"What?! He's Still Playing?!" Part Three of Five
If you've read Part One, the intro to this article is the same, so skip down to the players. For the benefit of those of you who haven't read Part One, here is the series intro:
Have you ever looked at a box score or turned on the TV to a baseball game and seen a name you never expected to see?
A name you hadn't seen in several years?
I had a moment like that just last week. I looked at a Royals box score and was flabbergasted at their starting pitcher.
"What?! Bruce Chen's still pitching?!"
Obviously, players who come back to the majors after several years away get some mainstream exposure.
I thought it would be a fun idea to look through the minor leagues and see what former major leaguers are still kicking around.
I'll do this in five parts. I feel that often, when I'm doing a big list like this, I wind up writing a 10-page article nobody wants to read all the way through, and I'm losing viewers by cramming four or five articles' worth of information into one. So I'm trying out a new split-up approach—we'll see how it goes.
The first article looked at the International League (Triple-A) pitchers. The second one looked at at IL hitters. This article will examine Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) pitchers, and Part Four will be PCL hitters. Part Five will be everyone in Double-A or below.
Got that memory ready? Here we go!
The former A's and Brewers reliever has been one of the best starters in Triple-A. For those of you who (unlike me) thinks wins are a good way to measure pitchers, Lehr leads the minors with 11.
He began the year in the Phillies organization, but pitched rather poorly, so he eventually was traded to the Reds. Since the trade he's blossomed, going 6-0 with a 1.88 ERA. He has a 3.20 FIP since the trade.
Will he ever get another big league look? It's certainly not out of the question. He's 31 years old and turning in a nice year. The time is now for Lehr if he's ever going to really seize a big league job.
Lawrence was last seen getting beat up terribly for the Mets in 2007. His fastball velocity was down to about 82, and he appeared to have nothing left.
After some decent pitching and horrible luck (.366 BABIP) in the Braves system last year, Lawrence caught on with the Padres, the one team he ever had success for. He's continued to pitch well at Triple-A.
Will he ever get another big league look? I wouldn't count on it. He's lost what little fastball velocity he ever had, reducing him to a guy who has to be absolutely perfect just to be a back-of-the-rotation-quality MLB starter. While Lawrence isn't bad at the get-groundouts-and-never-walk-anybody game, he's not good enough to cut it in the majors at this point.
Forgot about him, did you?
Something of an epitome of replacement level, Etherton's been floating around for years, never finding consistent big-league work. A 6.38 FIP in 23 MLB starts will do that for you.
Etherton wasn't in American ball last year, but he's back this year in the Diamondbacks' system. He has a 5.03 FIP in 16 starts.
Etherton has some of the most astronomical flyball rates you'll ever see, so it's no surprise that his homer rate (2.10 HR/9 in his MLB career) is his undoing: he's allowed 14 homers in 90 innings this year.
Will he ever get another big league look? He just can't keep the ball in the park. It's that simple. Nobody except maybe San Diego would even consider giving Etherton a shot at this point.
Field was a rather nondescript reliever for the Royals, Rockies, and Marlins from 2002-2007. With a rather generic relief arsenal (93 mph fastball, 83 mph slider), Field had a slightly above-average strikeout rate and slightly below-average walk rate for his career.
Like Etherton, Field's a flyball guy, so he had problems with the long ball (1.33 HR/9 career). This led to a 5.05 FIP for his big league career.
Since 2004, the last season in which Field threw 10 or more innings in the majors, the righty has bounced around Triple-A, usually pitching decently. This year, however, he's in the Marlins system and pitching quite well, with a 3.26 FIP. He's got the homers down to a tolerable rate (.99 HR/9), and his 3.58 K/BB ratio is excellent.
Will he ever get another big league look? If he stays in 2009 form, he could catch on somewhere. There are worse sixth-inning types than Field, but there are also better ones.
Daigle, a first-round draft pick of Arizona a decade ago, threw 61 1/3 terrible innings for the Diamondbacks between 2004 and 2006. His peripherals (3.52 K/9, 4.84 BB/9, 1.47 HR/9) for his big league career were cringeworthy.
Daigle benefitted from a move to the bullpen in 2005, so most of that terrible line came from ten starts in 2004.
After two decent years in the minors pitching in relief, and a decent 10-game MLB cameo in 2006 (4.53 FIP), Daigle was moved back to the rotation in Triple-A and reverted to his old struggles.
After a nondescript year for the Twins' AAA team in 2008, Daigle moved on to the Astros' affiliate in Round Rock this year. He's done a nice job keeping the ball down (.53 HR/9), and has posted a nice 3.76 FIP.
Will he ever get another big league look? Daigle's just 28, and he's had some good success in relief. He's really similar to Field in terms of potential, but since Daigle is six years younger, he has a much better chance at a sustained career.
Seanez just won't go away.
The 40-year-old appeared headed for retirement after last year's 4.15 FIP campaign with the Phillies, but he's caught on with the Angels' AAA affiliate.
Seanez can still throw 90 mph at his age, but he rarely throws his fastball anymore. Instead, he uses a slider/splitter combo to keep hitters off balance. It hasn't worked in his brief time at Triple-A this year (6.47 FIP).
Will he ever get another big league look? Obviously, he's pitched decently in the majors as recently as last year, but he needs to really improve on his Triple-A performance to stick.
Armas, a longtime Expo/National No. 3/No. 4 starter, is actually in the IL, not the PCL, but I accidentally left him out of Part One, so I'm putting him in here.
Armas is in the Braves organization, but he hasn't built on a strong Triple-A showing in 2008 (3.24 FIP) with the Mets. His FIP has slid to 4.82 this year, and all his peripherals have slid as well.
Will he ever get another big league look? He got a brief one in 2008, and he'll need to return to 2008 form to get another one.
One of the more surprising guys in this series, Moss hasn't pitched in the majors since April 2004, when he put up a 16.88 ERA (yikes!) with the Devil Rays.
So, what happened to the former Atlanta, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay hurler?
Well, he continued to struggle in 2004 after being sent to the minors. He was released by Tampa in August, and signed with the Reds, where he got hit even worse in Triple-A.
Moving to the Mariners affiliate in 2005, Moss put up a nice 3.75 ERA, but that was the product of good luck rather than good pitching.
2006 saw Moss sign with the Braves, post an 8.08 FIP in three games in Triple-A, get released, go to independent ball, and keep getting hit hard.
In 2007, he signed with an obscure league even by independent league standards, but Moss struggled in three games there. He didn't pitch in organized ball at all in 2007.
Given one last shot in 2008 with the Braves, Moss pitched decently for the first time in six years. His 4.52 FIP as a Triple-A swingman wasn't anything to write home about, but it was a vast improvement over his past several seasons.
Moss signed with the Rockies before 2009, and has continued to be an average Triple-A pitcher. Only allowing 3 homers in 41 2/3 innings in the PCL is a big achievement, especially when you pitch half your games in Colorado Springs. Moss' 29/20 K/BB ratio is still not ideal, but he has a 4.47 FIP.
Will he ever get another big league look? As much as you have to appreciate the Australian lefty's efforts to get back to the majors, he's 32 years old, and has neither good stuff nor good command. The odds are low.
The former Japanese leaguer and Oakland A's hurler somehow got back to the majors last year at age 39. He hadn't pitched in the majors since 2005, but he was reasonably effective (4.06 FIP) in 68 innings.
The Giants, trying to get younger, kept Yabu around in Triple-A this year, and his FIP has jumped two runs to 6.06.
Will he ever get another big league look? At this age, with this performance, no. Then again, who could've thought he'd throw 68 decent MLB innings last year?
Ortiz was a rotation regular for four teams (most notably the Twins) in nine big-league seasons from 1999-2007. However, he was mostly ineffective (5.07 career FIP) because of a complete inability to prevent homers (1.44 career HR/9).
Ortiz is small (5'10" 165) and he throws uphill in his delivery, so his fastball winds up coming in completely straight, and without premium velocity (he throws 88-93 with the fastball), it gets crushed.
That said, Ortiz, 36, is pitching with the Giants' AAA affilate. In a swing role, he's not pitching that badly. He's got a 3.75 FIP, a 2.70 K/BB ratio, and even just .99 HR/9.
Will he ever get another big league look? Not on a stacked Giants pitching staff. In another organization (Philadelphia, for example), Ortiz's performance might get him a brief look.
Unlike most of these guys, Miller was once an excellent pitcher. He had an ace-caliber season for Houston in 2003, and was a real plus from 2000-2005. Injuries derailed his career, and after six ineffective starts in 2006 and three in 2007, Miller sat out all of 2008 before resurfacing in the Blue Jays organization this season.
Las Vegas is a very dangerous hitters' park, but Miller has a good homer rate (.94 HR/9) and decent FIP (4.77) when you consider that he throws half his games there.
Will he ever get another big league look? Miller's just 32, and he was a difference-maker at one point in his career. If his velocity is back up in his customary 90-92 range instead of the 87-88 of 2006-07, then he could get back to his old form. If not, he may still be able to gut it out as a decent No. 5 guy.
Miller has the same problem as Ortiz, though: the Blue Jays' upper levels are crammed with quality pitching prospects.
Most notably a swingman for the Blue Jays and Rangers in 2001, Michalak also saw big-league action in 1998, 2002, and 2006, compiling a 5.57 FIP in basically a season's worth of pitching.
He simply refuses to go away.
Michalak has pitched for nine different Triple-A teams since 2003 (including two non-consecutive stints with the Albuquerque Isotopes). He's also pitched for two Double-A teams, one High-A team, and one major league team (Cincinnati in 2006) in that span.
It might finally be the end for the 38-year-old lefty, however.
Michalak was pasted for seven runs in just 2/3 of an inning in Triple-A. He's currently on the DL and hasn't pitched in two months.
Will he ever get another big league look? As great of a story as it would be, I just don't see it happening.
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