By Jason Shetler
Juan Nicasio made his big league debut for the Colorado Rockies in 2011. The 29-year-old right hander had subpar numbers as a starter during his time with the Rockies. Prior to last season, Nicasio was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He pitched primarily for them as a reliever. This offseason, the Pirates signed him to a one-year deal. Here are Nicasio’s numbers each of the past couple seasons. There isn’t a FanGraphs projection for him, so I’m going to use a Steamer projection instead.
2014 (Rockies): 5.38 ERA, 79 ERA+, 5.45 FIP, 1.47 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 6.1 K/9 in 93.2 innings
2015 (Dodgers): 3.86 ERA, 97 ERA+, 2.83 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, 4.9 BB/9, 10.0 K/9 in 58.1 innings
2016 (Steamer): 3.31 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9, 8.7 K/9 in 45 appearances
Nicasio didn’t pitch well at all in 2014 between the Rockies rotation and bullpen. His ERA and Fielding Independent Pitching were both over five while the ERA+ was very poor. Nicasio had a career year in 2015 for the Dodgers, as his FIP was about a full run lower than the ERA. Although the walk rate was much higher, his strikeout ratio was much improved. Part of the reason for this could be that his fastball velocity of 95.0 last year was significantly better than 2014 at 92.7 mph. Because Nicasio posted a .360 BABIP in 2015, Steamer projects the ERA to be lower in 2016. They also think his walk numbers will improve, which probably has to do with the way the Pirates get pitchers to have better mechanics.
My analysis: Juan Nicasio falls under the category of failed starter who has found success pitching in relief on a regular basis. Just like with Joe Blanton last season, the Pirates will be counting on Nicasio to provide multiple innings out of the bullpen, as well as being a spot starter in case of injury. If Nicasio is able to build off the success he had in 2015 with the Dodgers, the $3 million he signed for this offseason will be a great bargain.