Sleeper Scout: Jaime Garcia and Brandon McCarthy
One group of pitchers that seemingly goes unnoticed by many is the group that hasn’t been elite but has produced several years of solid performances. Those pitchers fall in the rankings anywhere from 40 to 60 and provide a good back-end to your rotation whether you drafted a couple of top aces or started your roster with the likes of Doug Fister, Brandon Morrow and Yovani Gallardo. These are the guys I like to target in my drafts and have been highlighting in my Sleeper Scout series here at The Fix.
Jaime Garcia, 26, missed a couple months last year with a shoulder injury, then re-aggravated the injury in his lone playoff start. Instead of going under the knife this off-season, Garcia rehabbed the shoulder, which has been a success so far. In four spring outings, Garcia has struck out 11 and walked only four in 13 innings.
Garcia’s success has carried over from late 2012, when he came back from his first shoulder injury. He returned August 19, and in nine starts and 55.1 innings he had a 3.25 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 47 strikeouts to only 11 walks. His 7.64 K/9 in that span was better than his season K/9 of 7.25, which was right in line with his career rate. Garcia’s season ERA of 3.92 marked the worst of his career, but digging deeper we see his FIP was the best of his career at 2.97, which marked a decrease in that category for the second straight year. Garcia cut his walk rate for the second straight year also and again induced ground balls on over 50 percent of balls in play. But he got a little unlucky with a .339 BABIP, which is 27 points above his career average.
This season Garcia should continue to improve on his strikeout and walk rates, and his BABIP should come down closer to his career number. That signals good things, because Garcia is great at limiting hitters to weak contact. According to our own Brett Talley in our 2013 Draft Guide, Garcia finished tied for 11th among starters in ISO against last year, which measures how good pitchers are at limiting hard contact. Also good: Garcia’s .58 home runs per nine innings in the last three years is second among starters with at least 450 innings pitched.
Garcia is going 309th overall and is the 105th starting pitcher taken in drafts, according to Mock Draft Central. With a little bit of luck on his side Garcia should be able to at least put up numbers similar to his 2010 and ’11 stats, but outside of injury concerns all signs point toward a breakout for Garcia in ’13.
McCarthy is another pitcher great at limiting hard contact; his .126 ISO against ranked him tied for 22nd in the category last year, and HR/9 of .67 ties him for 14th in the last two years. He’ll never be confused with Nolan Ryan, as his career K/9 is just a tad over 6. But he limits base-runners with a 1.57 BB/9, which ranks fifth in the last two years.
McCarthy’s transitioning from the AL to the NL this year, and from a pitcher’s park in Oakland to a hitter’s park in Arizona. But while his surroundings now will hurt him, he’ll be facing much weaker lineups so you shouldn’t worry about his ERA skyrocketing due to his home ballpark. However, his strikeout and walk rates should end up at or near career bests. McCarthy’s career BABIP is a cool .282, and with normal luck he should continue to limit hitters to a low average on balls in play.
McCarthy’s known as a groundball pitcher, but he’s never had a ground-ball rate north of 47 percent. But he does limit fly-balls and induces a high amount of infield fly balls, too, so that should help in his move to Chase Field. His batted-ball profile, move to the NL and success at limiting hitters to non-extra base hits makes McCarthy a nice candidate to have a career year. Just like Garcia, McCarthy is an injury risk, but his MDC ADP of 246 is well worth that risk.