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Diamondbacks Sign Reliever Sam LeCure to Minors Deal

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Dbacks make another minor league depth signing to add competition to the bullpen.

Sam LeCure is expected to compete for a bullpen spot this Spring.
Sam LeCure is expected to compete for a bullpen spot this Spring.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks are probably making most of their final depth signing before Spring Training, by adding another reliever who had previous success in the majors but has fallen hard lately. There is nothing wrong with trying to add competition to the bullpen with three open spots in the bullpen. Brad Ziegler, Daniel Hudson, Andrew Chafin, and Silvino Bracho are basically locks for the bullpen and one of those spots is likely going to a LOOGY. Competition is often a very good thing because when you have a lot of qualified candidates, it brings out the best in all of them. By signing Sam LeCure to a minor league deal, the Dbacks are rolling the dice on a potential bounce-back year from him.

LeCure is a converted starter who wound up being a key piece of the Cincinnati Reds Bullpen in 2011-2014. Here's how he performed over the years:

Year Age ERA- FIP- xFIP- SIERA
2011 27 96 96 88 2.99
2012 28 78 72 87 3.40
2013 29 70 76 88 3.05
2014 30 102 111 112 3.83
2015 31 79 99 100 3.65

*Stats compiled on Fangraphs

When looking at the numbers, there is a decline in performance from 2013 to 2014 where he went from a solid late-inning reliever to basically a middle reliever. In 2015, his performance improved to basically league average and the low ERA is due to luck with BABIP and strand rate. At the same time, he produced a career high 58.3% ground ball rate which is 12% above his career average rate. He's used to pitching in the band box environment known as Great American Ballpark so he knows that mistakes get hit hard.

When breaking down the splits, he's how he performed against right-handed batters:

Year TBF GB% HH% K% BB% BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2011 191 47.8 25.6 22.0 4.2 .250 .212 .266 .369 .274
2012 125 40.5 28.1 25.6 8.8 .300 .228 .301 .339 .282
2013 146 45.3 35.1 22.6 10.3 .323 .262 .345 .411 .337
2014 139 49.5 34.6 17.3 7.9 .386 .328 .384 .468 .374
2015 52 56.4 33.3 13.5 11.5 .270 .261 .346 .511 .363

*Stats Compiled From Fangraphs

This is how he performed against left-handed hitters:

Year TBF GB% HH% K% BB% BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA
2011 116 44.7 40.3 26.7 11.2 .209 .185 .278 .382 .294
2012 112 55.9 32.9 25.9 10.7 .275 .202 .300 .313 .282
2013 105 39.7 23.8 31.4 8.6 .254 .167 .238 .208 .209
2014 112 35.7 29.2 21.4 11.6 .246 .208 .324 .376 .315
2015 31 61.9 22.7 25.8 3.2 .182 .133 .167 .207 .165

*Stats Compiled From Fangraphs

Based on the platoon splits, he has really odd platoon numbers for a right-handed reliever. Over his career on hitters he's been tough on left-handed hitters, which suggests he has a very good change-up in his repertoire. His best three years in terms of wOBA against LHB, his change-up graded out as positive on Fangraphs. Over the last three years, he has really struggled against right handed batters, with hard hit rates well above 30% and not coincidentally his slider has graded out as a huge negative over that time period. In the years he was good against RHB, his slider graded out as positive. So what we have here is a pitcher with a good change-up but a declining slider, which means to regain effectiveness against right-handed batters, the approach on the mound needs to change in order to yield more effective results. This has the potential to be a sneaky good signing, one with very little downside.