It’s Southpaw central today here at Walk-Off Walk as three lefties are up next in the 2016 Player Review series. Amazingly, there are still six sets of players left to review. Jeez, the Braves used too many players in 2016.
*Ages reflect the player’s age on opening day, 2017
Matt Marksberry, LHP, 26 years-old
2016 Review: First off, it’s great to know that Marksberry seems out of the woods as far as his health scare goes. Just over a week ago, a story broke in which Marksberry was on life support with a collapsed lung. Twitter can be a very useful social media tool, but it can quickly muddle the facts in a developing situation. Marksberry did have a health emergency as he was critically dehydrated with a sodium level that plummeted so low that Marksberry had a seizure. He is much improved now so we can look more at the baseball side of things. A year after appearing in 31 games for the Braves bullpen, Marksberry failed to impress last spring and actually opened the year with Mississippi. After a quick promotion, he received his longest run with any team in 2016 after joining Gwinnett, appearing in 28 games. Marksberry’s ERA was nice and tidy, but he was a bit too prone to work his way into trouble via the walk. Before his season came to a close in late July with shoulder issues, Marksberry appeared in four games with the big league club and had little success.
2017 Projection: Marksberry has a nice following on Twitter and is very approachable as a genuine and likable guy. But results are what keep players in the majors and the results really aren’t there to this point for the now 26 year-old. He could have a future as a left-hand specialist as a major league split of .172/.273/.310 indicates when he has the platoon advantage. That includes a nearly 23% strikeout rate, but I should also mention that this includes a short-sample size (66 total batters faced) and .214 BABIP. That’s not to say that it’s all flukish – only that it should give one pause when it comes to projecting continued success for Marksberry. The shoulder concerns in 2016 certainly are worrisome as well. For their part, the Braves designated Marksberry for assignment and outrighted him to Mississippi following the season. He’ll be in the mix come spring provided he’s able and with everything he went through, he’ll certainly be a fan favorite. With Ian Krol and Paco Rodriguez potentially in the fold, for the first time in awhile, the bullpen doesn’t look like a revolving door of arms especially from the lefthand side. That said, after the last couple of weeks Marksberry has had, it’s hard not to root for him to be on the roster when the 2017 season kicks off.
Andrew McKirahan, LHP, 27 years-old
2016 Review: Not much to speak of after the lefty was removed after one appearance and just five pitches this spring and later diagnosed with a torn UCL. It was the second time the lefty underwent Tommy John surgery after missing most of the 2012 season because of the same operation. After spending the year on the 60-day DL, McKirahan was, like Marksberry, outrighted to Mississippi after the season ended.
2017 Projection: I was a big fan of McKirahan before the 2014 Rule 5 draft, where the Marlins selected him from the Cubs’ organization. After he failed to stick with Miami, the Braves got him off waivers as the 2015 season was beginning. A PED suspension limited McKirahan to just 27 games in 2015 and the results were pretty ugly. When healthy, McKirahan flashes some extreme groundball ability with a fourseam fastball and sinker combo (though he rarely throws the sinker) along with a slider that drops down. His big issue, though, is that he has only one pitch that he can induce some whiffs on – the slider. However, for it to be effective, he has to pitch ahead and his hard stuff gets smacked around pretty good. He has some impressive numbers in the minors and unlike Marksberry, McKirahan has good control. But does he have the stuff to pitch at this level? We’ll get a shot to find out in 2017 if he’s healthy.
|By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Eric |
O’Flaherty”) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Eric O’Flaherty, LHP, 32 years-old
2016 Review: Ugly. That’s how one might describe O’Flaherty’s season. Picked up right before the season after he failed to impress the Pirates, O’Flaherty returned to the team where he became a tremendous asset for five seasons. However, he wasn’t that guy anymore. His sinker has lost bite, his slider is too straight, and he’s lost a tick or two with his heater. As the season progressed, it became clear that what we were watching wasn’t the O’Flaherty we remembered so fondly. In August, he hit the DL with an elbow injury and later underwent surgery to fix the issue.
2017 Projection: While O’Flaherty is likely moving forward in his rehab and should be ready, provided there are no setbacks, to pitch this spring, it seems unlikely it will be for the Braves. While the depth at left-hand relief is one reason, O’Flaherty has a 5.49 ERA in 120 games since the start of 2013. Even if O’Flaherty has a clean bill of health, it would be a surprise to see him succeed in the majors again.