Checking in on Kevin Slowey

Open Thread: March 6th Camp Notes
Fan Confidence Poll: March 7th, 2011

While most of the attention has been paid to Francisco Liriano, it turns out another Twins starter might be on the trading block. In yesterday’s (Insider only) column, Buster Olney says that the Twinkies are “very much willing to talk” about dealing right-hander Kevin Slowey. Minnesota has excess starting pitching (if such a thing exists) and the Yankees are in need of some, so it’s a match made in baseball rumor heaven. Let’s explore…

Changeup! (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Slowey, 27 in May, is the epitome of a homegrown Twins pitcher. In parts of four big league seasons since being drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft, he’s unintentionally walked just 77 batters in 473.1 IP, good for a 1.46 uIBB/9. Add in all two of the intentional walks he’s issued, and it’s still a 1.50 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 400 IP since 2007, only Roy Halladay (1.42 BB/9) is a better control artist. That’s what Minnesota preaches, pound the zone and limit walks.

If a pitcher is around the zone that much, he’s bound to give up a fair amount of hits, and Slowey is no different. Opponents have hit .276 with a .307 BABIP against him in his career, and his strikeout rate is pretty unspectacular at 6.86 K/9. Slowey’s swing-and-miss rate is consistently below average and declining, from 8.7% in 2008 to 7.7% in 2009 to 6.2% in 2010. He doesn’t make up for the lack of strikeouts with ground balls either, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Slowey’s career ground ball rate is just 31.6%, the lowest of any pitcher in the game since he debuted. Worst of all, his ability to get grounders is trending in the wrong direction…

Green is grounders, blue is fly balls, red is line drives.

That’s a bit of a problem. A mediocre strikeout rate and basically no ground balls is a recipe for disaster in Yankee Stadium, though at least Slowey mitigates the damage somewhat by limiting walks. Left-handed batters have also given him trouble (.354 wOBA against), though he doesn’t exactly shut down righties either (.330 wOBA against). On the contract front, Slowey was arbitration-eligible for the first time heading in the 2011 season, during which he’ll earn $2.7M. Slowey is also be under team control in 2012 and 2013, a nice little perk.

While he may not have the sexy peripheral stats that Liriano does, Slowey does offer the same questionable health track record. He’s been on the disabled list in each of the last three years, each time with an arm issue. Last year it was a triceps strain (15 days missed), the year before it was surgery to remove bone chips from his wrist (101 days missed), and the year before that it was a biceps strain (34 days missed). Slowey’s also missed a total of 38 days with a sore elbow, an ankle contusion, a tight oblique, a wrist contusion, and an infected hangnail over the last three years, though none required a DL stint. Clearly, the guy is a risky proposition.

As much as I love the low walk rate, it’s basically Slowey’s only redeeming quality. I loathe the whole “pitch to contact” approach, especially when we’re talking about an extreme fly ball pitcher. If the guy is a ground ball machine like say, Sergio Mitre, then I can deal. But fly balls? No way, that’s asking for trouble. Add in the injury history, and there’s enough red flags here for me to say the Yankees should steer clear of Slowey. I’d rather see them roll the Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia dice than give away a prospect(s) for the Twins’ right-hander.

email
Open Thread: March 6th Camp Notes
Fan Confidence Poll: March 7th, 2011
  • http://twitter.com/#!/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

    Eh I’d pass unless the cost is minimal. His high ERA but lower FIP could help in that regard.

    But I’d rather hit up the White Sox and their excess pitching.

  • mbonzo

    I’d like to see what the Twins want. I actually think he has the potential to be an above average mid-rotation guy. He’s just one of those guys that had so much potential and could never get perfectly locked in, in the major leagues due to injuries. If the cost is minimal, he’s worth the gamble since he’s better than the current four and still has some upside.

    • tuggernuts

      I agree. I am intrigued, but it all depends on who they want.

  • JOBA SUCKS NOW?

    lets trade for santana. the mets are so broke – we can prob get him for a few million bucks.

    • mbonzo

      I’m sure that’ll be an option if he rehabs nicely.

    • JOBA SUCKS NOW?

      no you’re stupid. santana will cost more than a few million bucks. look at his f’n contract, idiot. think before you post.

      • JOBA SUCKS NOW?

        okay sorry about that.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Yeah … you need to chill.

        • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

          I don’t know if that was a joke or not, but I can’t stop laughing.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      What about the whole “out for half the year after major, major shoulder surgery” thing?

  • vinnie g

    Id give em Noesi or Phelps and Laird or Adams for him. If they want more then forgetttttttt it

  • JohnC

    Noesi could be a better version of Slowey. Much rather give him a shot and see what he can do for us.

  • http://www.theyankeeu.com/author/steve-s/ Nostra-Artist

    I loathe the whole “pitch to contact” approach

    Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay and Greg Maddux say “Hello”. All of whom have career SO/9 around 6.

    That being said I’ll pass on Slowey, too.

    • The Real JobaWockeeZ

      At least Andy has a GB rate in the mid 40’s. Slowey is just lower than 30.

      • http://www.twitter.com/jordansmed JGS

        This

        Halladay: 55.6%
        Pettitte: 48.5% (and left handed)
        Maddux: 51.5% (2002-08, age 36-42, only. Have to think it was even higher when he was at his peak)

        Slowey: 31.6%

        • Nostra-Artist

          That’s “pitching to contact” no?

          Again, as I said above I’ll pass on Slowey. I just don’t share Mike’s loathing for pitchers who generate ground balls.

          • The Real JobaWockeeZ

            Yes but typically a good pitch to contact pitcher generates fly balls.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Mike, I agree with your assessment of Slowey. Can’t see giving up some talent for him especially if he’s less suited than Mitre in Yankee Stadium.

    I still prefer homegrown unless up against the wall and in need.

    • Big Apple

      agree…Slowy is just another mediocre guy….yanks need to stay away from the following:

      (a) old guys over 35 unless they get them for nothing and don’t have to give up prospects (Carpenter – i’m talking to you)

      and

      (b) oft injured guys with fat contracts (Santana)

      unless the yanks are going to land a top 5 pitcher I say keep the prospects and let’s roll.

      Everyone complains about how the yanks have an unfair advantage b/c of their payroll. But everyone should fear the yanks developing real talent in their system more than the large payroll. If these prospects work out, the yanks could fill out their roster with cheap, talented players for the next few years while some of these large contracts come off the books (posada, jeter, MO, etc…) and be in a great position to snag some of the top talent FAs soon, like King Felix.

      • Buddy

        Wait…. you wanna wait for the contracts that you gave out THIS offseason to come off the books???

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        Felix isn’t a free agent until 2015, and he’ll likely have near 2000 innings on his arm by the time he gets there despite being only 29. He may not be a top talent by then, who knows.

        Also, I’m not sure how many roster spots the minor leagues are going to fill. The Yankees are stocked with pitching and catching right now, which is great. But they’re also very weak up the middle and have few strong position players in the system. If the Yankees are very lucky, maybe 2 or 3 of the current crop of minor league talent will stick in the majors. They’ll still need their payroll to fill other positions.

        • The Real JobaWockeeZ

          They’ll still need their payroll to fill other positions.

          Im sure no one is disputng that however I think the main point is that we should use our farm more so we don’t completely rely on free agency.

          It was pretty much Lee or die for the rotation for 2011.

          • Big Apple

            the Yanks have to get younger. and for the first time in years they have a few guys with real promise coming up. let’s see what these guys can do.

          • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

            Agreed, but my point is that most prospects don’t work out. If the Yankees have the chance to trade a could-be for a proven commodity I’d do it (nearly) every time.

            And I doubt Cashman intended for it to be “Lee or die” this offseason. I’m sure his plan a year ago was to have Andy pitch one more year, and to have the option of offering Javy Vazquez arbitration if Lee declined. Obviously he, and everyone else misjudged what Javy would be going forward, Andy retired, and Lee went elsewhere. It was a perfect storm of bad luck and I’m not sure relying on the farm system more would have changed anything.

            • Big Apple

              define “proven commodity”…

              Based on what is avaialabe, Colon and Garcia are as proven a commodity as everyone else that is available and signing them to a cheap, minor league deal is a better option that just giving up young promising, prospects.

        • Big Apple

          my point is that the yanks will be better served by trying to develop the young talent that they have right now…rather than trade it for players that just aren’t that good.

          And then, in a few years, they will be in a much better position to use the FA market to fill out the team that has a solid core of young players.

          • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

            You’re speaking a bit too generally. No one is going to get behind trading Montero for Slowey. My main point is that we shouldn’t get too high on prospects because they’re just that… prospects. Their value can change in an instant. Remember Zach McAllister? He was one of the top pitching prospects in the Yanks system last year… and ended up being a PTBNL in the Austin Kearns trade. It happens.

            I’m not saying to trade for Slowey, but if the opportunity arises to trade for a proven starter, I’d be willing to part with almost anyone.

            • Big Apple

              you don’t have to teach me about prospects….they are all suspects and I don’t have faith in any of them until they have put in at least 2-3 yrs of consistent service in the MLB.

              But, the yanks right now have more talent in the system than they have in years. And the more you have, the better the chance of 2-3 making it. there is reason for optimism here.

              But your statement on King Felix is also too general for the same reasons…he has been pretty damn good in his career so far and there is nothing to say that he won’t be for his entire career even with a lot of innings…look at CC. And just b/c he isn’t a FA until 2015 doesn’t mean the M’s wouldn’t want to deal him prior to that.

  • Wil Nieves #1 Fan

    I might change my name to Kevin Slowey #1 Fan.

  • Big Apple

    over the next few years…assuming some of the prospects work out.

    the yanks will be in a great position at that point. right now, one of the problems is that there isn’t much avaialble out there.

    of all the pitcher the yanks have looked at this off season, none are much better than what they already have.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    I’d much rather see what the Astros would want for Brett Myers

  • CS Yankee

    As they look today…
    4SP…Garcia
    5SP…Colon
    1SP-AAA…Nova
    2SP-AAA…Noesi
    3SP-AAA…Phelps
    4SP-AAA…Brackman
    5SP-AAA…Mitchell

    Let the old dudes go/when they implode…plenty of talent in AAA, plus Cash will score come June with someone strong.

    • RL

      There’s still more time in ST for things to change, but if they go as they have up till now, I’d be satisfied with this.

  • Ac

    Some of us are still getting over Buhner for Phelps. Montero and the killer B’s are the wave of the future. I wouldn’t trade any if them for Slowey who isn’t much of an upgrade to what we have now. I applaude Cashman for not making a move just to make a panic move. Maybe these pitchers we have coming up are a full year away from being able to help us rotation wise.