On Friday afternoon, the Royals claimed right-handed pitcher Chris Volstad off waivers from the Cubs. Volstad, 26, had been with the Cubs one season after being traded from the Florida Marlins for Carlos Zambrano. He’s a former first round pick of the Marlins (2005) and was on their major league roster every season from 2008 until 2011 (but has also shuttled back and forth from the minors every season as well).
In his National League career, he’s been just a bit better than replacement level, throwing 695.1 innings in 124 games (and 123 starts) with a 5.7 K/9 and a 3.2 BB/9. Last year, he had his worst season as a pro, putting up a 6.31 ERA in 111.1 innings for the Marlins.
Volstad stands 6’8″ and weighs 230 pounds. His over the top delivery and tall frame give him a downward plane towards the plate, and he’s had good ground ball rates in the big leagues (50.2%). While his numbers don’t look great, it’s worth taking a look at him and letting him compete for a spot in the rotation.
There may even be a possibility he can show some improvement. Volstad is only 26 years old and as a former first round pick, had talent that made him seem like a potential star. Some of his advanced statistics suggest he may have been unlucky (though when he’s given up more homers on fly balls than average in three of his four full seasons, there’s enough to temper any excitement of a post-hype breakout. Baseball Reference lists comparable players based on his performance to date, and some names may help your outlook of him, some may hurt. These are names like Brian Bannister and Scott Olsen (bot age 26 comparables), but also names like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson, who both should cash in this offseason (listed as comparables through age-25 seasons). That doesn’t mean he’ll be Edwin Jackson and it doesn’t mean he’ll turn into Brian Bannister, just that the performance relative to age is similar.
Volstad will add depth to the competition and act as a buffer in case of more injuries like last season, and who knows, maybe he’ll turn it around and become a success in Kansas City – despite the American League being a tougher league.
The Royals will take on his contract, which puts him in his second eligible season of arbitration. In 2012, he made $2.65 million after settling to terms. This time, he’s projected to earn $3 million. With the Royals already set to pay Bruce Chen $4.5 million and Luke Hochevar somewhere in the same range or more, it seems the Royals are paying a lot to a few starters who are average at best and often much worse.