Over the course of the last 15-plus years, as the most tenured pitching coach of any National League club, Darren Balsley has been asked many a time to do a lot with a little – to squeeze every last bit of talent out of some to keep them in the league, or to unlock some of the hidden talent waiting to escape in others.
When given someone with high-end stuff but a track record of no consistency or poor results, like Tyson Ross, he helps develop the potential of an All-Star. This last season, the Padres gave him another “project” in Bryan Mitchell, which obviously had its ups and downs. With that being said, let’s take a look at some possible targets for Head Master Balsley from House Friar to work his magic with.
I have focused on two different options, one a free agent and one a possible trade acquisition.
Free Agent Matt Harvey comes with his own baggage.
Monikers of “bad teammate” and “selfish player” have been thrown around during his time in New York, with tales of his late-night partying common knowledge. Another moniker that has been attached to him before was “Ace”. On a budding and uber-talented staff that included Jacob deGrom and Noah “Thor” Syndergaard, this was the big game pitcher who was the “Ace” of that staff. With a game on the line, they wanted the ball in his hands.
Formerly a 1st-round pick out of North Carolina in 2010, Harvey quickly rose to prominence in New York during the second half of 2012, filling out the back of their rotation. From the get-go in 2013, he quickly asserted himself at the top of the Mets’ rotation and even started for the NL in the All-Star game, which was being held at his home park of Citi Field.
Tommy John surgery followed in 2014, but in 2015 he quickly reflected the Matt Harvey New York had come to adore. Unfortunately for Harvey and Mets fans, the injury bug reared its ugly head again, with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in 2016 and a stress fracture in his scapula in 2017.
Now, the bright side is that after his trade to Cincinnati, the velocity started to come back as well as the movement on his breaking balls. But like most major injuries to a pitcher, command and control was far from what was recognizable at his peak. 2019 will give him a full 2+ years from T.O.S., which was reminiscent of Tyson Ross‘s recovery season last year. Maybe the “Dark Knight” will make a return to help the Friar faithful.
Now from the trade side of things, how about a look at Baltimore Orioles RHP Alex Cobb.
Signing during spring training late in 2018, he came out of the box dreadfully to the tune of a 6.41 ERA in 17 starts across 92 2/3 innings. On top of that, he signed a four-year deal for $57 million.
Now, before we jump to the conclusion already, keep in mind that over the second half in a tough AL East, he went 59 2/3 innings of 2.56 ERA ball. He is also with the Baltimore Orioles, who this last season were selling off anything on the roster that wasn’t nailed down to Camden Yards (Adam Jones). I think he is a buy-low candidate who would do wonders pitching at Petco, and under the tutelage of Balsley.
Baltimore needs an infusion of talent in the worst way, with possibly the worst level of talent across any major league roster. They could look to spin an expensive starting pitcher that won’t help them stay out of the AL East cellar over the next handful of years for some young players who could make the experience at Camden Yards that much more bearable.