Market Fresh: Chris Capuano


Let’s face it, the Royals rotation isn’t going to be very good in 2011.

Luke Hochevar and Vin Mazzaro have some upside and if things fall right, they might finish the season as above-average starters.  Behind them, we’re still waiting on Kyle Davies to be anything.  Sean O’Sullivan?  Well, at least he’s young, right?

After the trade of Zack Greinke, the Royals have an opening in their rotation, and we’ll look at those potential options both in-house and on the market.  I’m intrigued enough by one such free agent that I wanted to look at him individually right now.

Let’s take a gander at 2006 All-Star left-handed starter Chris Capuano.

6 Seasons46524.35148125777.24093762616391011.3579.
162 Game Avg.11134.35373119410294651591011.3579.
MIL (5 yrs)44484.34139120744.23903592506161011.3669.
ARI (1 yr)244.649533.0191711231021.1527.

Here’s the caveat: See that big gap from 2007 to 2010?  Capuano was recovering from his second Tommy John surgery during that period, so he’s not without a certain level of risk.

But hey, we’ll be starting some risky guys already every fifth day as it is.  Right now Rule 5 pick Nathan Adcock is a potential fifth starter and he hasn’t pitched past A ball.

In Capuano’s case, he’s the type of risk a team can take on, especially a team like the Royals.  We’re not going to contend in 2011, but we can try to find options for this season to weather the storm and potentially pass on veteran wisdom to the up and coming pitchers in the system.  Who better to show a young group how to handle adversity than a pitcher who, at the cusp of stardom, almost lost it all due to injury and then came back?  It’s like a Capra film in a way.

Capuano displays average control and an above average strikeout rate.  In 2006, he made the All-Star team after starting the year 10-4 with a 3.21 ERA and a 112/25 K/BB ratio through 129 innings.  He’s probably not capable of reaching 200 innings again with the elbow issues lurking around the corner, but if he can stay healthy, he could provide the Royals with a stable 175 innings of average to above average pitching.  Considering he’s likely to want to reestablish some value on the major league market, a low pressure situation where he can get in quality innings might be ideal for him.  After being let go by Milwaukee (since they’ve added Shaun Marcum and this one Greinke kid), he could be had for cheap.  In the last two seasons, he’s been non-tendered by the Brewers and resigned to minor league deals in his path back to the big leagues.  Even a guaranteed major league contract wouldn’t be more than $1 million and he could be this year’s version of Bruce Chen.

Except better.

A lot of this is based on the assumption that he could maintain his health.  If healthy, his skills could translate to a valuable trade return at midseason as contenders look for starting depth for the stretch run.  A small investment now could turn into a C level prospect with upside in July.  There’s always the option of extending him another year if he performs well, to provide depth and “leadership” for the crew of rookies on their way.

It’s worth noting that after spending the first two months of the season in the minor leagues, Capuano made it back to Milwaukee where he worked as a spot starter and reliever until the end of August.  After that, he made seven starts to finish the year for the Brewers where he compiled 37 innings pitched, a 4.14 ERA and a 26/13 K/BB ratio.  If you take out his August start where he went only three innings on three days rest (and in his first start in five weeks) and gave up six runs, his remaining six starts look a lot better at 34 innings in six games with a 2.91 ERA.

The situation the Royals need to avoid is taking someone who could be a high-risk (but low investment) option with some upside and turning it into a long-term commitment.  Dayton Moore should be talking with Capuano about a minor league contract and if it turns out the lefty gets a major league deal around the league minimum to try to demonstrate his health and effectiveness, I think that’s a win-win.

Even if the Royals aren’t going to do much winning in 2011.

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