The Angels signed Sean Burnett before 2013 thinking they were getting a top left-handed reliever but what they got was 9.2 innings of work and a a lot of frustrating time spent on the disabled list. What, if anything, can Burnett give them this year?
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only "meh")
What happened in 2013?
2013 basically didn't happen for Burnett. First he dealt with a back problem in spring training that had him rushing to get healthy in time for Opening Day. Before April was even over, Burnett was back on the shelf with a forearm problem. He came back from that at the end of May for about one second and then went back on the DL. He was never seen again despite several attempts at rehabbing the injury that never got very far. Eventually, he went back under the knife for surgery on his flexor mass tendond, whatever that is.
What do the projections think he will do in 2014?
The projections for Burnett are pretty interesting considering that there is a fair amount of uniformity in them. That's because Burnett has had a wildly inconsistent career. In 2010 and 2012, he was dominant and racked up a lot of strikeouts. He was pretty bad in 2008 and 2011 and more middle of the road in 2009. Yet somehow they all basically agreed that he'd be a little above average. CAIRO is really the only system that painted a more rosy picture for Burnett.
The real issue for Burnett has been injury. He had Tommy John surgery back in 2005 and then dealt with back and elbow injuries in 2012. There was also a great deal of speculation that he had health issues in 2011 as well that contributed to his ineffectiveness, but he never missed any time.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
Call me crazy, but I don't hold out a lot of hope for a 31-year old with a history of arm problems who is still making very slow rehab progress from his latest injury. I know he is targeting being available by Opening Day, but I don't see it happening. What worries me is that he might rush back when he would really be better off taking his time, going on a rehab assignment of a decent length and only then rejoining the Angels when he is back at 100%. Instead, I forese him trying to pitch his way back into shape during regular season action, taking his lumps and maybe staying quiet about any minor aches or pains he might be dealing with along the way.
What also concerns me is that Scioscia might be a little over eager to get him back as well. With all apologies to Brian Moran, there isn't a left-handed reliever in the bullpen without Burnett. That's going to put a lot of pressure on Scioscia to immediately thrust Burnett into high leverage situations whether he is ready for it or not. Again, Burnett will take some lumps in the process. There is also a chance that Scioscia might expose Burnett to righties more than he should, especially early on. To me, it all adds up to Burnett struggling mightily out of the gate before somewhat salvaging the season in the second half.
What are the known unknowns?
What we don't really know is just how much the injuries will affect him and how much they affected him in the past. Burnett was possibly losing effectiveness before this whole saga to begin with. In 2011, he was averaging 91.4 MPH on his sinker, that fell to 89.9 MPH in 2012 (though he did have elbow problems for a big chunk of that year) and then all the way down to 88.1 in limited time in 2013. In other words, he might already have been losing his stuff before the Angels even signed him. That's a scary proposition.