FLANDE HAS A LOT OF PERSEVERENCE, A SLIGHTLY ODD DELIVERY, AND NOT A LOT OF SUCCESS…THE PERFECT 2014 ROCKIES STARTER.
No other phrase quite communicates the dire situation the Rockies ended up in during the 2014 season than this:
Starting Pitcher, Yohan Flande
Put your hand up in the air if you ever heard of Flande before late 2014? Really? What, do you follow failed Latin America signees? Did Flande work with you during the offseason selling real estate? I think of myself as a knowledgable baseball fan, and I didn’t even know the Rox signed him as a minor league free agent last year. And I certainly didn’t think the team would be running him out there in the actual major leagues. And more than once. How did things come to this?
Oh right, we all know how it came to this.
Flande was signed all the way back in 2004 by the Phillies out of the Domician. He stayed with the Phils until 2010. In fact, Flande didn’t even pitch in the Dominican Summer league until he was age 20 (most Latin players, if they are any good, are signed at age 16, but Flande was clearly a) a late bloomer and b) never a real prospect, but more of what is termed as “orgnaizational depth” (i.e., you will never pitch in the bigs unless we experience a blizzard of injuries).
If you look at Flande you simply don’t see the profile of a guy you want in your starting rotation. His best minor league season was a 13 game stretch in High A (at age 23, so a bit old for the league) when he went 7-1 with a 2.52 ERA 1.171 WHIP and 67:24 K/BB in 82 innings – not exactly screaming he should be a starter in the bigs. Other than that he has been in the 4 ERA level every other season, without getting better. He wasn’t even great against lefties, as in 2010 he had the identical OPS vs R and L (which explains why it was his last for Phili). He spent 2011-2013 with the Braves, bouncy between AA and AAA (he did manage in 2013 he did at least hold lefties to a .677 OPS, .109 better than against righties. And so in 2014 he found his way to the Rox, who are always looking for depth in pitching and needed to fill out its AAA squad with pitching, since its best arms would be at Coors and Tulsa.
How did Flande do in Colorado Springs? Well, while taking into account the PCL is a hitters league he did…awful! In 18 starts he went 3-11, 5.62 ERA and 1.648 WHIP. Not eactley forcing the big league team to bring you up, eh? Okay, to be fair, he was actually good over his 3 starts before being recalled, going 6 innings each game and allowing 3,6, and 1 hits and 1,2, and 0 earned runs.
I was listening to his first start June 25th against the Cardinals, and he gave them 4 innings of 1 run ball to start the game. Sadly this was followed by 3 more runs in the 5th, in a game that should have brought him his first career win, as he left up 5-4 in a game the Rox would lose 9-6. That was the high water mark. Over his 10 other starts he three times pitche 6 innings (7/28 @ Cubs going 6.2 allowing 4 hits and 2 earned runs, 6 innings 8/7 vs CHC allowing 7 hits and 4 earned runs and 6 innings 8/12 at San Diego, allowing 4 hits and 2 earned runs) and other than that he went:
5.1, 4.1, 5.1, 5.1, 5.0, 4.0 allowing 3, 5,4,4,2,4 earned runs
Those aren’t completely terrible numbers, if he was your #5 starter holding the door open for some young stud. But the Rox already had a 5th starter (Franklin Morales), and there seemed to be this palpable feeling every game he started the Rox had no chance to win that day. Pretty good bet since he went 0-6, with a 5.77 ERA and 1.264 WHIP as a starter while allowing a .289 BABIP. In his ten starts the team went 2-10.
Okay, maybe I was too hard. The record and ERA are not what you expect out of a 1.264 WHIP and only a .289 BABIP. And his K/BB was decent too: 34:16 with a high in Ks of 8 his opening start (then only one game of 6 and the rest 4 or less) and a high of walks of 2 in 4 games, 1 in 7 games and a 0 in the other. So his control was pretty good.
And as a reliever? He only had 4 outings out of the pen, going 1.2/.1/1.0 and 1.2 innings, allowing 1,0,1,0 hits and no earned runs. It is a small sample size (only 21 batters) but a WHIP of .667 and no earned runs while allowing a BABIP of only .154 is something to think about. The Rox would like to have 3 lefties out of the pen (at least) in 2015, and a guy like Flande – cheap, under control until 2021 (really), and able to get out both lefties and righties from the pen might actually fill the bill. I am still wondering if the team might trade Boone Logan (or maybe even Rex Brothers, if the price was right) and therefore open up spots for both Christian Freidrich and Flande. I think the Spring Training games will show a lot.
So that is Yohan Flande. A guy who never should have been starting in Colorado, a guy who someone should have tried out of the bullpen extensively before 2013 (he faced 106 batters from the pen for Atlanta in the minors in 2013 and held batters to just a .696 OPS), and who now might be one of those “late in the career” gems that can help you create a bargain bullpen that is able to get the outs you need. As I said…we shall see.
2014 Season Grade:
As a starter – D+: when the team goes 2-10 in your starts it doesn’t speak very highly of you. When your ERA is 5.77 that doesn’t speak highly of you. When making it to the 6th inning is something people get excited about, it doesn’t speak highly of you. But to his credit the quality control, low BABIP and low WHIP all add some to the positive side. But really, a D is as high as we can go, right?
As a reliever – B: It is such a small sample size it is hard to put much weight into what we saw, but considering how many relievers couldn’t give even 4 scoreless outings, he deserves credit for what he did do when given the shot.
Overall Grade – C-: Flande might have earned a higher grade with more innings/start, but his poor outings taxed an already shot bullpen. But he showed enough in getting batters out, especially lefties (who only hit .164/.235/.246/.481 in 71 PA) that he wasn’t as horrible as many of us might remember. Maybe he has proven that he can be an asset against left-handed hitters going forward…at least they learned that by having him in Colorado for 16 games in 2014.
2015 Season Projection:
First off, I project if the Rockies are using Flande as a starter again this team will lose 100 games. He simply doesn’t have the stuff to get batters out a 3rd time through the order .645 OPS 1st time, .578 OPS 2nd time, 1.307 3rd time through order). But he does catch your eye as a reliever going either solely against lefties, or as a 1-3 inning guy (again, that is a decent OPS first time through, and that includes facing a lot of righties). So I suspect this bargain basement find will make the bullpen in 2015 coming out of Spring Training:
50 Appearances 72.2 innings 2-4, 4.00 ERA, 1.200 WHIP and an asset out of the pen.