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2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Reviews, #54: Kevin Ginkel

The latest in a long line of future potential ex-closers...

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Oakland Athletics v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
  • Rating: 2.14
  • Age: 27 (since March 24)
  • 2021 Stats: 28.1 IP, 30 H, 24 R, 20 ER, 7 HR, 14 BB, 31 SO, 6.35 ERA, 5.89 FIP
  • 2021 Earnings: League minimum (pre-arbitration)
  • 2022 Status: Removed from 40-man roster yesterday, still pre-arbitration

How did we get here

At the end of 2019, Kevin Ginkel looked like a real stud. He had just posted a 1.48 ERA over 24.1 innings, while striking out 28. That was the lowest ERA in franchise history by a rookie with 20+ IP, breaking Daniel Hudson’s 1.69 mark from 2010. He got the last save of the season, appearing to indicate he had a shot at the closer’s job in 2020. But on Opening Day that year, he was tagged for four runs in less than an inning of work. He was still proclaimed the team’s closer by Torey Lovullo on September 8, after Archie Bradley was traded, but that didn’t last long. Just three days later, Ginkel was sent to the alternate training site, and did not appear in the majors again, finishing the year with an ERA of 6.75 and a FIP of 5.82.

The 2021 campaign

With the sheen definitely taken off expectations for Ginkel with the problems in 2020, he started off the year in a middle-inning role, but things began well enough. Through May 2, he had worked 11 innings, mostly the seventh, with a 3.27 ERA and a dozen strikeouts. And those strikeouts were nice, because Ginkel donated a guitar to Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers for every K at Chase Field. [He uses Cooper’s song Poison as his song at the ballpark] However, with a FIP of 5.62, there were questions as to his sustainability, and the wheels fell off the Ginkelmobile in May. He allowed 10 earned runs in 10.1 innings, despite 14 more strikeouts, with bad outing against the Marlins and Dodgers a big component.

June was not much better, with a 7.71 ERA across seven outings, before he was sent down to Reno on June 20. He only made one appearance for the Aces, before he went on the injured list with elbow inflammation in his throwing arm, and did not pitch again in 2021. He finished another disappointing season with a 6.35 ERA, despite maintaining his K-rate of more than a batter per inning. He was particularly troubled by the long-ball, Ginkel giving up seven home runs in 28.1 innings of work. Those were responsible for 15 of the 24 runs Kevin allowed, and included a grand-slam to Gavin Lux of the Dodgers on May 18.

It seemed the team definitely lost confidence in Ginkel, largely keeping him in low-leverage situations. After May 2, he only came in to pitch while the team was up, in one of his nineteen appearances. And that was as mop-up duty in the eighth inning on May 11, with the D-backs already six runs up on the Marlins. Ginkel allowed three runs while retiring one batter, and didn’t see another lead the rest of the year. It’s hard to be sure, of course, whether the elbow issue that ended his season was a factor in earlier struggles: I’ve not been able to find much about the situation, as minor-league IL stints provided limited info. But it is worth noting that he had struggled with the same issue earlier in his career.

2022 prospects

The first step is, obviously, needing to prove that he’s healthy. Presuming that’s the case, it’s not as if the team are bursting at the seams with great bullpen arms, so there are going to be openings. However, he’ll now also need to make his way back onto the 40-man roster. For Ginkel was taken off that yesterday, in order to protect some of the team’s younger prospects in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. That’s going to make it just a bit harder for him to make it back to the majors, since as well as a 26-man roster spot, he will now also need take someone’s spot on the 40-man squad. While not impossible, to be sure, it does increase the gradient of the climb.

The reality is likely that Ginkel is neither as good as he was in 2019, nor as bad as he was in 2020-21. A career strikeout rate of 10.1 per nine innings in the majors is decent, but it’s neutralized by the high walk and homer rates: 4.7 and 1.6. One or other could be bearable, but when you walk people at a large rate, while also allowing an above average number of home-runs... Yeah, Ginkel is going to need to rein those in, if he’s going to enjoy a lengthy stay in the majors. If not? Well, there are no shortage of fungible alternatives who can provide ERA’s nearer five than four, just as reliably. Alice Cooper’s charity will just have to find another source for guitars.