The Cleveland Indians have brought in Gavin Floyd on a one-year contract. He’s guaranteed $4 million and could make another $6 million in incentives, according to multiple sources of that news. That kind of money basically guarantees the right-hander a spot in the Tribe’s rotation.
Fantasy baseball players’ questions about Floyd for 2015 likely have to do with his health and performance this past season. He seemed to demonstrate some real positives (a 2.65 ERA, 19.7 K%, and 5.7 BB%) with the Atlanta Braves in his 2014 return from Tommy John surgery. A fractured bone in his pitching elbow cut this particular triumph short, however.
Floyd, who’ll be 32 next season, made only five starts in 2013 before he went under the knife to have his elbow ligament reconstructed. He made only six minor league rehab starts in the first month-plus of this past season before Atlanta summoned him to the parent club, for which he obviously pitched effectively. His average fastball velocity (91.9) was normal or better, and his zone rate (48.8%) was on par with his measurements from 2012 and prior. He returned to The Show in about 13 months. He appears to be one of the better off TJS patients, then, as far as health and performance go to this point.
The fracture of Floyd’s olecranon in his ninth MLB start of 2014 sounds bizarre. This report indicates that the fracture occurred while the pitcher was throwing a curveball, but I don’t think that I’ve read that anywhere else, and it just sounds odd, at least to me. In any case, he underwent surgery soon after the injury, it went well, and he was throwing at near full strength last month, supposedly. Multiple reports had already relayed that this injury had no effect on his surgically repaired ulnar collateral ligament. A quote from the Tribe’s GM, among other news, indicates that his club did due diligence on the hurler’s arm.
As far as health goes, then, Floyd seems to check out. Past injury predicts future injury and all that, granted, and he throws what I presume is a slutter, as well as a curve, pretty regularly. But he should probably have a pretty normal winter and be ready to compete from the get-go in spring training.
Many of Floyd’s 2014 marks were encouraging. Of course, the sample size isn’t great, and he made most of his appearances in a pitcher-friendly ballpark in the National League and not in the AL’s U.S. Cellular Field, where he made his home from 2007 through 2013. His 3.79 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, and 3.54 SIERA suggest that, this past season, he wasn’t much different from the righty who pitched for the Chicago White Sox. He did generate grounders on about half of the balls in play against him, at least.
Floyd’s new environs might seem to favor him more than they did on the South Side of Chicago, even if they aren’t quite as friendly as the Bravos’. The Indians seem to be aware of their vast shortcomings on defense, and Progressive Field plays neutral, in general. We’ll need to see how much D has improved on the field, though. And Progressive’s park factor to right field, associated with left-handed power, is considerably better than league average – better even than the Cell’s – and that’s been consistent for the past three years. His splits are kind of up and down from year to year, but perhaps the most glaring consistency in his numbers against LHBs is his past propensity to give up long balls to them.
In other words, and quite obviously, Floyd’s 2014 campaign (just like 2013’s) on the whole is an incomplete data point. The Braves were pleased with how the pitcher’s deuce looked before he was injured again, and it was a little harder, even though it lacked some vertical and horizontal movement. One of the most encouraging signs, I think, could actually be the return of the natural dip to his changeup, missing since 2012, when he first showed signs of a pending health problem.
Is that enough to inspire us? Floyd’s command has pretty much always been inconsistent – at times, he’s brilliant; at times, he’s the opposite; most of the time, he’s somewhere between. It’s unlikely that TJS changed that so much for the better. His changeup wasn’t great before, so unless his tiny 2014 sample of them against LHHs is legit, it’s probably not a difference maker moving forward. He almost certainly still needs his breakers in order to be effective, so, down the road – not necessarily 2015, but still down the road – his elbow seems likely to deteriorate again.
Floyd appears to be back, but he’s probably not better than ever, just – at best – back to pre-TJS Floyd. It’s not bad, but it’s not per se good. His Steamer projection (a 4.06 ERA, 18.5 K%, and 1.30 WHIP) looks pretty fair; playing time (125 IP) is a bit of a crapshoot, but I could see that number being greater, enough for 25-plus starts. The Indians don’t have to worry about his health in future years and probably won’t discourage him from throwing a lot of breaking balls, though, so perhaps it’s just right or even optimistic.
At any rate, Floyd is still, practically, an AL-only innings-eater and occasional mixed-league streamer or hot pickup for a stretch. He’s as healthy as he’s going to be, and he does have a little upside, in case there’s something to his past season’s numbers or some other factor at work. But there’s also some obvious downside, and as much as his time missed might depress his already typically low price, his 2014 output and the 2015 buildup will probably diminish its impact, anyway.
Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.