This is the first of a new series here at the Lake Erie Soldiers, in which both of us will select a player from the Indians, Browns, Cavs or Buckeyes organizations and profile that player. Looking at stats, offering some analysis and opinion and looking at what is coming in the future of that player. 2 profiles per week will be the target, and the first is Indians left handed pitcher Aaron Laffey.
The Indians lefty Aaron Laffey is currently in the minor leagues rehabbing from a tired arm that landed him on the 15 day disabled list. Laffey has been one of the Indians most well travelled players in recent years, constantly being shuffled from Columbus and back to adjust his role and make spot starts. He has filled several roles for the Tribe. He began as a starter and made his big league debut at 21.
The 2010 season saw Laffey transition from starting to relieving and back again, during the stretching out process Laffey fell victim to a dead arm. He is now being rehabbed as a relief pitcher, and it is unclear whether or not he will rejoin the Indians this season or not. What is even more unclear is what Laffey’s future will be with the Indians.
Laffey has youth on his side at just 25 years old, he could still very easily find his role with the Tribe and stick long-term. He is a soft-tosser, I see him potentially as a left handed version of Jake Westbrook. He has never really been what you would call “light’s out” on the mound, but he is always pretty solid and keeps the team in the game. His career ERA in 4 seasons is a pretty average 4.42 split between starting and relieving. He currently sits at 18-21 for his career, which might be more indicative of the poor Indians seasons that we have endured the last 3 years than Laffey’s pitching ability. Through 25 games this season, 5 starts, he was 2-3 with a career worst 4.62 ERA.
As for now the Indians have not decided on what a permanent role might be for Laffey, whose ground ball enducing ways make him attractive in both capacities. His slower pitch speed however suggests he should start games. He could slot nicely into the #4 or #5 spot in the rotation and give the team some solid innings.
It wasn’t until the second half of last season that Laffey was switched to bullpen work, as the team had a need for him there. He was though, pretty solid in his first 2 seasons as a starter. He is, by no means, a strikeout pitcher and he has had his struggles with walks. This season he had 28 walks in 50.2 innings pitched. Not terrible, but when you see his 27 strikeouts the walks number looks much worse. He gave up 57 hits and 26 earned runs in the same span of innings. He is indeed hittable, but almost all ground ball pitchers are, especially with an inconsistent infield defense behind them. So logically, a better defense would help lower the hit and ERA totals. On the positive side of things, Laffey has only allowed 1 homerun this season. 1 out of 57 hits has left the yard. I can live with that ratio. He doesn’t get beaten by the long ball, and walks are something that can be improved upon. In total he has allowed 22 homeruns in 173 career big league innings. That is a desirable stat for any pitcher.
If you can live with a ground ball pitcher with a almost equal K/BB ratio who will have an ERA of between 3 and 5 and keep the ball in the park, than Laffey is a solid back of the rotation starter. But can the Tribe deal with that? Wesbrook was a very similiar pitcher and he was the Tribe’s most consistent starter for a 4 year stretch. If Laffey can improve his consistency and if the team decides on a role for him, he could be a solid piece for the Indians as the rebuild and develop.
That being said, I think Laffey gets one more shot to crack the Indians rotation in Spring Training, and if he fails to claim a spot, he will convert back into a middle relief and long man, unless the team decides to find a new home for him.
I am, admittedly, a Laffey fan, and would love to see him grab a rotation spot and run with it next year. He is, at least, better than David Huff the TweetMaster. However, if Carlos Carrasco, Jeanmar Gomez and Josh Tomlin all finish strong, it would likely mean the move to the bullpen for Laffey is permanent.