Right before spring training starts is the time to begin finding players on the fringe. The great to average players have been well documented. Their value is visible in early drafts. To find some fringe pitchers, I looked for ones with an above average fastball, change and breaking ball. The list contains mainly the game’s best pitchers. Instead, I am going to focus on the talent pool’s shallow end and examine Tom Gorzelanny.
First, I will step through how I found a possible sleeper in a 31-year-old left handed middle reliever. I was looking for pitchers who threw three above average pitches and had a chance to start. Using PITCHf/x data, I collected the pitchers who had any above average fastball (two-finger, four-finger, splitter, cutter or sinker), one above average breaking ball (slider or curveball) and a changeup. Additionally, I wanted to make sure the pitcher threw the pitch on a normal basis. Fastballs had to be thrown over 20% of the time and for breaking balls and curveballs it was 10%. Additionally, the pitcher had to have made at least one start (team willing to start him) and had throw at least 30 innings (a bit of MLB experience). Here are the pitchers who met the requirements in 2012 (28 total) and 2013 (16 total).
2012 Pitchers with Three Above Average Pitches
|Chris Sale||White Sox||23||3.05||76||30||29||192||9.0||2.4||0.294|
|Eric Stults||– – –||32||2.91||104||20||15||99||5.0||2.5||0.264|
|Franklin Morales||Red Sox||26||3.77||102||37||9||76||9.0||3.5||0.262|
|Paul Maholm||– – –||30||3.67||101||32||31||189||6.7||2.5||0.281|
2013 Pitchers with Three Above Average Pitches
|Chad Jenkins||Blue Jays||25||2.70||97||10||3||33||4.1||1.6||0.262|
|Chris Sale||White Sox||24||3.07||77||30||30||214||9.5||1.9||0.289|
The list is pretty much a who’s who of starting pitchers. Eight pitchers made the list each year, Chris Sale, Doug Fister, James Shields, Jered Weaver, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Stephen Strasburg, and finally Tom Gorzelanny. The first seven’s average draft rank among pitchers is 23.3. Gorzelanny is down at 207. Well, it now time to see if Gorzelanny is worth a roster spot.
First, his 2013 ERA was at 3.90 which was in line with his FIP (3.94), but a bit above his xFIP (3.64) and SIERA (3.56). Obviously, his was home run prone with a 1.2 HR/9 causing the high FIP. His season was divided up into two halves. In nine of the first ten games he pitched, he started. Over the rest of the season, he pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen. Here are his stats as a starter and reliever.
His results are completely mixed making it tough to tell exactly what went on. Basically, he got hit around as a starter which led to an ERA higher than his FIP and xFIP. As a reliever, he doubled his walk rate, but was able to have an ERA below his ERA estimators. Good luck as reliever and bad luck as a starter.
Through it all, he was able to throw three unique pitches, ,two-finger fastball, slider and change, with above average results. The biggest difference for him compared to earlier in his career was his changeup development. From 2007 to 2011 it was a below average pitch for him. Over the last two season, it was above league average.
Going into 2014, several question surround him. First, he had off-season shoulder surgery to repair some loose bodies. I like that he had the surgery and could see improvement in 2014. Second, he doesn’t project to have a starting spot in the rotation. A middle reliever just doesn’t have much value. Finally, and most importantly, he is not a lights out pitcher. He is borderline decent. He could be able to mix his pitches up a bit and luck out a bit to post an ERA a run under is ERA estimators. Or it could be a run the other way. We will have to wait and find out.
Tom Gorzelanny belongs to a unique group of pitchers who have thrown three above average pitches over the past two seasons. He probably won’t be on most people’s radar on draft day. I do see him as option/chance for an owner getting desperate later in the season when injuries begin to mount and the waiver wire is picked over. He has at least one positive trait which is probably more than the other available pitchers.