It’s kind of crazy that Craig Stammen has only been in the major leagues since 2009 because it feels like he has been in the league forever. Anyway, Stammen was drafted by the Washington Nationals way back in 2005. In the interest of brevity, I won’t delve too far into his minor league track record, but Stammen operated mostly as a starter for the first six years of his professional career before shifting full-time to a bullpen role in Washington in 2011. Stammen has made only two starts since his last go through with the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate.
Anyway, let’s jump to Stammen’s big league debut with the Nationals in 2009. Stammen ended up starting 19 games for the Nationals, throwing 105 and two-thirds innings and posting a 5.11 ERA. Stammen followed that with another 128 innings with the Nationals in 2015, this time making 19 starts and appearing in relief 16 times. Stammen posted a 5.13 ERA and 4.06 FIP with a 15.1 percent strikeout rate and 7.3 percent walk rate. After spending much of the 2011 season in Triple-A as a starter, where Stammen posted a 4.75 ERA and 20.6 percent strikeout rate and 6.5 percent walk rate, Stammen finished the year with seven solid relief outings in the bigs, giving up only one earned run while striking out 12 in 10 and a third innings.
Fresh off his conversion to a relief pitcher, Stammen spent the entirety of the 2012 season in the Nationals’ bullpen. In 88 and a third innings, Stammen posted a 2.34 ERA with a 23.5 percent strikeout rate and 9.7 percent walk rate. Stammen followed that with yet another successful year out of the ‘pen, posting a 2.76 ERA in 81 and two-thirds innings in 2013. Despite taking a bit of a step back in 2014, Stammen was still pretty solid, with a 3.84 ERA in 72 and two-thirds innings.
Just as Stammen seemed to be settling into his role, he missed most of the 2015 season with injuries. Following the season, Stammen was non-tendered by the Nationals. Prior to the start of spring training in 2016, Stammen signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians. Stammen spent the entirety of the season pitching for the Indians’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, suffering from various injuries throughout the year. Following the conclusion of the season, Stammen once again signed a minor league contract, this time with the San Diego Padres.
Following a successful spring training, Stammen found himself added to the Padres’ 40-man roster at the end of the spring. On April 3, Stammen made his first appearance in the big leagues since April of 2015. Despite struggling in the beginning of the season, Stammen put together a very strong stretch over the last several months of the season.
On the year, Stammen threw 80 and a third innings, his most since 2013, with a 3.14 ERA and 4.38 FIP. Despite the solid ERA, Stammen did have some serious home run troubles, as evidenced by his 17.4 percent HR/FB rate and 12 home runs given up on the year. However, even with those issues, Stammen seemed rejuvenated, earning himself a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Padres following the year.
2018 Projection and Long-Term Outlook
Steamer Projections: 55 innings, 21% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate, 3.99 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 0.3 fWAR
Given his two year extension, Stammen is all but guaranteed a spot in the Padres’ bullpen, at least for the beginning of the season. Stammen looks to improve on his strong 2017 season, and his Steamer projection sees him improving on his previous numbers in fewer overall innings. Stammen will still have to limit home run balls, but if he is able to do that successfully, he could have a solid year for San Diego.
In terms of long-term outlook, Stammen seems like just the kind of guy the Padres will try to trade for some prospect value at this year’s trade deadline. With two years of team control at a very reasonable price, Stammen does have some value on the market if he can perform in the first half of 2018. Even if he does perform well, the Padres may just keep him a-la Brad Hand in the hopes of fielding a competitive team in 2019 with a solid bullpen anchored by Hand, Stammen, Yates, Maton, etc. Either way, Stammen has had a career resurgence in San Diego.