One of the things I’ll be watching this Spring is how the Seattle Mariners are using Charlie Furbush and what kind of results Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi are getting. If you listen to the organizational talking heads, it really seems to suggest that the rotation going into the season will be Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, Beavan, and Noesi. As a Mariner fan, that should depress the hell out of you, but as far as fantasy baseball is concerned, Charlie Furbush is probably way more talented than the two at the back end of the rotation.
In 2012, Furbush started exactly zero games but he wasn’t just used to get left handers out. Furbush did dominate left handers, holding them to just a .143/.217/.187 slash line, but he held right handed hitters to a respectable .195/.289/.349 line, facing just shy of 100 batters.
He did have a triceps issue, which limited his innings to just over 46. But in that time, he gave up just 28 hits, striking out 29% of batters, finishing with a 2.72 ERA (2.81 FIP) and 0.95 WHIP. His BABIP probably helped him, down at .231, but his strand rate and HR/FB rate weren’t completely out of the ordinary, so his success wasn’t wrapped up in massive luck nor a big platoon advantage.
Furbush is just 26 and ZiPS seems to believe he’s capable of a 27% K rate and a low-3’s ERA over 55 relief innings, comparing him to Michael Gonzalez. The Gonzalez comp is interesting because at age 26, he was one of the better relievers in baseball when he put up a 1.25 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. I’m not suggesting that’s in store for Furbush, and neither is ZiPS, but hey, Gonzalez was a feared reliever for a solid four years, and was no slouch in 2012 either.
But what about Furbush as a starter? Last year, he used mostly a two seam fastball and a slider/curve that no two classification systems can really agree on. But that was entirely as a reliever. If you’re a believer in Baseball Info Solutions data, however, it suggests that Furbush has a change-up that he used when he was starting games in 2011, and that it wasn’t half bad, either. Whether his combination of two-seamer/slurvey thing/change-up is enough to find success every fifth day, I don’t know — but the Mariners are likely to find themselves facing a choice on Furbush after watching Beavan and/or Noesi get throttled in Spring Training.
Here’s a couple quick (obligatory) gif’s for you if you’re completely unfamiliar with Furbush. Both of these are from 2011 when he was starting games, the first featuring the big sweeping curve thing and the second a look at his change-up (and Miguel Olivo screwing up, again):
Yeah, I know — two cherry picked gif’s don’t make a season, but I’m a visual learner and I like to actually see a delivery.
The Mariners could sign Joe Saunders. They could trade for Chris Capuano. They could sign Kyle Lohse. They could envision Furbush only as a LOOGY. A lot of things could happen. But looking objectively at their rotation as it stands, I’d peg Furbush about as talented as anyone in there not nicknamed ‘King’. The Mariners are also notorious for pigeonholing players into roles that diminish their value (see Jaso, John). But should you be interested in very low-cost options during your draft, keep an eye on Beavan, Noesi, and Furbush, and try to listen to what the M’s brass is spewing as March comes to a close. Charlie Furbush just might be a great little sleeper pick.