Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. Next up is Marco Estrada. The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece.
Marco Estrada (30 years old) – Another trip to the DL, this time for two months, cost Estrada a chance at his first full season in 2013. After something of a breakout season in 2012, he was given a rotation spot with the chance to put up 30+ starts, but a strained left hamstring cost him essentially all of June and July limiting him to 21 starts and 128 innings. A strained right quad cost him a month in 2012 plus he spent most of April in the bullpen so he ended with just 138.3 innings that season. He has done some fine work in his two 70 percent chunks of seasons, though, fostering excitement for the late-bloomer assuming he can finally stay on the field all season.
The ballpark is a poor fit for the heavy flyballer and the downside of that was seen within his first half when he posted a 5.32 ERA in 69.3 innings thanks in large part to a 1.8 HR/9 including 10 homers allowed in six April starts. Home runs accounted for 14 of the 18 earned runs he allowed that month. Oddly enough, his most damaging outing was his first of May when St. Louis smashed him for eight earned, needing only one home run to do so. Over the final two months of the season, he posted a 0.77 HR/9 en route to a 2.15 ERA in 58.7 innings along with 56 strikeouts and just 11 walks, showing the upside locked in that right arm.
Is it just a matter of coincidental sequencing or is there something about his early season command that leaves him particularly susceptible to the longball? In 2012, he had a 1.9 HR/9 in 51 innings during the first half, though he was actually fortunate to escape with just a 4.06 ERA (4.33 FIP). Then in the second half, he was down to 0.72 in 87.3 innings and had a 3.40 ERA (2.77 FIP). His 24.3 percent strikeout rate and 5.4 percent walk rate over the last two seasons definitely fuel the dreams of big upside, especially if he could figure out the home run issues.
He could improve the home run rate, but it isn’t exactly horrible command so much as it is his flyball tendencies and a homer-friendly ballpark. So while the ERA may remain north of 3.50, he will likely also continue to post WHIPs that belie such an ERA. Throw in the excellent strikeout rate and Estrada is still someone to target. We still haven’t seen a full season, so plan for about 160-170 innings until he shows he can make his 30+ turns.
Estrada’s mechanics are horribly inefficient, with D-level grades or worse in every subject of his report card, and his scores put him at the very bottom of the class of pitchers who are penciled in as MLB starters this season. Estrada looks like a marionette whose strings are intertwined, limiting his flexibility as well as his efficiency.
His torque is minimal, as it appears that there is a chord connecting his front hip to his lead shoulder that encourages rotation in close proximity to foot strike, and only an immense upper-body twist allows him to create a semblance of separation. There is also an invisible string that connects his arms to his lift leg at the start of his delivery, and it looks as if his arms are lifting the front leg as he raises the arms over his head. He is imbalanced along all three axes, and his spine-tilt is excessive to the point of approaching the Gallardo-approved floor of a 20 grade.
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