Why The Rays Should Target Brendan Donnelly

Brendan Donnelly was briefly mentioned in the Kelvim Escobar post, but now it's time to make the case for Donnelly on its own. For some reason I confused Donnelly for being an oft-injured reliever. However, he's only been on the DL twice in eight Major League seasons. One of those times, the more serious time, was because of a fractured face he suffered when he was hit by a batted ball. The other occurrence was a calf strain suffered in late 2009 in which he spent 16 days on the DL for the Marlins.

Like other potential target, Kiko Calero, Donnelly went from above average relief pitcher to bouncing around from system to system before landing with the Marlins in 2009. Also like Calero, he experienced some what of a career renaissance with the fish.

After spending the first few months of the season pitching for the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, Donnelly made his way to the Marlins and made his debut in early July. From there he went on to give them 25 quality innings down the stretch. Of course 25 innings is a relatively small sample size, but a 2.82 FIP and a 3.32 tRA is encouraging. The 2009 success comes on the heels of an unsuccessful season in 2008 for the Indians. In '08 he made just 15 appearances and allowed 13 earned runs and 10 walks in just 13 innings. However, from 2002-2007, Donnelly was among the better middle relievers in baseball.

 

FIP

tRA

2002

2.58

3.56

2003

2.38

2.93

2004

3.07

3.15

2005

4.15

4.72

2006

4.62

4.96

2007

3.09

2.96

Coming mostly as member of the Angels (Red Sox in 2007), his average FIP for those seasons is just over 3.3 with an average tRA of slightly over 3.7. As mentioned above his 2008 for whatever reason was awful, but thanks to a strong showing in his brief 2009 it seems as that 2008 was some what of an aberration.

Like my other targets, Donnelly throws a fastball/slider combo. Even though he will occasionally mix in a change up and a split-finger, Donnelly is throwing a fastball or a slider over 80% of the time. While his heater sits around 90, he still throws a hard slider. Over the course of his career his slider has averaged 86.7, but in 2009 it was hitting 88.

Donnelly is a pretty neutral pitcher with a lean towards a flyball tendency (43 FB% to 35 GB%). His swing strike percentage usually tops 10% which is decent for a reliever. The real value of a Donnelly signing lies in his ability to get out right handed batters as well as left handed batters almost equally.

 Career

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

vs. RHB

787

0.225

0.286

0.341

vs. LHB

702

0.231

0.323

0.338

It's rare to see a relief pitcher with such equal usage and one that has this much success against both sides of the plate. Donnelly is near death to right handed batters with a career .627 OPS against in 787 plate appearances, but is nearly as effective against lefties with a .662 in 702 PAs. In the small-ish sample size of 2009, the ability to handle both lefties and righties out has not left Donnelly.

2009

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

vs. RHB

55

0.220

0.278

0.340

vs. LHB

49

0.262

0.354

0.357

His career K/9 of 8.7 is solid as are his career K/BB of 2.66 and HR/9 of 0.74. Donnelly isn't flashy or overpowering and maybe that's the reason he's flown under the radar all these years.  Regardles off the reason, we do know that for most of his career he has been a good relief pitcher who can get out batters on both sides of the plate.

This probably marks the end of bullpen targets amongst the known soon-to-be free agents, but I'm sure we will take a look at some more as we learn of declined options and non-tenders in the next two months. If the Rays are able to sign a combination of any of the following: Benoit, Calero, Escobar and Donnelly, the bullpen should continue to ball on a budget

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