Thursday, December 18, 2014

Howdy Aaron!

When the Braves designated Anthony Varvaro for assignment on Monday, many of us were either confused or angry or both. Now that he has been dealt to the Red Sox for Aaron Kurcz and cash considerations, I'm not sure if that made anything better, but at least it was something. I guess.

Let's look at what the Braves got. Kurcz has had a pretty interesting career, both before becoming a professional and since. A fan of Chipper Jones growing up, he went to the Air Force Academy after high school, which would theoretically end or severely limit his hopes of being a professional ballplayer at some point. However, he ended up wanting to devote more of his time to baseball and headed back home to attend the College of Southern Nevada, where he was a teammate of Chasen Shreve and threw to then-catcher Bryce Harper.

After his first year with Southern Nevada, Kurcz was the Cubs' tenth round selection in 2010. He struck out a ton after starting his career, including 46 in 26.1 ING with Boise, the short-season A squad of the Cubs. He even picked up nine saves. The following year, the Cubs tried him a starter despite the fact that he was also a reliever in college. He was still pretty good, though the K numbers predictably fell as he tried to pitch deeper into games.

What plans the Cubs would have for him ended after the 2011 season, though, as he was sent to the Boston Red Sox as compensation for Theo Epstein's defection to the Friendly Confines. It's rare for players go through what Kurcz did. Get moved for another player? Get cut so they can go to another player? Whatever the case, that's just the business of baseball. Get "traded" for a front office guy? Well, the Braves' David Carpenter can sympathize. He was also moved to the Red Sox less than a year later when he was dealt with manager John Farrell for Mike Aviles.

Kurcz was throwing a lot of multi-inning outings in 2012 with Portland, the Red Sox's AA team, when he went down with arm troubles that would eventually require (waitforit) Tommy John surgery. Every Braves pitcher of the last five years can also sympathize. Kurcz was still racking up K's (70 in 50.1), but his walks were noticeably higher which had his WHIP nearing 1.40 before going under the knife.

He wouldn't take the mound for meaningful action again until 21 months later on April 22nd of this year, again for Portland. It appears the Red Sox were handling him with kid gloves after pushing him hard in 2012 as Kurcz pitched five more games, but pitched about eight fewer innings. His K's were solid and he probably was a little lucky that more balls in play weren't converted into hits as his WHIP fell proportional to a fall in H/9.

And now, the Braves have him. What should we expect? His mechanics are little violent, as you can see in this poorly shot video from the AA All-Star Game shortly before his season went kaput in 2012. You can compare it to this video from his college days (and laugh at Bryce Harper). Kurcz stays in the mid-90's and throws both a four-seamer and two seamer. He also mixes in a change-up and slider, the latter of which will need to be considerably better to get outs in the majors.

Was it enough for Varvaro? Well, it was something and the scouts probably liked Kurcz, but it seems rather confusing. He doesn't seem that much different than the guy they gave up except the latter was established in the majors. Overall, there would appear to be some potential here, but when, and not mention if, that potential turns into an effective major league reliever is unknown. It was a bit of a letdown from the hope that Varvaro was a piece in a bigger deal.

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