. Maybe this injury puts his draft price closer to a 4th/5th pitcher (with awesome upside/K-heavy) in 10/12-team mixed leagues….

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      • shibboleth says:

        Hey Rudy, yours was the article I was refering to! (was unsure about policies for naming the competition so to speak, but now I know)

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      • Kris says:

        I’ll have to read that article, but I’ll definitely give it a go.

        I cannot overstate my laziness, but I might just be intrigued enough to look not just at slider rate, but speed and delta spin angle from FF to SL (and rate as well, I’d assume)

        Theoretically, or at least as a working hypothesis, I’d assume that it’s not just the percentage of the slider that influences injury rate, but also the spin imparted upon the pitch.

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      • Rudy Gamble says:

        Kris -
        I’m sure there’s more to it than just ‘slider rate’….just as I feel like I built that upon an increase in pitches/innings (aka the ‘Verducci effect’).

        FanGraphs has such awesome data over the past 5-6 years that I think any thesis can be tested. I ended up refuting a few theories such as one that 3,500+pitches in a season was bad (in fact, a pitcher who has done is more likely to be successful the next year…only because they are more likely to be veteran pitches who have built up the stamina). There’s definitely more risk with 1st/2nd year starters – I think slider rate just increases the risk a bit more…

        If you end up digging into it, the one thing I suggest is always baselining against the average pitcher.

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    • Mike Podhorzer says:

      I wouldn’t necessarily stay away, but given the fact that he’s one of those sleepers that isn’t, he will not be undervalued like a sleeper must be to fit the definition. I certainly wouldn’t pay for him with the requirement he post an ERA just below 4.00 just to break even. Though, this injury scare may depress the bidding. As much as the upside is intriguing, this injury, probable innings ceiling and continued poor control means he should only be drafted if he can be had at a reasonable discount.

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