The ride has not always been a pleasant one, but it’s over now. Manny Delcarmen was dealt to the Colorado Rockies yesterday, the final day that such moves were allowed during the regular season. In return, the Red Sox picked up a name with far more potential than Delcarmen, one with intriguing numbers that could help Boston in different ways in the future.
Delcarmen had worn out his welcome in Boston–though he had shown flashes of being a potentially dominant reliever early on in his career thanks to well above-average strikeout rates and a tendency to put the ball on the ground, he had devolved into a frustrating pitcher with stuff that continued to tease but results that made you shudder.
Delcarmen still has the same mid-90s velocity he had upon entering the league, but had begun to rely on his change up more often the past two years (though it did him little good). His whiff rates were well below the league-average for a reliever the last two seasons, and his walk rates shot up–Delcarmen has handed out 58 unintentional free passes over his last 103 2/3 innings pitched, or just over five per nine innings. That’s fine if you’re Carlos Marmol and you can strike out over 100 batters in a season while not allowing any hits, but when you’re Manny Delcarmen, it’s a problem. Thanks to a .220 BABIP, Delcarmen’s ERA hasn’t even looked as awful as it’s supposed to, and while the 1.4 HR/9 is probably a blip on the radar, going to the thin air of Colorado is not going to help him in that or the BABIP department.
Delcarmen will not be missed in the Boston bullpen for reasons other than his performance, as the timing with which he was used could be described as low-leverage–in fact, that’s exactly what general manager Theo Epstein described his role as. His Leverage score, according to Baseball Prospectus, was 1.13 (where 1.00 is average), and manager Terry Francona has opted to use other relievers in the spots once reserved for Delcarmen–no offense to Scott Atchison, but when he’s picking up innings ahead of you on the reliever depth chart, things have gone south. The emergence of Felix Doubront kept Boston from having to attempt to use Delcarmen in Hideki Okajima’s old role, and it’s likely he would have been designated for assignment if someone did not want him in a trade–luckily for Boston, the Rockies were in the market for a reliever.
Chris Balcom-Miller is a 21-year old right-hander who pitched in the Single-A Sally League this year. Just a few days ago, Kevin Goldstein wrote that Balcom-Miller had made the jump from “sleeper to one of the better pitching prospects in the Colorado system.” His fastball is plus, and he can command it, and his secondary offerings are good, though not standout. He has struck out 117 batters in 108 2/3 innings, and has posted a G/F ratio of 2.1 while handing out just 1.5 walks per nine innings pitched.
A few thoughts on pitchers who dominate with a fastball in A-ball: if a pitcher can command his heater at that level, and it’s a plus pitch, he’s going to strike out far more batters than he will at higher levels where the opposition is used to seeing multiple looks from the pitcher–John Maine is a good example of this. Miller’s season is full of positives, but it’s something to keep in mind–he’s not necessarily going to strike out a batter per inning at every level while inducing tons of grounders and keeping his walk rates down.
The fact the Red Sox picked up someone with this kind of upside in exchange for a pitcher that may not have been on the roster as of September 1 regardless is mind boggling, but the Rockies were desperate, and desperate clubs will do things they may regret later in the heat of the moment. Miller may not sniff the majors for awhile given he is a starter and the Red Sox are all set in that regard, with five regulars under contract for 2011 and beyond, but he could be 2011′s version of Felix Doubront if his ascent through the minors continues unabated. That doesn’t mean he should be a reliever now, or become one long-term–given the state of the rotation giving him a look out of the pen against major league hitters in late 2011, assuming his development continues as it has, is not a terrible idea. It may never happen, but it’s the kind of option the Red Sox have today that they didn’t have yesterday when Delcarmen was still around, and for that, we should be thanking the front office.