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2018 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews: #34, Randall Delgado

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One of our longest-tenured pitchers had a season to forget, and faces an uncertain future.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
  • 2018 rating: 3.53
  • 2017 rating: 5.53
  • 2018 salary: $2,250,000
  • 2018 performance: 2-0, 4.76 ERA, 11.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 HR, 6 BB, 5 SO
  • 2019 status: free-agent

From 2014 through 2017, no player appeared more often for the Diamondbacks than Randall Delgado, and it wasn’t even close. His 216 appearances were 44 more than any other player, and that’s despite missing the entire second half of the final season over that time, losing it to elbow inflammation. Sadly, that proved an omen for what was to come this year, as Randall struggled with injury. One of the most reliable bullpen arms Arizona had enjoyed, since his arrival in the 2013 Upton trade, likely saw his time with the team end in a sad mix of ailments and underperformance. He even found himself designated for assignment in July, to make way for Matt Andriese. Who finished 11 spots behind him in this survey...

While his elbow was fine by the time spring training rolled around this season. as one injury healed, another showed up to take its place. In this case, it was a strain of Delgado’s oblique, which kept out of pre-season action. He instead went to get his work in at High-A Visalia instead, and initially things went fine. But after four appearances there, he experienced a significant loss of velocity and was shut down. Back on the shelf he went until early June, and the team then basically took advantage of the maximum possible rehab stint, effectively giving Randall “spring training in June.” He made eleven minor-league appearances before finally rejoining the team early in July.

However, the velocity was still not there. In May 2017, before the elbow issues began to surface, Delgado’s average fastball was 94.8 mph. On his return, after missing close to a year between the elbow and oblique, it had dropped two and a half miles per hour, to 92.3 mph. The results were not great. He had posted a K-rate of 23.2% in 2017, but of the 31 batters he faced over seven July innings, Randall struck out only two. That was fewer than he walked (three), and the same as the number of home-runs he gave up. It was then that the team DFA’d Delgado, but in a surprising move, they then re-signed him to a minor-league deal three weeks later.

He was called up again in September, though the fastball velocity was, if anything, even further down (92.1 mph). His first three games were just as bad - sixteen batters faced, no strikeouts - but if his appearance in Arizona’s 160th contest was his final one as a D-back, at least he went out on something of a high. Delgado struck out three of the four Padres he faced, retiring them all on just 16 pitches, including five swinging strikes. Delgado would have been a free-agent at the end of 2018 anyway, and I’m presuming the DFA and subsequent re-signing does not change his status for 2019.

As I wrote when we discussed Delgado’s free-agency, “Normally, a 28-year-old pitcher with a career ERA+ of 100 would have no problem finding employment, especially one who had an ERA+ of 131 as recently as 2017.” But normally, 28-year-old don’t see their fastballs suddenly become considerably more pedestrian. The average reliever’s fastball last season was 93.4 mph, so Delgado went from above- to below-average, and that’s a considerably less comfortable situation for any free-agent. The lack of interest in Randall when he was DFA’d in July is also somewhat telling, and I suspect that another minor-league contract, with an invite to spring training, is likely in his future.

If the velocity is gone, that doesn’t necessarily make him worthless. There are players who can still survive perfectly well with a 92 mph fastball, if their off-speed stuff is good. As Jack said last month, Delgado “really uses the change-up a lot now, over 30%. And he has a pretty good change.” Should the zip be gone forever, he needs to become a different kind of pitcher, if Randall is to join Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb and Brad Ziegler as the only men to take the mound for the D-backs in seven different seasons. [Patrick Corbin was on the team for seven years, but missed the entirety of 2014 due to Tommy John] If not? Well, sadly, his contribution this year was so limited, it’s not as if Delgado will be greatly missed.