Potential Off-Season Targets: Chris Volstad

With the 2011 season over, the old saying, “There’s always next season,” instantly becomes all Mets fan’s credo. But before we can think about riding the 7-train out to Flushing again, there is a whole off-season to project and pontificate about. Considering the amount of holes the Mets will have, this coming off-season holds a lot of importance.

In this new on-going series, Rising Apple will analyze potential off-season targets for the New York Mets. Today’s target at-hand is non-tender candidate Chris Volstad.

2008 was an exciting year for the Florida Marlins. In addition to winning a  surprising amount of games (84 to be exact), fans also saw the debuts of farmhands Josh Johnson, Andrew Miller, and Chris Volstad. While most of the spotlight was on the first two hurlers, Volstad quietly posted a 2.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 1.44 K/BB, and 53.4% GB% in 84.3 innings, and his three pitches–fastball, curveball, and change-up–all registered positive RAA marks (1.7, 7.3, and 1.6, respectively). Yes, the righty’s .271 BABIP and 4.55 xFIP shouted “regression,” but then again, Volstad was just 21 years-old. Plus, who cares about peripherals?*

*We do.

Unfortunately for the young pitcher, his peripherals emerged to the surface in 2009. The hurler posted an ugly 5.21 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, and 1.81 K/BB in 159 innings. This mess was mostly due to a huge spike in his HR/FB (from 3.9% to 17.5%). Granted, Volstad’s 4.29 xFIP exposed how unkind his 5.21 ERA was, but more importantly, his disappointing season essentially solidified the type of pitcher Chris Volstad would become.

More in-line with his xFIP, Volstad pitched to the tune of a 4.58 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 1.70 K/BB in 175 innings during 2010. Now three seasons deep as a Major Leaguer, Volstad officially earned the label as a groundball pitcher with mediocre control (career 3.3 BB/9) and non-existant dominance (career 5.6 K/9). But even such pitchers can be successful. In 2010, Volstad saw all of his peripherals improve. His 6.36 K/9 and 2.66 BB/9 were the best marks of his career (career 3.3 BB/9 and 5.6 K/9), and his 52.3% GB% was his best rate since 2008. And even though his sported a 4.89 ERA in 165.6 innings of work, his 3.64 xFIP was in the Top 20 in the National League (among pitchers with 150 IP or more).

Regardless of Volstad’s sterling xFIP, there’s a good chance the righty and his potential $3 million arbitration salary will not be retained. With the Marlins looking to add the likes of C.J. Wilson and/or Mark Buehrle to a rotation featuring Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez, Volstad’s services might not be needed anymore–but it’s possible the Mets could use him. Even if the Mets do retain Mike Pelfrey, and they still need to replace Chris Capuano‘s rotation slot. Granted, Volstad’s 1.3 fWAR (or $5.8 million) wasn’t much to write home about, but it was better than other lower-end options like Joe Saunders (1.0 fWAR), Aaron Harang (0.6 fWAR), and similar to Joel Pineiro (1.3 fWAR), Jason Marquis (1.4 fWAR), and Bruce Chen (1.7 fWAR). Chris Volstad would certainly be worth a flyer–and keep in mind, the guy is still only 25 years-old.

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