News came several days ago that the Yankees have some interest in Brian Fuentes, and while I’m not particularly excited by the idea, let’s take a look to see if it makes any sense. Fuentes is said to be looking for Scott Downs money, although it seems unlikely that any team would be willing to lock the lefty up for three years at $5 million per.
Considering that Pedro Feliciano just got $4 million per for two seasons, I could maybe envision the soft-tossing Fuentes getting $5 million for one year, but given the hurler’s recent injury troubles (limiting him to 48 innings of work in 2010) a multi-year deal doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
He’s actually been the 15th-most valuable reliever in baseball (in terms of fWAR) since 2002, even if none of his numbers really pop out. His best season by far was his walk year with the Rockies in 2008, when he posted a career-low 2.73 ERA along with a career-low 2.24 FIP. His 2.4 fWAR that season made him the most valuable pitcher in the National League, and third in MLB behind only Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon.
For a guy whose career fastball is only 90.3mph, one thing Fuentes does do surprisingly well is get his Ks — he has a 9.82 career K/9, and has never been below 7.53. He also walks a few too many batters for my taste (nearly 4 batters per nine), but mitigates a lot of that damage with a high strand rate (77.5% career).
As a lefthander he’s obviously more susceptible to opposite-handed batters, but it’s not as if he’s a LOOGY. Below are his career platoon splits. The walks to righties are a tad high, but the strikeout rate is still excellent.
|Career||vs. L||vs. R|
One red flag that Matt Imbrogno at TYU noted yesterday was a troubling spike in Fuentes’ FB%, which has risen every season since 2007 and climbed to a career-high 58.5% last year. That’s way too high a mark for a pitcher who might potentially be calling Yankee Stadium their new home. No regular on the Yankees came even close to a 60% flyball percentage — the highest reliever was Chad Gaudin‘s 47.7%, while the highest starting mark was owned by Phil Hughes, at 47.4%. However, Fuentes 2010 FB% was impacted rather significantly by righthanders, who put 66% of the balls they hit into the air, while lefties only managed to loft 34.5%. I realize that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement of Fuentes’ ability to face hitters on both sides of the plate, although his career FB% against righties is 46.3%, which means that 66% mark is probably an outlier.
Bill James forecasts 49 innings of 3.31 ERA/3.86 FIP ball for Fuentes, with an uptick in K/9 (9.37) and also a slight rise in BB/9 (3.86). CAIRO sees Fuentes throwing 59 innings of 3.86/4.14 ball, worth 0.7 WAR. Those numbers would have to be adjusted accordingly if Fuentes and his escalating fly ball % joined the Yankees, and so he’d probably more likely be closer to a 4.00 ERA/4.30 FIP guy for the Yanks. That’s not great for a reliever, and certainly not worth $5 million a season, and so I take back my comment from the first paragraph.
Granted, Fuentes would likely primarily be deployed in big spots against lefties, and we know the
1927 Yankees 2011 Red Sox have plenty of portsiders, so his handedness is probably the best thing he has going for him. However, unless Fuentes can be signed on the cheap, I don’t think he’d be a worthwhile pursuit for the Yanks.
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