PT TOMORROW: AL East — Applying 2020 foresight to East pitching staffs

Baltimore Orioles

Mychal Givens (RHP, BAL) is closing the season pitching extremely well: eight straight scoreless innings, three hits, no walks, 12 strikeouts. But performance may only enhance the likelihood that someone will make the Orioles an offer they can’t refuse in the off-season.

While Givens would likely close if he remains in Baltimore, the Orioles may have to move on down the line in the case of a trade.

One possible answer that has emerged in the second half of the season is Hunter Harvey (RHP, BAL), who has a 10/4 K/BB in his first 5.1 major league innings, with an August 31 home run by Hunter Dozier (3B, KC) accounting for the only run he has yielded. (Hunter-on-Hunter crime -- did someone say "Dick Cheney"?)

After years of injuries interrupting his development as a starter, Harvey may have found a new home in the bullpen. 

The Orioles have given Shawn Armstrong (RHP, BAL) sporadic save opportunities throughout the season, though he would only be a consideration for ninth-inning duty if he could recapture the control he demonstrated in 2017, which his FpK had strongly suggested was a small-sample fluke, and 2018 has borne that out.

Miguel Castro (RHP, BAL) also has built a modest six-appearance scoreless streak, but his command remains a major impediment to a higher-leverage role. 

As for the rotation, little is settled beyond Dylan Bundy (RHP, BAL) and John Means (LHP, BAL), who has looked a bit more like the first-half All-Star in his last four starts, albeit against not the stiffest competition (KC twice, TEX, TAM).

One pitcher who bears watching is Dean Kremer (RHP, BAL), who is being sent to the Arizona Fall League. Kremer, who came to Baltimore in the Manny Machado (3B, SD) trade, led the minor league in strikeouts in 2018 with 178. This season, he reached Triple-A for the first time, where he was given a rude welcome (19 ER in 19.1 IP). But before that, he had posted a 2.98 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with a 3.0 Cmd in 84.2 IP for AA-Bowie.

Keegan Akin (LHP, BAL) is another pitcher who would seem on the cusp of making his major league debut. Akin’s ERA (4.73) and WHIP (1.52) in a full season at Triple-A Norfolk were nothing to write home about, but he did showcase a talent for missing bats (131 K in 112.1 IP).

 

Boston Red Sox 

That the Red Sox were forced into signing Jhoulys Chacin (RHP, BOS) off the street for a September 6 spot start is a pretty good indication that Boston’s pitching plans veered off course in 2019.

Injuries were a big part of the story, of course, and the team will obviously hope that a platelet-rich plasma injection and an off-season to rest will allow Chris Sale (LHP, BOS) to reassert himself as staff ace in 2020.

While Sale’s results were off, his skills were right in line with his previous two seasons. A 20% HR/F and 65% strand rate were the main culprits behind contributed mightily to the deviation between Sale’s 2.96 xERA and 4.40 actual ERA. He will be the very definition of high-risk, high-reward pick in 2020.

In a similar boat is David Price (LHP, BOS). Though the gap between his ERA and xERA is not quite as severe, neither are his injury concerns, at least as far as we know. 

The Red Sox may have an opening in their rotation, unless Rick Porcello (RHP, BOS) determines that re-signing with Boston on a one-year deal to re-establish his value is his best option. Porcello has done little this season to attract other suitors (5.40 xERA).

The Red Sox do not have any obvious in-house alternatives to Porcello, unless the team revisits the idea of deploying Darwinzon Hernandez (LHP, BOS) as a starter. While Hernandez has struggled mightily with his control but has largely offset that deficiency with an eye-popping strikeout rate. Whether that would continue to be true in a starting role remains to be seen.

At the other end of the game, it will be interesting to see whether the Red Sox decide to spend to bring in a perceived upgrade to closer Brandon Workman (RHP, BOS). 

While Workman has been somewhat fortunate (22% hit rate) and has been charged with six blown saves, his skills, aside from some iffy control, show him to be capable of holding his own in the ninth inning. 

With other triple-digit-BPV relievers milling about, including Matt Barnes (RHP, BOS), Josh Taylor (LHP, BOS) and Hernandez, if he remains a reliever, the Boston bullpen may not be in as bad of shape as some would lead you to believe. Thus, the team may seek to supplement Workman rather than replace him. 

 

New York Yankees

The Yankees will have at least one new face in their rotation in 2020, given the looming retirement of C.C. Sabathia (LHP, NYY). While Sabathia has certainly had a standout career, he has been losing the battle with his balky right knee of late, last pitching more than 4.1 innings on July 15 and going 0-4 with an 8.84 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in the five starts he has been able to make since that date.

Of course, the 2020 Yankees should regain the services of Luis Severino (RHP, NYY), and that may be all the team needs in terms of an answer, given the emergence of Domingo German (RHP, NYY).

The Yankees are on the hook for at least one more year of J.A. Happ (LHP, NYY), but they have 17 million reasons in the form a vesting option to make sure he does not make 27 starts or pitch 165 innings in 2020. 

Happ has always been somewhat homer prone but took things to a whole new level in 2020. While his control has remained steady, his strikeout rate has taken a dip, helping to spike his xERA to 4.82.

Provided his health continues on the upswing, Jonathan Loaisiga (RHP, NYY) could be a leading candidate for whatever starts shake loose in 2020. Injuries have limited Loaisiga to 38 IP between the minors and majors in 2019, but he flashed some interesting skills while rocketing through the Yankees minor league system in 2018. 

Speaking of rapid rises, the Yankees clearly have high hopes for Deivi Garcia (RHP, NYY), who started the season in High-A and may yet make his major league debut once the minor league playoffs end. 

The 20-year-old Garcia shined at High-A Tampa and AA-Trenton before meeting his match to some degree at AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Across the three levels, Garcia posted a 3.1 Cmd and 13.3 Dom. 

Closer Aroldis Chapman (LHP, NYY) is under contract for two more seasons, but the recent revelations that the Yankees nearly pulled off a deadline trade for Toronto closer Ken Giles (RHP, TOR) perhaps indicates some dissatisfaction in Chapman or at least an acknowledgement that a back-up plan is not the worst idea, given the mileage Chapman has put on his arm. 

While Zack Britton (LHP, NYY) and Adam Ottavino (RHP, NYY) have the closing experience, the notable skills resurgence in the Yankees bullpen in 2019 came from Thomas Kahnle (RHP, NYY) (2.64 xERA, 13.3 Dom, 5.1 Cmd). 

Especially given the lack of skills support for Britton and Ottavino, Kahnle could be in line for higher-leverage work in 2020, particularly given that Dellin Betances (RHP, NYY) could leave in free agency, despite suffering through a lost season due to injury to this point.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

If they just could get and keep everyone healthy, the Rays could have as good a stockpile of arms as any team in 2020.

While their use of an opener has been much ballyhooed and will likely continue, given its effectiveness, the Rays have the makings of a very solid front of the rotation with Blake Snell (LHP, TAM), Charlie Morton (RHP, TAM) and Tyler Glasnow (RHP, TAM).

As the one of the three who managed to stay healthy throughout 2019, Morton has positioned himself to max out his vesting option for 2021, which would begin to decline once he hits 30 days on the injured list in 2019 and 2020 combined. 

Morton has not only stayed off the IL, but he has posted a career-high BPV this season.

Similarly, Glasnow and Snell’s skills were very good before injuries disrupted their campaigns.

Add in Yonny Chirinos (RHP, TAM) and Ryan Yarbrough (LHP, TAM), who have also flashed very good skills either as starting pitchers or bulk relievers, and you have the makings of a — gasp — traditional five-man rotation, if the Rays chose to go that route. 

Beyond that quintet, the Rays have other options as well, including Trevor Richards (RHP, TAM), who has responded well to getting stretched out upon his deadline deal to Tampa, giving up 5 ER in 16.2 IP (2.70 ERA) with a 19/4 K/BB.

Meanwhile, Brendan McKay (LHP, TAM) was unable to sustain the early success he found on the major league mound, but the 23-year-old’s future remains bright. 

That’s seven viable starting pitching options before even getting to former top prospects Jose De Leon (RHP, TAM) and Anthony Banda (LHP, TAM) still trying to round into form after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, or Austin Pruitt (RHP, TAM), who has given the Rays a pair of very credible starts over the past couple of weeks; or Jalen Beeks (LHP, TAM), who had been a reliable bulk reliever in the first half of the season.

At the other end of the game, the acquisition of Nick Anderson (RHP, TAM) has given the Rays a potent combination from right side with Diego Castillo (RHP, TAM) and primary closer Emilio Pagan (RHP, TAM).

As good as Pagan has been, Anderson has been better. In his 13 innings for the Rays, Anderson has not walked anyone while striking out 26 batters. The lone run he has yielded was a solo home run by Jose Altuve (2B, HOU). It is certainly a possibility that Anderson could enter Tampa’s save mix in 2020. 

From the left side, Jose Alvarado (LHP, TAM) has had a lost season that culminated with an elbow injury. That opened the door for Colin Poche (LHP, TAM) to emerge as a late-inning option, and his skills suggest he should be able to continue to get the job done.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays figure to hold wide-open auditions for roles in their starting rotation in 2020. For Trent Thornton (RHP, TOR) and Jacob Waguespack (RHP, TOR), their auditions started early, but neither has done nearly enough to approach locking down their spots for next season.

The prospect most people are hoping to see in the Jays rotation before too long is Nate Pearson (RHP, TOR). But given that there are a couple of pitchers ahead of Pearson with a more pressing need to be added to the 40-man roster — namely ground ball specialist T.J. Zeuch (RHP, TOR) and Anthony Kay (LHP, TOR) — Pearson will likely have to bide his time in AAA-Buffalo until a spot opens up for him.

In his first three starts for AAA-Buffalo, Pearson gave up 6 ER with a 15/3 K/BB over 18 IP.

Zeuch made his major league debut on September 3, four innings of relief (2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). He also added a Triple-A no-hitter to his resume August 19 (1 BB, 3 K).

Kay is set to make his first major league start September 7, after giving up 10 ER in 36 IP (2.50 ERA) in his seven starts for AAA-Buffalo.

Others who may be called for the tryout include Matt Shoemaker (RHP, TOR), who is recovering from a torn ACL; Ryan Borucki (LHP, TOR), recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs; and Sean Reid-Foley (RHP, TOR) and Thomas Pannone (LHP, TOR), who have yet to take advantage of the opportunities they have been given and whose future may turn out to be in the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, if Toronto can convince potential trade partners that he is not damaged goods, Ken Giles (RHP, TOR) may be on the move, as he almost was at the deadline.

The team has seemingly anointed Jordan Romano (RHP, TOR) as Giles’ heir apparent, and aside from a couple of home runs allowed, the 26-year-old rookie has responded, striking out 15 in 9 IP.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.