The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with a pitcher who forces us to ask if a guy can have two breakout season in one minor league career?
Position: Relief Pitcher Highest Level: Double-A
Throws: Right Height: 6'2" Weight: 195 lbs.
Age: 24 Born: 5/18/88
2012 Season Stats
High-A: 22.2 IP, 2-0,7 SV, 2.38 ERA, 17 H, 9 BB, 2 HR, 28 SO, 1.33 GO/AO, 3.20 FIP, .300 BABIP
Double-A: 43.0 IP, 5-1, 0 SV, 2.72 ERA, 24 H, 27 BB, 3 HR, 56 SO, 0.79 GO/AO, 3.67 FIP, .231 BABIP
Fastball – B. When I saw Chaffee pitch, he threw an easy 93-94, however, I’ve read older reports that say he sits in the low 80’s and have received word from a scout that he touched 97 a few times in 2012. I’ll stick with what I’ve seen personally, which is a good fastball with movement. The older reports saw him throwing slower most likely due to working out of the rotation and using a sidearm arm slot. He uses more of a low three quarters release now.
Off-speed Pitches – B-. Chaffee has two types of what I’d call a slider. One is a softer, more Frisbee type of offering and the other has a sharp bite to it that dives at the cleats of left handed hitters.
Control – D+. This is where Chaffee has struggled in his pro career. Though admittedly, I believe a lot of this stemmed from using multiple arm angles in the past but never mastering the mechanics to get away with such an approach. Now that he’s settled on more of a low three quarters delivery, his BB/9 should improve with time. This is the one area that’s ultimately going to decide whether or not Chaffee ever reaches his full potential.
Command – F. To be completely honest, I’m not sure Chaffee knows where the ball is going, but you can’t deny his effectiveness this season.
Mechanics – D. They are getting much better as he progresses. He really just needs to find consistency in his landing point and release point. There isn’t a ton of pre-release movement. He’s cut out unnecessary portions of his delivery and has settled on a shorter, low arm slot and is rather quick to the plate.
Performance – B+. ERA under 3, 11.5 K/9, 5 H/9, kept the ball in the park, climbed the minor league ladder. I’d say Chaffee had a good year, really put himself into a position to compete for a bullpen spot in the next couple of years. What’s more, he dominated in his first stint against advanced competition in the high minors. Really, the only caveat with Chaffee is the fact that he’s struggled with control in the past and posted a horrible 5.7 BB/9 in AA.
Projection – B. Chaffee was once seen as a potential mid-rotation starter. But his inability to locate his pitches or develop the necessary stamina necessitated his transition to the bullpen. This transition was anything but smooth, but it appear that Chaffee has turned the corner and has a shot at becoming a very good setup man in the major leagues if he can develop some control.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date – Earliest, late 2013. Most likely sometime in 2014.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: You probably remember Ryan Chaffee from his previous breakout season in 2009 when he emerged as an undrafted free agent who put up impressive numbers in Low-A Cedar Rapids. You probably then forgot about him because he was an unqualified disaster in 2010 and 2011 when the Angels tried moving him up to High-A. They even tried converting him to a reliever halfway through 2011, but still, nothing.
Lo and behold 2012 came and Chaffee as a full-time reliever for the first time is back on the rise. He quickly conquered Inland Empire (finally) and got the call up to Arkansas where he handled the promotion a lot better than his move up to the California League. With the Travs, Chaffee posted numbers that were impossible to ignore as he was stingy with allowing hits all while missing bats aplenty. Granted, his peripherals suggest that luck and the pitching-friendly stadium artificially improved his numbers, although he was actually better on the road than at home in Double-A. Even if you normalize account for that, Chaffee still comes out looking golden.
The reward for his big bounceback was a trip to the Arizona Fall League where he got hit hard, not that six innings of work is even close to a relevant sample size. That honor suggests that the Angels definitely like what they saw from him in 2012 but then they also neglected to protect him in the Rule V draft this off-season, so they can't be that high on him, nor is any other organization since he was not selected.
What to Expect in 2013: Who really knows what to expect from Chaffee in 2013? We've already seen him have a strong season once and follow it up with two years of misery and for all we know that could happen again, but he is just as likely to keep pitching well. If he is going to go the latter route, the biggest improvement he is going to have to make is in his control. Walks have plagued Chaffee throughout his career and he has not made much progress in improving his numbers there, which isn't a big surprise given his mechanics and varying arm slot. At the same time, it is the mechanics and arm slots that allow him to create such deception, which is a major factor in his success.
This is why moving to relief fit Chaffee so well. One could argue that he just had too much going on when he was a starter. Too many pitches, too many different looks, too many things to refine all at once. But now that he is relieving, he can reduce repertoire and just bring out the bag of tricks the he can perform the best. The hope has to be that now that he has been relieving for a season and a half, he can focus this season on fine tuning things now that his approach is done being overhauled to suit his new role. As such, it will be interesting to see if the Halos keep Chaffee in Arkansas to start the season to keep working on things in an environment that he has succeeded in, thus allowing him to keep building confidence (which could well be necessary given his rocky career). Or maybe they just throw him into the fire in Salt Lake to see if his stuff can play there in addition to how well he reacts if he starts getting touched up in the altitude.