Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Alex Graman Report

Alex Graman, LHP, New York Yankees
Drafted 111th Overall (3rd Rd), 1999 Draft, Indiana State
Bats L/Throws L
27 YO, 6'4", 210 lbs

Despite his being outrighted to Columbus in spring training, I think Graman's still a prospect and could still be an asset to the Yanks. He uses a 4 pitch Major League quality arsenal, featuring a low 90's fastball. His out pitch is a splitter, and he compliments it with pretty good change and slider. He has enough control to keep from killing himself with the walk, but he doesn't have the command it takes to really use his stuff and make it work like he wants it to. As a result, he's quickly becoming a AAAA guy.

He had a bit of an unexpected breakout in 2004. He posted his best numbers in quite a while. This season he's doing fairly well, but not outstanding. He has a pedestrian 4.02 ERA, but good peripherals (37 K, 14 BB, 40 IP). He could very well be an effective pitcher in the bigs, but the ceiling is really low. Middle reliever/5th starter is what you're looking at here.

2004 Columbus: 3.37 ERA, 129 K, 53 K, 135 H, 12 HR, 131 IP
pre-2005 mL Career: 3.81 ERA, 705 K, 305 BB, 811 H, 39 HR, 843 IP

You've heard me talk about how the Yankees have no trust in or taste for players who aren't already established in the majors or don't hit the ground running. It takes a really special circumstance to warrant patience in the Bronx. Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang both look like they might stick around, but it took the Yanks worst month in a decade or more and some major injuries and ineffectiveness by veteran players to even warrant a chance to begin with. Graman blew his chance by getting bombed in his 5 ML innings last season. If he gets a chance to be in the show, it will probably be in a different uniform. But you knew that already.

I'd like to use this as an opportunity to get off on a rant. Graman seems to me like he would be a good candidate to fill the old swingman role that most teams have eliminated from the roster. You really don't see many long relievers anymore. They've been replaced by specialists and fifth starters. Some of them have become fifth starters. Some are wasting value being a one inning bullpen guy. I love the one inning killer as much as anybody. If you're up by one in the 8th and your starter is getting fatigued, nothing is better than having a Joe Nathan or Francisco Rodriguez, who will get you to the end of the game without allowing so much as a baserunner. And I like LOOGY's and ROOGY's and sidearmers and submariners, but what happens in the 2 dozen times a year when your starter has to leave before the 6th inning? You have 7 man bullpens, but only one of them can go more than a couple innings. If your starter leaves in the 2nd inning after being hit in the foot with a comebacker, the pen is going to be spent for 2 or 3 days at least.

Guys like Graman, Mike Wood, and Justin Duchscherer are handy to have around for just this reason. Most of the time, teams don't really need a 5th starter and you have guys going every 6th day. If you have 2 of these guys around, you can cover the days where you need another starter, and you can give yourself a decent mop-up man, or long reliever, or emergency starter. They can be the swiss army knives of a pitching staff, but everybody seems to want to carry around a trunk full of tools instead. So here's what I say, take the Horatio Ramirezes of the world and turn them into swingmen. Get 2 of them, 4 starters, 3 traditional power relievers (closer and 2 setup men), a LOOGY, and a ROOGY, and use the extra roster spot to carry around another bench bat, like Mike Ryan or Jon Knott. Not lugging around a 12th pitcher could yield a real tactical advantage for your offense late in games, and you wouldn't give up much of anything in the pitching staff. You still have your specialists and your one inning guys (though I'm also a proponent of giving closers and set up men 2 innings a lot more often that what they are usually given these days). You'd probably even benefit from the extra innings that your top 4 starters would pick up in the exchange.

ETA: Whenever somebody digs him up
2 1/2 Stars

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