Aroldis Chapman and 10 Dynamic MLB Arms Being Underutilized on Their Teams
This was a very fun list to compile because while many of these pitchers are not well-known on a "pure stuff" level, they rank among the best in baseball.
Unfortunately for these pitchers and their respective teams, they are not being utilized properly. For example, Aroldis Chapman and his incredible repertoire belong in the starting rotation, as does Brett Myers in Houston.
In addition, relievers such as Addison Reed and Bobby Parnell deserve more prominent roles at the end of games for the White Sox and Mets, respectively. Kelvin Herrera has the hardest average fastball in all of baseball, but is rarely used beyond the seventh inning.
Many teams can improve simply by changing the way they use their current assets. Here is a look at 10 dynamic arms in baseball that are being underutilized by their teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks: David Hernandez
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This is a bit of a stretch, because David Hernandez has developed into one of the best setup men in all of baseball, but hear me out.
As a starting pitcher in the minor leagues from 2006 to 2009, Hernandez had four consecutive seasons with a K/9 rate greater than nine. His career ERA in Double-A is 2.63, and in Triple-A, it is 3.30, so he has not lacked success as a starting pitcher in the minors.
However, despite that dominance, Hernandez was only afforded 27 starts in the major leagues over two seasons. While he did not perform all that well, the upside is there to be a dominant starter.
Take C.J. Wilson as an example of an excellent reliever who turned into an even better starting pitcher, and David Hernandez could be an even greater asset for the D-Backs if given the opportunity.
Chicago White Sox: Addison Reed
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Before yesterday's implosion, Addison Reed had pitched 10 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts and just five hits allowed.
Reed has been incredibly dominant in his brief minor-league career, posting a 155/20 K/BB rate. His 13.8 K/9 rate in his first 17 big-league innings shows his upside.
So far this season, the White Sox have only been using Reed and his 94.6 MPH fastball in the seventh and eighth innings, while other late-inning options Hector Santiago and Matt Thornton have struggled. Those two have combined to blow four saves in just nine chances.
Reed appears to be the best short-term and long-term answer for the Sox, and it appears the White Sox may have realized what they have, as he earned the save Monday night.
However, until they do this consistently, he will be underutilized.
New York Mets: Bobby Parnell
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I realize Bobby Parnell struggled serving as the Mets closer last season, but this year, it appears he has finally discovered how to pitch.
Parnell has maintained his fastball and stellar K/9 rate. He has a 95 MPH average while touching 100 and 16 strikeouts in 16 innings, but he has cut his walk rate dramatically from 4.10/9 last season to just 1.69 this year.
Parnell has not only been better this season, but Francisco has been very inconsistent in the past as well, and if these patterns continue, Parnell will not be underutilized in the seventh and eighth innings much longer.
Texas Rangers: Alexi Ogando
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The reward for making the All-Star team as a starting pitcher in your rookie season?
A shift to the bullpen.
Alexi Ogando's debut season was very good, as he went 13-8 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 169 innings, but with the Rangers' loaded starting rotation, he was sent to the bullpen.
This season, Ogando's fastball has averaged out at 96.7 MPH, and his results could not be much better. Before Sunday's outing against the Angels, he had not allowed a hit to a right-handed batter or a walk the entire season, giving up just one run in 18.2 innings with 19 Ks.
The Rangers rotation is outstanding; there is no denying that. At the same time, with Matt Harrison's recent struggles and Ogando's success in 2011 as a starter, there is also no denying that he would be better utilized as a starting pitcher.
Houston Astros: Brett Myers
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While Brett Myers may not have the dominant stuff that others on this list have in their arsenal, he has one thing none of them have.
Myers has six seasons of 190-plus IP in his career, but for some reason, the Astros made him their closer this season despite no proven starting pitchers outside of Wandy Rodriguez.
I understand the idea of wanting to go young, but with the Astros going nowhere this season, they cut the value of one of their greatest trade deadline assets in half. They took a pitcher who was going to give them around 200 innings and capped him at 70.
This is the definition of underutilizing a player.
Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale
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I have no idea what the White Sox are doing with Chris Sale this season.
His first five appearances were starts, and he was great, as Sale went 3-1 with 29 strikeouts in 32 innings. Then, with the White Sox's bullpen problems and Sale's reported arm issues, they shifted him to the bullpen.
After just one appearance, Sale was then shifted back into Chicago's rotation, where he started on Saturday and lost.
This is what we call the Joba Chamberlain formula, and while his poor performance and Tommy John surgery were bad enough, at least the Yankees did not switch him around three times in a 10-day stretch.
The Sox need to pick a role for Sale—bullpen or rotation—and stick with it. If they want to capture the most value out of his prized left arm, they should leave him in the rotation to let him develop a consistent routine for his arm. This would not only help prevent injury, but also provide 200 innings instead of the 60 to 70 he would give out of the bullpen.
Kansas City Royals: Kelvin Herrera
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I did not know who Kelvin Herrera was myself, but after looking into his fastball and minor-league pedigree, his résumé speaks for itself.
Herrera has the fastest heater in all of baseball, clocking in at 99 MPH on average, helping him strike out 15 batters in 18 innings thus far in 2012.
In his minor-league career, he has never had a FIP above 3.25, but even with an injury to Royals setup man Greg Holland, Herrera has not sniffed any important innings this season.
I understand that he is young and the sample size at the major-league level is very small, but the upside is there. With the Royals off to a terribly slow start, there is no better time to see if he can develop into a dominant late-inning reliever or closer of the future.
San Diego Padres: Andrew Cashner
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Coming in right behind Herrera with the second-fastest heater in all of baseball is Andrew Cashner, sitting at 98.7 MPH on average.
The problem with Cashner in his brief career has been his control, as evidenced by his 14 walks against 14 strikeouts in just 15.2 innings in 2012. However, in Double-A and Triple-A over the past two years, it appeared as if Cashner corrected this flaw with 67 strikeouts against just 15 walks in 61.2 innings.
With Huston Street succumbing to yet another injury and only Dale Thayer standing in his way, the Padres would be wise to hand Cashner the closer's role and see what he can do with it. I actually believe Thayer could be an average closer at the major-league level, but that does not help the Padres in the long term.
Cashner's upside is unmatched in the Padres bullpen, and with San Diego rebuilding this year, 2012 represents a great opportunity to learn about what his future value can be.
Kansas City Royals: Aaron Crow
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Aaron Crow was drafted in the first round twice, to the Nationals in 2008 and the Royals again in 2009, both with the idea he would develop into a dominant starting pitcher.
However, despite being used exclusively as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues, Crow has only been used as a reliever in Kansas City, and it is not for lack of stuff. Crow's fastball clocks in at 95 MPH on average, and his 2.76 ERA and 9.3 K/9 ratio over 78.1 innings speak to how well he has pitched.
Crow was supposed to start the season as a starting pitcher, but after Joakim Soria went down with Tommy John surgery, the Royals decided to move him into their bullpen. With his long-term role clearly in the rotation, this year will be another year where the Royals sacrifice around 130 innings of development for their young right-hander.
Cincinnati Reds: Aroldis Chapman
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The Reds certainly did not pay Aroldis Chapman $25.5 million to pitch 70 to 80 innings a season as a reliever. The way he has performed this season, they would be crazy to keep him there.
Chapman has not allowed a run in 17.2 innings this year, giving up just six hits and four walks along the way for a 0.57 WHIP. An even greater sign of his dominance is that he has 31 punch-outs in those 17.2 innings and a 7.75 K/BB ratio.
While the Reds have great starting pitching depth, there is no denying Chapman's ace potential. His dynamic 96.6 MPH average fastball belongs in the starting rotation, and right now, the Reds are not taking full advantage of his ability.