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Rays relief candidate: RHP Louis Coleman

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Released Royals pitcher Louis Coleman is a name worthy of consideration in our search for a veteran reliever the Rays can add to the bullpen.

A right handed relief pitcher with few outings, he's managed to outperform his peripherals with a career 3.20 ERA. He was designated for assignment last week to make room for Ian Kennedy, and his backstory is noted by Royals Review:

Coleman pitched just three innings for the Royals in 2015, without allowing a run. He spent much of the year in AAA Omaha, where he had a 1.69 ERA in 68 innings.

The 29-year old was originally a 5th round pick by the Royals in 2009 out of LSU. In 177 1/3 career Major League innings he has a very respectable 3.20 ERA. Coleman has been slightly tougher on righties in his career, allowing a line of .216/.304/.393, compared to .238/.327/.413 against lefties, according to Baseball Reference.

Coleman was eligible for arbitration this season and is set to earn $725,000 this season. He was designated for assignment by the Royals at the end of spring training last season, but cleared waivers and accepted assignment to Omaha.

This time around, Coleman has elected to become a free agent. In another bullpen not operated by the best-in-baseball Royals he probably would have stuck around, but heading into his age-30 season, Coleman is likely looking for a better shot at major league time.

Below is a statistical breakdown for the level at which he spent the majority of his time since 2011, as well as a Steamer projection for 2016:

Season Team G IP K% BB% BAA BABIP LOB% GB% HR/FB ERA FIP
2011 Royals 48 59.2 26.2% 10.7% .205 .246 87.8% 30.4% 10.7% 2.87 4.30
2012 Royals 42 51 30.0% 12.0% .216 .270 83.3% 20.0% 14.5% 3.71 4.68
2013 Royals 27 29.2 29.1% 5.5% .184 .257 97.6% 41.4% 4.2% 0.61 2.04
2014 Royals 31 34 15.6% 11.7% .289 .314 74.6% 42.3% 15.0% 5.56 5.69
2015 Royals (AAA) 38 64 24.6% 9.0% .207 .267 90.4% 33.9% 6.4% 1.69 3.57
2016 Steamer 19.7% 9.1% .243 .284 73.9% 3.79 4.13

The glaring line above is when the wheels fell off for Coleman in 2014, and that was likely due to injury.

Coleman suffered a bone bruise to his middle finger during a fielding drill in Spring Training, and his results during the season reflected an injury that never really went away. Returning from the disabled list, he pitched 18.2 innings through May, but then was sidelined again until September. Coleman had allowed a .341 BAA in the first half of 2015, but permitted a mere .182 BAA in the second half, once he returned to strength.

A flyball pitcher by trade, Coleman utilizes a wacky delivery to get by with his uninspiring stuff, and his delivery is further influenced by men on base. Here's his delivery without any runner, putting the full quirk on display.x

Pitching from the stretch, Coleman does anything but, bringing his front leg back into a traditional stance.

The camera angle is slightly askew, but in the second clip you can see Coleman keeps a bit more upright as well. Both of the above clips are from 2014, a poor season, but the same holds true when comparing 2013:

And even 2015:

Despite this abnormal delivery, his movement on each pitch is somewhat standard. He doesn't have the magic rising fastball that the Rays seem to like, nor does his slider stand out as special or unique. In the 2013 season, Coleman featured a pretty intriguing sinker, but after changing his sinker between the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he essentially scrapped it in his brief major league appearance in September of 2015, moving to a two pitch mix.

2013 Count Freq Ball Strike Swing Velo
(mph)
pfx HMov
(in.)
pfx VMov
(in.)
Fourseam 225 39.47% 32.00% 32.89% 47.56% 90.58 -5.36 +8.49
Sinker 89 15.61% 34.83% 25.84% 51.69% 89.81 -8.20 +2.86
Slider 254 44.56% 35.43% 34.65% 48.03% 81.55 +4.09 -0.59
2014 Count Freq Ball Strike Swing Velo
(mph)
pfx HMov
(in.)
pfx VMov
(in.)
Fourseam 263 38.12% 34.60% 31.18% 41.44% 89.92 -5.70 +8.30
Sinker 158 22.90% 36.71% 20.89% 51.90% 88.72 -8.49 +2.34
Slider 268 38.84% 40.67% 22.76% 49.25% 81.8 +3.52 -0.45
2015 Count Freq Ball Strike Swing Velo
(mph)
pfx HMov
(in.)
pfx VMov
(in.)
Fourseam 22 57.89% 36.36% 27.27% 36.36% 90.18 -4.35 +8.22
Sinker 1 2.63% 0.00% 0.00% 100.00% 89.06 -7.40 +2.77
Slider 15 39.47% 46.67% 26.67% 53.33% 80.62 +5.13 -1.53

The fourseam would top out around 92 in previous seasons, but Coleman barely left the 80's in 2015, which could be cause for concern, but I'm not sure the sample size is robust enough. Likewise, I'm not certain he scrapped his two-seamer altogether, given his meager 11 batters faced in 2015. Small sample size applies for the 2015 major league data.

What is evident above is the remarkable velocity difference between his slider and four-seam fastball. The data in Brooks reflects the occasional use of a change up, which makes up the difference in Freq percentages you might note above, but his slider may serve that purpose enough on its own. When he was on in 2013, Coleman's slider placed 15th on the Fangraphs pitch value leaderboard among relievers, and for his career, his slider has a whiff-rate of 34% per swing, near Archer levels.

Furthermore, his fastball might be an adjustment away from being just as "rising" as other Rays pitchers. His four-seam has averaged just over eight inches of vertical movement, but the extremes in his delivery allow for much more:

If the Rays can tap into his fastball to make it rise a bit more consistently, Coleman suddenly becomes a far more intriguing pitcher. Not to mention, the Rays might be even more adept to ideal pitching match ups. Coleman is likely best suited to be used as a ROOGY even though in his career about 1/3 of his batters faced were of the opposite hand -- even in 2013 when he found success.

Coleman saw everything go wrong in 2014, but the ship was righted enough in 2015 at the Triple-A level to inspire some confidence that he could be a worthwhile addition to the bullpen depth.

I would offer a spring training invite without hesitation, but I wonder if there's enough to unlock to give him a major league deal.