Yesterday, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch the Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox Triple-A affiliate) and the Rochester Red Wings (Twins Triple-A affiliate) at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Starting for Pawtucket was right-handed pitcher Henry Owens.
Owens, 24, was ranked as high as the 19th-best prospect in the minor leagues (from MLB.com) prior to the 2015 season. He lost prospect status after pitching 63 big league innings last year, but he has not quite become a big league regular with Boston.
The team once again tried him out in the rotation this year, but his struggles continued. In three starts, Owens posted a 5.11 ERA (seven earned runs in 12 1/3 innings) and a horrific 9 to 13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
After a disastrous six walk in three innings outing against the White Sox on May 5, Owens found himself back in the minor leagues.
On Tuesday, this is what I saw:
Owens' final line was: 5 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs (earned), two walks, 9 strikeouts, 100 pitches (63 strikes).
I can already imagine the backlash.
"You're crazy, Devan!" (I am.)
"Mike Trout is a one in a generation type talent!" (He is.)
"Prospects mean nothing compared to Major League players!"
"You'll never be a general manager!"
I am not a general manager, but I am going to pretend that I am one.
My team, like many others, is in contention right now, and we need a starting pitcher. The options out there include Rich Hill, Jeremy Hellickson and perhaps Sonny Gray. But if I was to make a trade right now for a player that I want to not only pitch me to the postseason but pitch for me in the postseason, I would be picking up the phone and dialing the San Diego Padres.
Drew Pomeranz is the guy I'm interested in. He's 6-foot, 5-inches, left-handed and just 27 years old. He's also having a breakout season in San Diego, having gone 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA in 102 innings pitched over 17 starts during the first half.
I'd want Pomeranz for a few reasons.
1. Contract Status
Pomeranz is not a free agent until after the 2018 season, giving my team the rest of this season as well as two more seasons to contend with him in my rotation. This year, in particular, Pomeranz does not cost much. He avoided arbitration with San Diego in the offseason, and they only had to pay him $1.35 million.
A client of Beverly Hills Sports Council, Pomeranz may also want to do an extension with my team when the time comes. According to the Extension Tracker at MLBTradeRumors.com, BHSC has done plenty of pre-free agency extensions in the past, most recently negotiating for Francisco Cervelli, Gregory Polanco and Salvador Perez in their new deals.
2. Statistical Sustainability
Pomeranz has seen the best performances of his career this season, but some would argue that he's been helped from pitching in PETCO Park, one of the league's most notorious pitcher's parks. This cannot be denied, however, his ERA+, which adjusts for park and league factors is still extremely high at 161. This means that his ERA of 2.47 is still 61 percent better than league average, even when taking into consideration a high percentage of his starts will come at PETCO.
Pomeranz's FIP and xFIP both suggest that his ERA may be a bit too good to be true, but they're definitely not suggesting he's been a bad pitcher by any means. Pomeranz has a 3.18 FIP and a 3.66 xFIP, which rank 9th and 21st in the Major Leagues, respectively.
One thing to caution for Pomeranz, however, is his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) against. His career .271 mark is already below the league-normal of .300, but this season his BABIP against sits at .240. An explanation for this may be because Pomeranz is becoming harder to hit by upping his two-seam fastball and off-speed usage (especially with his knuckle-curve), as he has not seen his soft contact against rates change off his career average.
3. Age and durability
Pomeranz, at just 27, is more likely to provide quality innings down the stretch as opposed to some of the other options out there.
For instance, Rich Hill, a rental to begin with, is 36, and while he also pitching well, he already spent time on the disabled list earlier this season. My team does not want a player that may struggle to stay healthy as we try to make a run down the stretch.
With that said, however, Pomeranz has had his injury history as well. He went on the disabled list last year with shoulder tightness, and then later in the year, he returned after punching a chair in frustration. Other than that, he has generally remained healthy for most of his career. This season, he's showed off his health by throwing 100+ pitches in nine of his 17 starts.
This year's starting pitching trade market is weak. Pomeranz won't come cheap, that's for sure. His value has never been higher, and he just got to go to the All-Star Game. But if I really needed a starting pitcher, I'd be punching in the number of San Diego right about now.
Ever since being traded to the Astros last July, outfielder Carlos Gomez has looked lost.
Gomez, an All-Star in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the Brewers, posted just a .670 OPS in 41 games with the Astros last year, hitting only four home runs.
On the season as a whole, Gomez hit just 12 homers, his lowest total since hitting eight in 2011.
Astros fans hoped that Gomez would rebound after an offseason, allowing him to adjust to playing with Houston and figure himself out. If anything, the free-agent-to-be played worse out of the gate, having a .181 batting average with a .545 OPS as late as June 12.
Gomez himself even admitted to his struggles to the Houston Chronicle in May.
“For the last year and this year, I not really do much for this team. The fans be angry. They be disappointed,” Gomez said on May 4.
Since, however, he’s looked more like his old self, hitting .300/.372/.400 in his last 19 games since bottoming out. He added a home run and 11 RBI. Last night, Gomez was good too, going 3-for-4 and finishing just a homer shy of the cycle. It’s a turnaround that the Astros have desperately needed, as they’re 15-4 over those last 19 games and have pulled themselves back into Wild Card contention.
So, how has Gomez found his stroke again all of a sudden?
Well, from the beginning of the season until his turnaround began on June 14, Gomez was overcompensating for his lack of production. He was swinging at everything, quite literally.
Gomez, who has never had the best plate discipline to begin with, was striking out at a rate unheard of even for him. Gomez was seeing 36.3% of his plate appearances end in strikeouts, over 13 percent higher than his career average, already high nonetheless.
He was swinging and missing at almost everything. Gomez had a 19.3 swinging strike percentage, which means that he swung and missed at nearly one in five pitches he saw. If he was still at that rate, he’d be swinging and missing at the most pitches in all of baseball.
As a result, Gomez’s contact rate went down to just 63.7% (percentage of pitches he made contact with), 12 percent off of his career average. And even when he did make contact, it was weak contact. Over 30 percent of his balls put in play were classified as “soft” contact, about 10 percent above career average.
Obviously, something was wrong with Gomez. He was, by all means, a free swinger and couldn’t do anything to stop it. Right when Astros fans were ready to give up hope on him, he began to finally show glimpses of his old self.
Since June 14, Gomez has a swinging strike percentage of 12.3%, actually lower than his career average. He’s making contact at a 75.2% rate, right in line with his career average. And he’s purely hitting the ball harder, seeing his soft contact rate drop by eight percent, leading to twice as many line drives and more hits overall.
Gomez’s strikeout rate, you ask? Still high at 23.1%. But even that is right where he was when he was one of the best position players in the Major Leagues.
It is good to see Gomez break out of a slump that has seemed to define him over the past calendar year. Regardless, it’s still hard to know where he will go from here. His .392 BABIP is uncharacteristically high, but a .300 batting average for Gomez was unrealistic anyway.
Despite all this, Gomez is also playing with the pressure of a contract year. As already mentioned, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, and if he really wants to cash in, he’s going to need to continue to play like this going forward. Just 31 in December, Gomez may finally be righting the ship enough to send him to a big payday this offseason.
“I'm not even thinking about free agency,” Gomez told the Chronicle. “At the end of the year … I'm going to decide what I'm going to do.”
But for the time being, Gomez is leading the Astros’ charge back into contention.
Kendrys Morales’ performance over the past couple of weeks has been off the charts, both figuratively and literally.
According to data from Fangraphs.com, Morales has the highest 15-game “rolling” OPS over the past five years. What this means is that this graph takes plots data in 15-game intervals, in order to show both “hot” and “cold” stretches. Morales has not had a better few weeks than these past few weeks in the five year timeframe shown.