MLB Free Agency: Bounceback candidate Jhoulys Chacin

With the season nearly over, it’s never too early to begin looking at players heading into MLB free agency looking to bounce back in 2017. Up first? Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jhoulys Chacin.

Right-handed pitcher Jhoulys Chacin has split the 2016 season between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the results haven’t been very pretty as he gets closer to MLB free agency.

Split between the bullpen and the rotation, Chacin has thrown 137 innings over the season with a 5.06 ERA, but he also has a 4.13 FIP and a 4.31 xFIP. Like most pitchers, a lot of Chacin’s struggles have come as he faces a lineup having a .942 OPS their third time facing him compared to just .724 in their first plate appearances and .805 in their second.

Chacin has been significantly better as a relief pitcher this year, but in a much smaller sample size. In 28.2 innings of relief, he has pitched to a 3.77 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 3.2 (compared to just 1.8 as a starter).

A look at the advanced numbers suggest that bad luck has been at least partially to blame for Chacin’s struggles. His BABIP of .323 is well below his career average of .288 and his left on base rate (LOB%) is at 67.3%, which is well below his career average of 72% and might be indicative of the poor defense behind him, artificially raising his ERA.

Chacin will turn 29 in the offseason and was a stable member of the Rockies pitching staff from 2010-2013, before falling off in 2014 and being released the next season during spring training. He hooked onto the Arizona Diamondbacks and worked his way back, making five appearances (four starts) for them with a 3.38 ERA (4.12  xFIP) in 26.2 innings pitched.

Chacin doesn’t strike out a lot of guys, just 112 in 137 innings this year, which means he has had to rely on his defense a lot this season, but defense has been something both teams have struggled with as they both ranked below average in defense–even with a potential MVP and Gold Glove winner behind him.

Chacin primarily works a three pitch mix with a four seam fastball, sinker, and slider. He has also been able to mix in cutters, curveballs, and change-ups as well. He doesn’t really throw particularly hard, with his fastball only averaging 92 mph and his slider hanging in the low to mid 80s.

This offseason is a very weak market for  starting pitching, with only two other free agent starters under 30 and just nine under 32, and it seems like a very favorable option for Chacin to get a cheap deal to at the very least compete for a rotation spot.

There are likely to be many open rotation spots next season due to offseason transactions or lack of performance. One possibility is the Philadelphia Phillies, who will likely have an open spot in their rotation with Jeremy Hellickson due to become a free agent and the Phillies reported desire to add a veteran pitcher to their staff.

The Baltimore Orioles are a possible destination thanks to the overall lackluster performance by guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo in the bottom of their rotation and their need to add quality starting pitching to a lackluster group.

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