Unfortunately, I cannot quell a growing segment of my mind turning over the possibilities of Perci Garner. Nothing screams pre-Thanksgiving clicks like a detailed consideration of a fringe middle reliever, but strange fascinations are what drive my fingers to the keyboard.
Garner is a reclamation project, a delightful story of perseverance, and a minor league player released by the organization that drafted him despite young players of any value being able to be traded. Garner’s story should not be one that undermines the perception of his abilities. In many ways Garner was a long shot, in other ways, Garner has a really solid arsenal which should demand further opportunity. The story of Garner is a compelling one and he represents one of the Indians better finds through their minor league opposition scouting.
Garner lives off his fastball which scouts like as an above average offering, from Adam McInturff at Baseball Prospectus:
Plus natural velocity from physical power-pitcher frame. Ranged 93-96 w/ overall heaviness to ball and avg arm-side run. Never will pitch w/ true command to spots in the zone; basic control can be inconsistent as well. On-and-off strike-thrower.
The two other offerings, changeup/curveball are interesting, but the fastball itself is enough to have a chance at a big league career. Not only does it have plus velocity, but it is heavy which denotes quality movement on a downward plane.
The results of heavy fastballs are ground balls; for Garner ground balls come in boatloads. In a small sample at the big league level, contact off Garner elicited an elite 59.3% ground ball rate. In the minors, the outcomes were similar.
Garner simply keeps the ball down at an astounding rate which has value in a few different ways. First, it suppresses slugging percentage. Second, it raises double play frequency. Finally, pitching in front of a Lindor-Kipnis middle infield rewards inducing ground balls. For Garner, not many batted balls reach the outfield.
There are two key reasons for this success in inducing ground balls: the heaviness and location of the fastball/sinker. Garner pounds the pitch into the hands of right handed batters and allows the natural action to do the work for him.
This 3-D pitch capture shows Garner’s ability to use the inner half as well as the natural sinking action which exists on the powerful offering.
Garner transitioned from a slider to more of a curveball and the spin rate is promising. With curveballs a higher spin rate is better because it will cause sharper downward action inducing more swing and miss, as well as more groundballs.
The MLB average RPM(revolutions per minute) on curveballs is 2,308.
Garners curveball RPM sat at just above 2,500 in 2016. This is a pitch which has MPH differential from his fastball of roughly 11 MPH and an above average spin rate.
Garner’s curveball has the makings of an average to above average offering which paired with an above average fastball makes for a reliever with two good pitches. Further, Garner’s profile is already well tailored to fit in front of the Indians defensive strengths and induce soft contact.
Based on stuff and outcomes, Perci Garner deserves the first shot at being the 2017 Cleveland Indians sixth inning guy instead of FIP nightmare Jeff Manship or Zach “I will only ever throw one pitch” McAllister. Can Garner advance enough to eventually be a closer? No. But for the Indians, their ability to limit bullpen costs by developing pre-arbitration pitchers is essential. If the Indians can successfully rely on pre-arbitration pitchers while letting arbitration/post-arbitration pitchers walk, it has the power to create more financial flexibility for position player upgrades. Garner could be a big part of limiting these costs.