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2020 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews #33: Travis Bergen

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Please, have success (with the D-Backs).

Los Angeles Dodgers v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
  • Rating: 3.55
  • Age: 27 (per October 8)
  • 2020 Stats: 7G, 6.2 IP, 4.05 ERA, 6.34 FIP, 1.800 WHIP, 8:8 K/BB, 119 ERA+
  • 2020 Salary: $575,000 (league minimum), $71,645 earned
  • 2021 Status: 2 MiLB options remaing, arbitration eligible in 2023, under team control until 2026

Introduction

What do Trevor Bauer and Travis Bergen have in common beside their name and last name starting with the same letter?

We had Bauer, took Gregorius, wanted Ray and ended up with Bergen.

...

I won a million in a casino and came home with a bag of potatoes.

I dated Keira Knightley and married Roseanne Barr.

I was born in Western Europe and now live in Romania.

I love baseball and support the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I just cried for 20 minutes in the bath room and there was no toilet paper.

...

Travis Bergen was drafted in 2015 in the 7th round out of Kennesaw State University, Georgia, by the Toronto Blue Jays and was signed for $170,000. MLB pipeline’s draft report mentioned about Bergen:

“Bergen can hit 94 mph with his fastball, but he usually pitches at 88-92 mph. He lacks downhill plane because he’s 6 feet tall and leaves his heater up in the strike zone more than he should, but it’s effective because his extreme crossfire delivery produces run and sink and allows him to get inside against righties.

Bergen’s breaking ball varies between a fringy slider in the lower 80s and a promising cutter in the upper 80s, and he may want to focus on the cutter in pro ball. His changeup has some sink and is an effective third pitch.”

Coming into 2016, Fangraphs ranked Bergen 19th on its Blue Jays top 30 list, in a Blue Jays farm system that was generally ranked somewhere in the bottom 10 of the league. The lefty would play a handful of innings for Toronto’s Rookie and Short season teams before his season was cut short and had to undergo Tommy John surgery in August 2016.

In 2017 he made his comeback, but it was in 2018 that he pitched to good results in A+ and AA in his first full season of pro ball. He was eligible for the Rule 5 draft in December 2018 and the Toronto Blue Jays decided not to protect him, despite the positive results. It was a decision that, as it seems, was not always understood by the various digital Blue Jays communities.

MLB pipeline’s scouting report in 2018 said: “Bergen lacks overpowering stuff but hitters from both sides of the plate rarely manage to barrel his pitches. His low-90s fastball plays much better than its velocity because his crossfire delivery gives it run, sink and deception. His slider/cutter acts as a solid second pitch at times, and he also has a changeup to keep hitters off balance.”

Fangraphs report was a bit different: “Bergen looked like a lefty specialist in college but the Blue Jays have normalized the way he strides toward home, and his delivery has become more platoon-neutral in pro ball. He has a fringy, low-90s fastball but has two good secondaries in his upper-70s curveball and tumbling mid-80s change. So long as he pitches heavily off of those two offerings, he could lock down a bullpen role.”

If you take the positive notes out of both reports you can understand why the San Francisco Giants decided to take a gamble with him in the Rule 5 draft. Consequently Bergen immediately entered the Giants top 30 prospect list of MLB pipeline, who ranked him number 26.

In 2019 Travis Bergen starts spring training with our league rivals, and he impresses with a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings and a 0.84 WHIP.

The Giants definitely liked what they saw because until mid May the lefty reliever appears in 18 games, pitching to a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings. He allows 8 runs, although his results are heavily skewed by two disastrous outings against the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds in which he allows 7 runs in total (and one inherited run), but in general and on the outside, it does not look bad for a Rule 5 pick.

On May 17, Bergen would pitch his final game, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, before hitting the IL with a left shoulder strain.

Bergen would be activated again on August 8, but his return was a disaster: he allowed four runs in 2.2 innings over three outings, making his last appearance again against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and was designated for assignment a day later on August 18. On the bright side, Bergen pitched 16 scoreless outings of 21 in total. But he was especially hurt by the long ball (17.4% HR/FB ratio), while he had trouble to get batters to strike out. He returned to the Blue Jays on August 21.

In 2020 Travis Bergen was assigned to the alternate training site and got his call up on August 24 and pitched 1.2 innings in relief in a game against the Boston Red Sox, striking out 3 while giving up a hit and allowing a walk. He was optioned back to the alternate training site the following day.

On August 31 he was handed over to the Arizona Diamondbacks when Mike Hazen shipped Robbie Ray out the opposite way with some cash.

2020 review

Travis Bergen got a quick call up, on September 3, and fitted in easily into the 2020 Diamondbacks: with 8 walked batters in just 6.2 innings he definitely made sure D-Backs fans got to appreciate the traffic officers much more. 58.9% of his pitches were located out of the zone (51.1% is league average), making it quite obvious what the cause of the heavy traffic allowed was.

Baseball savant: Travis Bergen pitch location 2020

Bergen did not rely that much on his curveball as one would expect. His curveball was described by fangraphs as “nasty” at the time of the Robbie Ray trade and on baseball savant his curve spin is in the 74th percetile, which is great.

But he hardly got batters to swing at his curveball and if they did, they hit it well (0.273 BA). He was especially hit hard by right-handed batters (0.400 BA). As such, his curveball has a negative pitch value on fangraphs.

Baseball savant: Travis Bergen pitch tracking 2020

It made Travis Bergen rely a lot more on his fastball. According to info on fangraphs, Bergen apparently has a new delivery (I could not detect the difference) and had his velocity up 2mph in 2020 when compared to 2019. However one relates to the other, his fastball effectivity was good despite both velocity and spin rate being ranked as “poor”, since he kept batters to just a 0.125 BA.

On September 26, just a few games before season ending, he was optioned back to the alternate training site.

2021 outlook

In 6.2 innings we got to see more of Travis Bergen than of many other relief pitchers this season. It was definitely not good, but we are evaluating Bergen on one month in the organization and in the MLB, so he deserves for us to have a bit more patience.

Note that Travis Bergen has pitched just one entire season of professional baseball so far: drafted in 2015, TJ surgery in 2016, TJ recovery in 2017, complete season in 2018, left shoulder strain in 2019 and COVID-shortened baseball in 2020. It could very well be that we have not seen the full potential of Travis Bergen so far.

His track and development record has been hampered by injuries, so it is also possible that the Bergen we saw in 2020 is the Bergen we will see from here on. That would not give us much hope: batters might catch up to his poorly rated fastball, his curve ball might not get (right-handed) batters out, and his command of the strike zone might not get any better. In that case, it would be only a matter of time before he gets DFA’d because the PCL in Reno does not sound like a great environment to improve his current deficiencies.

Whatever might become, at some point we will see him pitch several times for the 2021 Diamondbacks and we can only hope the Bauer draft will still leave us with something close to a success.