One of the better position battles this spring has been the fight for the final slot in the Minnesota Twins’ rotation, a contest being waged by veterans Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey and youngster Trevor May.
Pelfrey may have lost his shot by giving up seven hits in 4 2/3 IP on Monday. On Thursday, Milone gets the start against Boston, with May pitching the next day in what may be the two most important games to decide how this competition will be resolved.
Today, let’s take a closer look at Milone (see video below), who will almost assuredly be the long man if he fails to earn a starting gig.
Heading into the 2014 season, we ranked Milone — still with Oakland at the time — 115th among starting pitchers. Once the dust settled, he wasn’t even a top 150 pitcher last year as — despite a solid 3.55 ERA — he was farmed out by the A’s for a spell after they made several deadline pitching acquisitions.
Finally, Milone was traded to the Twins for Sam Fuld. Once set free in Minny, Milone stunk up the joint in five starts and one relief appearance.
Overall, Milone recorded his highest ERA last season as his strikeout rate regressed and his WHIP soared — both to career worst levels. Still, this is a dude that had plenty of success as a major league starter in Oakland, going 31-22 with a 3.84 ERA between 2012 and 2014.
But after things went so poorly in Minnesota after the trade, the lefty came to camp this spring with no guaranteed job. The fact that the Twins would be sporting an all right-handed rotation if Milone doesn’t get a spot is a factor in his favour.
However, in his last start on Saturday, Milone was tagged for four runs in four innings, so Thursday’s outing cannot be any more important. Again, there may be wiggle room here because he’s a southpaw. So Milone may have to actually pitch his way out of the job, which he’d do with another bitch slapping Thursday.
Milone, who turned 28 last month, wasn’t as bad as his ERA indicated in Minnesota, but even with a 5.90 FIP, no one was beating down a path to pick him up. The key for him returning to Fantasy relevance (besides having a regular gig, of course), is seeing his K rate bounce back after last season’s debacle.
He was actually doing a great job of getting through innings quick last year with the A’s with a career-best 15.5 pitches/9, but that number soared to 19.9 after the trade.
Thursday will be a real test for Milone. He faces a Red Sox lineup that looks very much like what Boston will trot out there on Opening Day.
Here’s the scary part of Milone’s 2014 season. His BABIP was a bit lower than usual and his strand rate was normal. So if there was luck involved, it actually helped him. To wit, his FIP was a half run higher. And the move to the best hitter’s park in the AL will not help matters.
Let’s face it: the Nats seem to know what they are doing when it comes to pitching. So the fact that they opted to deal away Milone a few years ago — one of many pitching prospects they have traded in recent years — tells you a lot.
He’s a great control pitcher (2.13 BB/9 in his career), but is too prone to the long ball (1.23 HR/9) without the strikeout capability to fall back on. That’s a fine line to tread.
The bottom line here is that we cannot recommend this former USC Trojan for Fantasy purposes. That’s not to say that he won’t be capable of helping your team out for short stretches here and there, but on a long-term basis — especially in 5×5 leagues — he’s just not dependable enough to rely on.
Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments below what you see 2015 holding in store for Milone.
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