Bats: Left Throws: Right
Height: 6’6 Weight: 225
2016 in Review
Depending on when you watched Scott Feldman pitch in 2016, you could come to one of two very different conclusions about him. He was extremely productive for Houston in the first half of the season as a reliever and spot starter. Feldman relied primarily on a cutter and sinker to hold down a 2.56 ERA (3.87 FIP). His performance was solid enough for the Blue Jays to want to acquire him via trade on August 1.
However, the second half of the season was a very different story for Feldman. Over his final 24.1 innings, he racked up a 7.03 ERA. It was even worse if you isolate his time in Toronto (8.40 ERA). It's understandable if fans are nervous about his performance given how Feldman finished the season, but there are reasons for optimism in the midst of those cringe worthy stats.
First, Feldman was the victim of some bad luck down the stretch. His second half BABIP (.370) was well above his career average (.291). Once again, it was even worse during his stint in Toronto (.412 BABIP). Second, you wouldn't have expected Feldman to perform so poorly given the types of batted balls he was inducing. Over the past few seasons, Feldman's ground ball rate has hovered just under 50 percent. While he was in Toronto, his ground ball rate jumped to 66 percent (with the bulk of that increase coming from a decreased line drive rate).
All of this suggests that Feldman should have had a much more productive finish to the season. Alas, that's not always how baseball works. His second half FIP wasn't great (5.04), but it does indicate that he wasn't pitching as poorly as his ERA might indicate. The reality is, Feldman probably isn't as good as some of his first half stats suggest, and he isn't as bad as his second half stats. The truth about Scott Feldman is somewhere in the middle of his 2016 performance.
Feldman was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 30th round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He made his debut for the Rangers in 2005. He spent 2006-2007 as a reliever, but he spent the bulk of the following eight seasons (2008-2015) as a starter. Over those eight seasons, he registered a 96 ERA+ (100 is league average) which rates his production at slightly below league average. However, when you look at his individual seasons you find some solid production. In five of those eight seasons, Feldman provided slightly above average production as a starter.
Feldman signed as a free agent with the Cubs prior to the 2013 season. During the course of that season, he was involved in one of the most infamous trades in recent MLB history. Feldman and Steve Clevenger were traded to Baltimore for...Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. I think it's fair to say Chicago won that trade.
In 2014 and 2015, Feldman started 47 games for the Astros. Houston sent him to Toronto during the 2016 season. Feldman signed a one-year deal with the Reds prior to the 2017 season.
Cincinnati signed Feldman to a one-year deal with a base salary of $2.3 million.
Feldman does have the opportunity to rack up another $2.2 million in incentives this season. How might that happen? I’ll let Zach Buchanan break it down for you.
Here's the bonus structure for Scott Feldman, who will earn extra money each start he makes from No. 10 onward. Also relief bonuses baked in pic.twitter.com/4eUA4G9nOX— Zach Buchanan (@ZachENQ) January 28, 2017
Clearly, Feldman has plenty of reasons (you might say he has 2.2 million of them) to be productive and pitch as much as possible.
2016 Pitch F/X
Let's take a second to get a little more familiar with Feldman's repertoire and approach thanks to some handy graphics from Brooks Baseball.
Feldman's Pitch Velocity from 2016
Feldman's Pitch Usage Rages
The uptick in his GB% makes sense given the increased use of his sinker.
Feldman's Zone Profile vs. LH and RH Batters (click on each picture to enlarge)
Finally, how did hitters perform against Feldman's various pitches?
Yet again, Reds fans have been reminded just how volatile a starting rotation can be. Homer Bailey has undergone a third surgery on his elbow that will keep him out until June(ish). Anthony DeSclafani has been dealing with elbow soreness that shouldn't keep him out for a prolong period of time, but it's worth monitoring early in the season. Beyond that, Brandon Finnegan looks to be the only fully-healthy and (somewhat) dependable starter in the rotation as we sit here in mid-March. The moral of the story is, you can never have too many options at starting pitcher in your system.
Beyond DeSclafani and Finnegan, the final shape of the rotation is unknown. Fans will clamor to see the young trio of Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, and Amir Garrett sooner rather than later. However, neither Stephenson nor Reed did much to inspire confidence in their 2016 performances at the big league level. They'll clearly be given opportunities to start in 2017, but they are far from sure things. Beyond those three, Bryan Price has noted that there are several other options (Tim Adleman and Lisalverto Bonilla specifically) still in the running for those final rotation spots.
While this situation presents more questions than answer for the coaching staff, it's the perfect situation for a pitcher like Scott Feldman at this point in his career. The Reds are in need of starters who can chew-up major league innings in a competent fashion, thus allowing the front office to take their time with the top pitching prospects. Feldman has shown the ability to knock out 150+ innings as a starter (his 162 game average is 172) at a roughly league average level.
If Feldman struggles as a starter, Cincinnati always has the option of moving him to (what should be) a much improved bullpen. If Feldman also struggles as a reliever, the Reds are only on the hook for this season.He's a relatively low-risk, low-ceiling signing who could ease the growing pains that will likely come as the team transitions its young starters into the rotation. it was a smart deal for the Reds, and if Feldman pitches well it could prolong his major league career for one more season in another city in 2018.