There have been some passing comments mentioned about Brandon League possibly being a starter down the line so I thought I would address that along with a more thorough review of what he is as a player. League was drafted out of college a few years ago where he was a part time starter until his final season in which he finally was made a full time starter and pitched just under 100 innings.
Since being drafted, League has spent the majority of his time in the bullpen, with occasional attempts in the rotation to see if he could stick there. Unfortunately, his over-reliance on his fastball has made him a poor fit so far, though he does has a secondary pitch that he's been working on for a while and has shown flashes at times of being useful.
Yes, League has shown some electric stuff at times. That secondary pitch he's shown off can be superb breaking ball and he has a fastball that can touch 100. His issues have always been spotty command and frankly, it's shown little to no improvement over the past three seasons.
To be a successful starter, League needs time to develop those secondary offerings for sure, but working on those means working on his fastball less and it's not like his fastball is a finished product. It gets some good movement and it certainly has velocity, but his control over it has been come and go, at best.
In addition to the one-sidedness of his pitching repertoire, League would also need to prove that he can handle a bigger work load. He's never thrown more than 120 innings combined in any one season and even then has battled arm injuries so his future as a possible starter seems washy. If you wanted to try him there, one gets the impression that he might need a complete reboot, put into the Double-A rotation and pretend like the last couple years never happened.
League has upside, for sure. Somebody with that kind of stuff always will. Unless he takes a step forward with both his durability and his control however, he likely tops out as a 0.5-1 WAR player either in the pen or rotation.
Wait, one more thing...
I got my Brandons mixed up. Everything I wrote above is about Brandon Morrow.
It's common for us, as fans, to overvalue the potential of our prospects. Brandon Morrow's upside has been bandied about a lot post trade, and in the interest of fairness, I wanted to dump some reality* on the picture. People imagine Morrow as he was during his first start against the Yankees. Sure, he has that potential. But he also has Edwin Jackson potential. The Edwin Jackson that took years to show any real improvement.
*In full disclosure, reality may contain large amounts of rationalization.
Yes, Brandon Morrow has potential to be a dynamite #2 rotation guy. But the odds that he would turn into that while under team control are just so far out there. The notion that Morrow's a starter is basically been built out of 14 starts he made in 2005-6 and that he has a good fastball. He's never shown that he can handle the innings. His fastball, the one pitch he constantly sticks with, hasn't gotten better. He walks a ton of people and he's been put through the wringer as far as confidence goes.The far more likely outcome is that Brandon Morrow becomes about as valuable as Brandon League is right now.
To be clear, I am not enamored with this trade. But giving up on Morrow is not like giving up on Adam Jones. It's like giving up on Matt Thornton or Francisco Cruceta. Sometimes it bites you in the ass, sometimes the guy never takes that step forward or he gets hurt.
Furthermore, there's a decent chance that Brandon League is more valuable to the team in 2010 than Brandon Morrow would be. First of all, League is a better reliever. He balances a few less strikeouts with notably better control and an extreme advantage in ground balls. And if he maintains the gains he took in 2009 with his new splitter, then watch out, he's better than Aardsma. League comes with his own injury and regression concerns as well of course, but the injury seems to have been of a more isolated nature and was muscular, not ligament-related. And the dramatic difference in pitch selection in 2009 lends one hope of avoiding performance regression.
Morrow's slot in the rotation is now open, for now occupied with one of our plethora of back end fringey types like Jason Vargas or Doug Fister. There's also now a stocked bullpen which means Z's attention probably turns toward picking up one of the handful of veteran or injury-risk starters still hanging around, any of whom are likely better bets than Morrow.
It's not a fabulous trade, but if you are rational about what Brandon Morrow is, then I think you'll see this isn't a fleecing. A dynamite #2 rotation guy is what Morrow's ceiling was when drafted, I'm not sure he's any closer to it now then he was then and other teams know that too.