I asked Noah Jarosh of Brew Crew Ball for a scouting report on our new pitcher, Marco Estrada. Here is what he had to say:
Definitely looking forward to Lind. Brewers first base situation has been a mess, so getting a good bat is phenomenal. As for Estrada:
When the Brewers first acquired Marco Estrada, I was among those who believed the least in him. He was pretty bad in a brief stint with the team in 2010 after being retrieved from the Nationals' dumpster. The next year, he was a little better but still was underwhelming as (mostly) a relief pitcher. He put up good peripherals and all, but just watching him it seemed like he was a pretty average-at-best guy. I thought there were more talented players that would have a better chance at exceeding.
Something happened over the next few years though. It genuinely got to the point where I went from one of Estrada's biggest detractors to one of his biggest fans overnight. Going into 2014, I thought Estrada was a solid sleeper candidate to end up being the Brewers ace, despite guys like Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza, Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta all being more expected picks for that role.
That stemmed from the hope that he could continue to build on where he left off in 2012 and 2013. As I said, Estrada puts up great strikeout/walk numbers. Consistently GREAT strikeout/walk numbers. He also doesn't give up a ton of hits, typically. He started 2012 in the bullpen before being thrown into the rotation early in the year as Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum suffered injuries and Randy Wolf suffered a case of being really bad.
That year, Estrada ended up making the third-most starts on the team with a 3.64 ERA, a 3.35 FIP, a 9.3 K/9 and a 1.9 BB/9. Just looking at those numbers you might think they would belong to a more acclaimed pitcher. In 2013, as a full-time member of the starting staff, he had a 3.87 ERA, an 8.3 K/9 and a 2.0 BB/9. Thus, my prediction that he was a sleeper to become an ace.
Unfortunately, 2014 proved fairly disastrous for Estrada in the rotation. He's always had trouble with giving up extra-base hits, but it had always been tolerable. His penchant for fly balls hurts him, and that led to him allowing the most home runs in the league despite being pulled from the rotation after 18 starts. It's hard to say what led to him giving up so many more home runs -- his HR/FB percentage rose only 1% from 2013 to 2014. In fact, his 13.1% FB/HR ratio would have made him 5th among qualified pitchers in the MLB, right around the same as guys like Hisashi Iwakuma, Stephen Strasburg, and Wily Peralta. Most of the guys who most often saw fly balls become home runs were primarily ground ball pitchers, though. Estrada is decidedly not that.
Still, after a move to the bullpen in mid-July, Estrada looked great again. Pitching mostly in long relief, he tossed 43.2 relief innings with a 2.89 ERA and a .611 opponents OPS. He had a 35:9 K:BB ratio in that time and, most importantly, allowed just two home runs. It didn't seem like hitters were getting to Estrada more for homers the second or third time through the order, so I don't think that's why the move to the bullpen was effective. But it is possible that helped him.
Estrada does rely a bit on deception as a pitcher. He doesn't throw hard, topping out in the low-90s and relying on a (usually) excellent change-up as his primary second-offering. When he moved to the bullpen, he used that change-up slightly more and a curveball slightly less than he did as a starter.
From the Brewers end, this trade ends up being pretty great as Estrada was a potential non-tender candidate. It seems that Mike Fiers and Jimmy Nelson are the new 5/6 starters in whichever order, and someone like Taylor Jungmann can be the seventh guy. An arbitration raise from Estrada's $3.33 million salary in 2014 and the need for help elsewhere meant the Brewers might not want to pay to keep him around without knowing what they were going to get.
All in all, Estrada is a bit of a lottery ticket. If he has his home run issues under control, he could be a great return for the Blue Jays. Putting up something close to his 2012-13 seasons should make Toronto fans pretty happy, I would think, though the AL East is a bit tougher. He never lost his control and ability to strike batters out -- he just all of a sudden seemed to give up a couple of home runs every outing. He's still a guy I could see becoming a low-end ace for a year or two. Or, he could flame out entirely. In the end, I think he'll be a good, solid pitcher who can be frustrating at times but in the long run will be an effective pitcher in whichever role Toronto places him.