National baseball scribe Ken Rosenthal reported early Friday morning that the Twins were making a strong push for free agent right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Like just about every free agent starter, Nolasco has his fair share of intrigue and warts. Here’s a peek at what he has to offer:
The Nolasco File
2014 Opening Day Age: 31
2013 Team: Miami Marlins/Los Angeles Dodgers (trade 7/6/13)
2013 Stats: 13-11, 3.70/3.34/3.58 (ERA/FIP/xFIP), 7.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.21 WHIP.
2013 Salary: $11.5 million
Qualifying Offer: No (ineligible). No draft pick compensation tied to Nolasco.
2014 Projection (STEAMER): 12-12, 4.01/3.70/null, 6.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.25 WHIP.
Repertoire: In recent years, Nolasco has relied more and more on his slider. In fact, in the past two years, he’s thrown more sliders than any other pitch. In 2013, his slider averaged 82.1 mph (27.6% usage). The rest of his repertoire is as follows, with 2013 velocity averages: 90.4 mph four-seamer (24.2%), 90.3 mph two-seamer (17.9%), 74.5 mph curveball (16.8%), 80.9 mph changeup (6.3%), 80.1 mph splitter (6.2%).
Links: Here Mike Petriello breaks down Nolasco’s ‘career year’. Jeff Sullivan breaks Nolasco down here as only Sullivan can.
Analysis: Nolasco is a thickly-built righty who works off the first base side. That’s an adjustment he’s made in the last year or so, to the benefit of his strikeout rate versus left-handed hitters. Nolasco lacks ideal velocity, and his fastball absolutely gets peppered when he’s forced to throw it (.338/.408/.487 in ’13 | .304/.352/.509 career). But that’s something he’s keenly aware of, as he upped his slider usage in the last season.
Nolasco threw 878 sliders last year; that’s more than 100 more than he threw of his next most frequent pitch, the four-seam fastball. The numbers on the slider are eye-popping: 35.2% strikeout percentage, .195/.220/.307 collective line (.232 wOBA), and 18.8% swinging strike rate. The only other two pitches that Nolasco throws with that type of swing-and-miss potential are his splitter (19.9%) and his changeup (18.9%), but those are two of his least frequent pitches.
Nolasco is a good pitcher. Is he a pitcher you’d give $50-60 million to in an extension? Maybe; you’d know his medicals and tendencies to know whether or not he’s worth it. Is he a pitcher good enough to offer that kind of deal as a free agent? I personally think so, especially when you consider the Twins need and how the free agent market on the whole works. At his age, and with his skillset and durability (180-plus innings in five of last six years), this would be a good gamble for the Twins.
Expected Financial Committment: Upwards of $12-15 million per year for a likely minimum of four years.