Carter Capps turned 22 today. He has just one (bad) appearance in the big leagues so far after being brought up last week. However, as advertised (and as we saw in Jackson and one appearance in Tacoma) he threw hard. In his outing, he averaged 99.5 MPH on his fastball. Not bad for a 3rd round pick out of a no-name college. He isn’t the only guy in the bullpen that has years of cheap team control and throws hard. Stephen Pryor, in just 6.1 innings, is averaging 96.1 MPH on his fastball, sometimes taking shots at 100 MPH.
This is a theme we have seen all year in the Mariners‘ bullpen. They throw hard. This year, the Mariners have the hardest throwing bullpen in the American League according to Fangraphs’ average velocity on fastballs. They have the third highest velocity in all of the MLB (the Reds have Aroldis Chapman, which is hardly fair). The Mariners have built a bullpen that is both young (excluding Oliver Perez and Josh Kinney, who aren’t under contract for next year) and throws hard. These two hard throwers replace Brandon League and Steve Delabar, two relievers who threw pretty hard, but nearly as hard as Pryor and Capps. In return, the Mariners tried to rebuild their lineup by adding Leon Landry in High A and Eric Thames in the Majors. They also got Logan Bawcom, which made no sense to me. In my scouting report on him, I couldn’t really figure out why they got him. He throws 92-93 MPH as a right-hander. This is not a piece they needed. Especially when you consider that the Mariners added two sub 90 MPH right-handers in the Ichiro trade.
Chance Ruffin was part of the Doug Fister trade last year as a pitcher with a good 95ish MPH (averaged 93.4 MPH in his stint in the Majors last year) fastball and a quality breaking ball. He didn’t make the team out of spring training and was assigned to Tacoma. He has been a disaster, with serious bouts of control issues early in the season. He has a 4.68 FIP and 4.94 SIERA for the season. More concerning than the high walk walk total is the lack of strikeouts. He is striking out 15.7% of batters, well below PCL averages. He still has a chance of being a September call-up.
Next year’s bullpen will include Shawn Kelley (who will arbitration eligible for the first time, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be tendered a contract), Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge, Capps, Pryor, and perhaps some combo of Hector Noesi, Danny Farquhar, Ruffin, D.J. Mitchell, Bawcom, and Ruffin. There, you have 4 to 5 really good hard throwing bullpen arms. The others will probably prove adequate, but the Mariners could (and all previous indications is that they will, as Jack Z apparently loves cheap veteran bullpen arms) sign a free agent like Juan Cruz, Brandon Lyon, Randy Choate, or J.P. Howell (although none of those guys are real upgrades in my opinion).