Saturday, November 22, 2008

Eric O'Flaherty - Under the Radar

Under the Radar moves are typically the type of pick-ups that fill the end of a teams roster, the 23rd, 24th, or 25th man. A Spring Training invitee with plenty of upside. Frank Wren of the Atlanta Braves made one of those moves on Thursday, claiming left handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners.

The 23 years old O'Flaherty has been mediocre at best while pitching in the Major Leagues. In exactly 70 innings, O'Flaherty owns a Fielding Independent of Pitching (FIP) of 4.41, a good, but not great figure. In fact, other then his FIP, there isn't much to get excited about given his Major League performance to date, that, of a 1.53 strikeout to walk ratio.

However, O'Flaherty has some nice minor league statistics, particularly the ones that are important for his likely Major League role. That is, O'Flaherty's line against left handed hitters is outstanding, and can hardly be considered as a product of facing minor leaguers.

The first thing that sticks out is the plus two strikeouts per nine innings that O'Flaherty experiences against left handed hitters. Eric goes from owning an average strikeout to walk ratio of just over 2:1, to a solid ratio of 3:1. While this hasn't entirely translated to his performance in the Major Leagues, O'Flaherty also has not been utilized in the appropriate role.

That is, a move to becoming a situational left handed pitcher, a pitcher who comes in to face predominantly left handed hitters, would be a move that would certainly bump O'Flaherty from potential to dependable.

Consider that entering the 2007 season (the last season O'Flaherty qualified), John Sickels of Minor League Ball rated O'Flaherty as a C+ prospect stating that Eric should be a very good reliever.

In a similarly high rating, Baseball America tabbed O'Flaherty as the 10th best prospect in the Mariners system. Either that is telling of a weak system, or that O'Flaherty is a fine relief prospect.

Given that Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus had O'Flaherty 'just missing' his top 10 under 25 Mariners prospects for the 2008 season, it seems justifiable to assert he has a legitimate ceiling.

O'Flaherty has a Minor League FIP of 3.28, and while much of the shine on his prospect badge has worn off, it is certainly too early to write him off as at least an effective LOOGY. At just 23 years of age, O'Flaherty is an excellent pick up, still having enough upside to be a complete steal of an acquisition.

As an added bonus, Johan Santana shows up on O'Flaherty's Most Comparable list according to his PECOTA card.

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