26 January 2011
With spring training a few weeks away, the Diamondbacks have several options for the 5th Starter slot. The Top 4 should be set with Joe Saunders, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, and Zach Duke. The top candidates for the 5th slot are Barry Enright, newly acquired Armando Galarraga, and converted reliever Aaron Heilman. Longer shots for the #5 spot are rookies Jarrod Parker and Wade Miley, and newly returned Diamondback Micah Owings.
Barry Enright (25) - RHP
2010: 6-7, 3.91 ERA, 1.273 WHIP, 99 IP, 4.5K/9, 2.6BB/9, 1.8HR/9
Enright was excellent in July (2.93 ERA, 30.2 IP) and August (2.05, 30.2 IP) before struggling in September (6.89 ERA in 32.2 IP). Although Enright had early success in Arizona, his low strikeout rates are troubling - almost no pitcher has had consistent success striking out less than 5 batters per 9 innings. Enright also managed to prevent 84.9% of the runners who reached base from scoring (#2 in the NL), a number that seems unlikely to be repeated. For Enright to succeed in the majors, he needs to bump up the strikeouts while keeping the walks and home runs low. Since he made the jump from AA to the Majors last season, starting the season in AAA might be a likely scenario.
Armando Galarraga (29) - RHP
2010 (DET): 4-9, 4.49 ERA, 1.344 WHIP, 144.1 IP, 4.6K/9, 3.2BB/9, 1.3HR/9
Despite the near perfect game, Galarraga did not have a very good season in 2010. His strikeout rate dropped from a career level of 6.2K/9 down to 4.6K/9, and his home runs and walks stayed too high. When pitching away from spacious Comerica Park, his ERA was 6.04, and he allowed 10 HR in 56.2 IP. His overall career FIP is 5.17 and it's hard to see how moving from Comerica to Chase Field will help his numbers. Nevertheless, given his experience and $2.3M salary (if he makes the team), he is probably the front-runner heading into Spring Training.
Aaron Heilman (32) - RHP
2010: 5-8, 4.50 ERA, 1.375 WHIP, 72 IP, 6.9K/9, 3.3BB/9, 1.1HR/9
Heilman was a reliever for the last few years, but wants a chance at starting in 2011. His track record as a starter is not very good (career 5.93 ERA in 25 GS), although he hasn't started a game since 2005. Although the career numbers as a starter look bad, his stats in 2005, his last year as a starter, were respectable (4.71 ERA) and he did maintain decent peripherals - 7.3K.9, 2.8BB/9, and 1.1HR/9. His longest outing in 2010 was only 2 IP, so he may need some time to extend his innings.
By the end of 2011, it would be no surprise for Jarrod Parker to be the #5 Starter for the Diamondbacks. But the team's #1 prospect missed all of 2010 with an elbow injury, and will probably start the season in the Minors. The team's other pitching prospect who is close to the Majors is LHP Wade Miley, but he is also likely to start the year in AAA after pitching well for AA Mobile in 2010. Micah Owings was recently signed to a minor league contract, but has had an ERA and FIP around 5.00 for his career. If he makes the team, a better spot for him may be as the 12th pitcher, where his bat (career .293/.323/.538, 9 HR in 184 AB) could also be useful off the bench.
Despite a few choices for the #5 Starter slot, none of the options look very appealing. The best hope is that Barry Enright finds his strikeout pitch again and holds down the #5 job. If not, a stint in AAA seems likely for Enright. I just don't think Aaron Heilman will be ready to go 6 IP at the start of the year, so by default, Armando Galarraga may get the position. In his favor are that he has a few years of experience and he does seem to be a genuinely good guy. He should be able to hold down the position until Enright or Parker are ready for the Majors.