Projecting the 2012 Cubs: Michael Bowden

Yesterday the Cubs traded Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox for Michael Bowden and a player to be named later. Bowden was drafted in the 1st round (47th overall) in 2005. He was the last of the 5 draft picks the Red Sox had in the 1st round that year.

In 2006 Bowden established himself as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. In 112.2 innings he allowed 100 hits, walked 32 and struckout 121. The right hander was the 83rd ranked prospect in baseball entering the 2007 season. Over 146 innings in 2007 his strikeouts dropped a bit, but was still a very good 8.1 per 9. He showed very good control (2.6 BB/9). He was still the 94th ranked prospect entering 2008. This was his best season as he struckout 8.1 per 9, walked under 2 per 9 and allowed only 7 hits per 9 over 144 innings. He did this at the age of 21 in AA and AAA. He was again the 83rd ranked prospect after the season. Then things started to fall apart.

In 2009 he struckout 6.5 per 9. His walks jumped to 3.3 per 9. He reached the big leagues that year, which is pretty impressive for someone his age, but things didn't go too well in his 16 innings of work. He was no longer ranked in the top 100 and the following year he managed to strikeout and walk the same number of people. The idea of him being a strikeout pitcher had passed at this point.

He converted full time to the bullpen in 2011 and he struckout over 10 batters per 9 innings. He's thrown a total of 59.1 big league innings and has a 5.61 ERA and 4.58 FIP.  He's thrown just 3 innings this year and is out of options so he'll have to remain on the Cubs roster.

He throws a 4-seamer that has averaged about 92.9 mph over his career. He also throws a slider and a changeup and every once in awhile he may throw a curve. His average fastball velocity so far this year is 92.6. If you scroll down on this link and check out the similar pitchers you'll notice a familiar name. The most similar pitcher is Heath Rollins. Logan Ondrusek is next and he's followed by Kerry Wood.

The Cubs have been looking for bullpen help for awhile now and Bowden will get every chance to prove it should be him. It would be really nice if last season's conversion to the bullpen is what he's capable of, but it was his 4th trip through AAA and it was also a very small sample.

The projections don't think much of him, but that's for obvious reasons. Keep in mind that these were projections for the Red Sox. You can improve the numbers slightly because of the move to the National League. I used the ones available on Fangraphs and included CAIRO and PECOTA too.

Type IP H HR BB SO ERA FIP
RotoChamp 52 54 7 19 40 4.34 4.41
Bill James 30 30 4 12 24 4.20 4.36
Marcel 37 37 4 13 30 4.38 3.95
ZiPS 69 70 9 30 54 4.52 4.58
CAIRO 53 62 7 22 35 5.03 4.67
PECOTA 58 63 7 18 41 4.71 4.29
Average 50 53 6 19 37 4.53 4.38

Not terrible, but not very good either. Below are the percentile forecasts based on the average above.

% G GS W L IP H R ER HR BB HBP SO RA ERA FIP WAR TBF BABIP
80% 44 1 5 0 55 50 26 22 4 16 0 48 4.26 3.68 3.14 0.8 231 0.282
65% 42 1 4 1 52 52 28 24 5 18 1 42 4.75 4.13 3.76 0.3 227 0.287
Baseline 40 1 3 2 50 53 29 25 6 19 1 37 5.24 4.59 4.37 -0.1 223 0.293
35% 32 1 2 2 40 45 25 22 6 17 2 27 5.72 5.04 4.99 -0.4 183 0.297
20% 24 0 1 2 30 36 21 18 5 14 2 19 6.21 5.50 5.61 -0.5 141 0.302

You'll notice the RA/ERA/FIP are slightly off what they are in the first table. That's because of rounding. The percentiles are obviously based on the mean so if the mean is wrong the percentiles are too. Since this is the year of the transformation in Chicago we can't really be sure what the mean is. If the Cubs get the 80th percentile this is a great trade for the Cubs. If they get the mean it's probably a pretty bad one. Especially when you consider the Cubs are paying almost all of Byrd's remaining salary. We still don't know who the player to be named later is, but those usually aren't guys who change our opinions about whether or not it was a good, OK or bad trade.

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