For the better part of the past decade, the Oakland Athletics’ rotation has been a revolving door of talented arms. From “The Big Three” to the more recently imploded Harden, Haren and Blanton-led outfit, change has been about the only constant in Oakland’s starting five.
When the A’s decided that Rich Harden‘s excellent-but-transient contributions had worn out their welcome, the club shipped him to the Cubs for a package of prospects including right-hander Sean Gallagher. The 23 year-old might not be a household name, but he’s someone you’ll want to keep in mind as Oakland looks to build another excellent cost-controlled rotation.
Originally selected in the 12th round of the 2004 draft, Gallagher used his eclectic mix of pitches (fastball, curve, slider and change) to post a 2.77 ERA in 480.2 career minor league frames. The 6-2, 235 pounder punched out over a batter per inning (9.03 K/9) while showing adequate control (3.5 BB/9). Gallagher was given his first extended big-league trial last season (21 starts between to Cubs and the A’s, plus 2 relief appearances with Chicago) and while the results might look rather bleak on the surface (he posted a 5.15 ERA), the underlying results look more promising.
Gallagher’s FIP was a less scary 4.48. While he certainly issued more free passes than desired (4.53 BB/9), he did show the ability to miss bats by punching out 8.04 batters per nine innings. A high BABIP (.321) and a really low strand rate (66.5%) conspired to make Gallagher’s appear worse than it really was. The Boston native was not afraid to mix in all of his pitches, either. He used his 92 MPH fastball about 63% of the time, supplementing the heat with a healthy dose of 83 MPH sliders and 75 MPH curves (about 15% each). He also tossed the occasional 81 changeup (6% of the time).
While Gallagher racked up some grounders early on in his minor league career, he has become more of a flyball-oriented pitcher as he has climbed the ladder to the majors. In 130 career frames in the big leagues, Gallagher has posted a 36 GB%. A continued propensity to put the ball in the air would be a problem in some parks, but Gallagher’s new digs would suit such a style: McAfee Coliseum has suppressed HR production by 13% over the past three seasons, and overall run production by 11 percent.
Sean Gallagher might not be in the upper echelon of young pitchers, but there’s a lot to like here. The control will have to improve if he is going to take a step forward, but Gallagher has a diverse repertoire, the ability to fool batters and resides in a ballpark that really does a number on batting lines. Get Gallagher in the later rounds of your draft- this erstwhile Cub might just be part of Oakland’s next wave of great young pitching talent.