The Houston Astros deadline trade with the Milwaukee Brewers last July has the possibility of being remembered for mainly one player.
And no, I am not talking about Carlos Gomez. I am speaking of the no-hit wonder, Mike Fiers, who has arguably been the best player that the Houston Astros received in last year’s deadline. So much for being an afterthought!
While Fiers’ 2015 season won’t blow anyone away, except for the Los Angeles Dodgers last August 21st, he was unspectacularly solid with both the Brewers and Astros. In 31 appearances, 30 of which were starts, the former Brewer pitched his way to a 7-10 record with a 3.69 ERA/4.03 FIP and .283 BABIP. Not great, but not terrible either.
In this year’s Spring Training, Fiers finds himself in contention for one of the final two rotation spots with Scott Feldman and Doug Fister also fighting for a starting role. You may refer to them as the “Killer F’s”. Anyway, Fiers may have the leg up in the competition when taking into consideration his past results. His 2014 season when he produced a 1.7 WAR in just 14 games, 10 of which were starts, helps illustrate this point. However, he will have to improve on his peripherals from 2015 (4.03 FIP, 1.20 HR/9) for him to take a step forward in his career.
So where do the projection systems have Fiers in 2016?
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Fangraphs 2016 Steamer Projections:
10-8 W-L, 3.75 ERA/4.16 FIP, .279 BABIP, 1.8 WAR, 26 starts
Fangraphs 2016 Fans Projections:
10-9 W-L, 3.75 ERA/3.98 FIP, .291 BABIP, 2.5 WAR, 24 starts
Both projections seem to suggest that Fiers will have a similar 2016 season when compared to his 2015 results. It also assumes that he will be in the rotation. However, his strikeout totals project to decrease to roughly 140-160 from about 180 last season. And his BABIP is projected to stay the same or even rise. As we all know, a higher BABIP for a pitcher is definitely not a good thing. So it could be possible that the Astros may end using him as a swing man between the rotation and ‘pen of the results are not up to standard. But his projections are just fine for a fourth or fifth starter on a major league roster.
Regardless of the projections, I am still bullish on the soft-throwing right-hander. Fires at this point in his career, to be honest, seems more dependable than Feldman. He will also not be counted upon to lead the rotation, but his steady performance will definitely be a great service to the Astros in 2016. And let’s face it, you can never have enough quality pitching.
11-10 W-L, 3.63 ERA/3.92 FIP, .265 BABIP, 2.3 WAR, 27 starts
Don’t forget that the team did rotate through numerous pitchers at the fourth and fifth rotation spots before finally acquiring Fiers and Scott Kazmir at the deadline last year. And with Feldman trying to re-establish himself following an injured-riddled 2015 and Fister essentially almost guaranteed a rotation spot barring an unforeseen issue, then Fiers appears to be an ideal candidate for the last spot in the rotation. Did I also mention that he now gets an entire camp to work with pitching coach Brent Strom? So yeah, that should work in his favor.
Overall, the addition of Fiers has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Not only is he an intriguing pitcher with a decent upside, but there is also added benefit in having another quality starter at your disposal. This is a good problem to have if you are the Astros in 2016.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**