Not long ago, the Seattle Mariners designated Shawn Kelley for assignment, because the Mariners decided there was something about Kelley that offsets the fact that he's good at pitching. Where that's removing one 2013 bullpen candidate, though, it looks like we can add another in Kelley's place. Here's this nugget of wonder:
Add 6-ft-8, 245-lb Kameron Loe to SEA non-roster pitching invites. Must pass physical. Ex-TEX minor league teammate Blake Beavan greeted him— Geoff Baker (@gbakermariners) February 12, 2013
Here's an unofficial welcome to Kameron Loe, who is almost officially Mariners property. As always, he needs to go through a physical first, and doctors need to find nothing in his testicles or elsewhere, but I don't see a reason to think Loe's about to bomb any tests. I guess I can't speak to the testicles part, because I don't know a single thing about Kameron Loe's testicles. Kameron Loe's testicles. This paragraph makes numerous references to Kameron Loe's testicles. Celebrating the day that pitchers and catchers report is actually celebrating the day that pitchers and catchers get their balls cupped. This is a very special and testicular occasion.
Loe, presumably, will shortly sign a minor-league contract with a spring-training invite. You might remember him for having been a Ranger, you might remember him for more recently having been a Brewer, and you probably don't remember him for having been a Fukuoka Softbank Hawk. Loe is a right-handed reliever, and he's also extraordinarily tall. He's listed at 80 inches, and last season only three taller pitchers appeared in the bigs. Loe's got the same listed height as Doug Fister, and he's got an inch on Blake Beavan. First a paragraph about testicles, and now this.
In terms of performance, Loe is not entirely unlike former Mariner and former recognized person Sean Green. Loe is a sinker-baller who specializes in grounders, and he also has a breaking ball, the whole package making him more effective against righties than lefties. Loe, however, hasn't been dreadful against lefties, so he's not someone you necessarily have to be careful with. Since 2010, among regular relievers, Loe ranks tenth in groundball rate. He ranks 30th in xFIP, if you care for xFIP, and that puts him ahead of guys like Joel Hanrahan and Drew Storen and Jim Johnson.
Over the past few years, Loe has been as good against righties as Felix Hernandez. Against lefties, he turns into an even more extreme groundballer, and you can get a sense of that here:
Meanwhile, here's that breaking ball, and an unorthodox save celebration:
That's Kameron Loe and a breaststroke. Loe isn't used to picking up saves so maybe he was caught unprepared.
Loe throws strikes, he misses bats, and he gets grounders. Loe is about to sign a minor-league contract, while Brandon League signed for a big multi-year contract and Jim Johnson was an All-Star. The difference is in home runs, as Loe has allowed a few over the past few years. Since 2010, Loe has allowed 0.9 homers per nine innings. Johnson has allowed 0.5 homers per nine innings. That seems like it might be meaningful, but, in all, over three years Kameron Loe has allowed 19 homers. We can't conclude anything about his true-talent level based on that, because there's entirely too much noise. If I were trying to build a good bullpen for cheap, I'd identify guys like this, who might be undervalued because of the perception of home-run problems. Some of them might have legitimate home-run problems, but many of them will regress in the right direction. Kameron Loe's important numbers are fine, and he's only 31 years old.
So I like this, as much as you can like the cheap acquisition of a middle reliever. The Mariners' bullpen now looks like a competition between:
- Tom Wilhelmsen
- Oliver Perez
- Lucas Luetge
- Charlie Furbush
- Carter Capps
- Stephen Pryor
- Josh Kinney
- Kameron Loe
That's eight guys for seven spots, and while Capps and Pryor had outstanding natural talent, they're unproven, they have options, and Pryor doesn't even have a consistent second pitch. So I could easily see Loe winning a roster spot, or, failing that, serving as depth in triple-A in case something in the majors goes wrong. There's nothing I'm afraid of in his statistical profile, and on a minor-league contract, this looks to me like a minor win. That's a play on words, and also truth.