Thursday, October 6, 2016

2016 Player Reviews: Josh Collmenter, Brandon Cunniff, Chase d'Arnaud

Part 3 of the Player Review series touches on a trio of bubble guys - all of which could be back next year. But then, you have to believe there is more value available somewhere if you are building a team that can compete for a playoff spot.

Read the previous article in this series or go crazy and check out the whole thing.

*All ages are as of opening day, 2017.

Josh Collmenter, RHP, 31 years-old

2016 Review: Collmenter gets the exciting honor of playing for two different teams that ended 2016 with 93 total losses. A year removed from being Arizona's opening day starter, Collmenter opened this season on the DL before finally making his season debut toward the end of May. Though he has started frequently in his career, Collmenter found no room in the Arizona starting rotation so he settled into a long-relief role. It did not go so hot. Homer-prone and struggling with his control, Collmenter was actually decent enough in 12-of-his-15 games with the Snakes before they cut him. In those other three games, he gave up four runs each time. Kind of odd. He was sent packing after Arizona found no takers at the deadline. Shortly thereafter, he signed with the Cubs and picked up four starts with Iowa before the Braves bought him off Chicago in mid-September for pitching depth. In three starts with the Braves, Collmenter looked good outside of the homerun total. And because I lack the creativity to find a way to work this in elsewhere, he also spent time as a teacher who tried to explain Newton's theories to Diamondback youngsters. Yep.

2017 Projection: Because of the minor league run this year, Collmenter will be arbitration-eligible for a fourth year. However, I'm not sure the Braves will bother. Yes, he looked decent enough in three starts, but Collmenter is a very underwhelming righty. He throws a 84 mph cutter that he offsets with a 76 mph changeup. Occasionally, he flashes a slow curveball, but not very often. A flyball pitcher, Collmenter lives off contact. The problem with that is outside of a few times in his career (2012-13), Collmenter has had a hard-hit rate over 30%. Basically, Collmenter is the guy you bring to spring training and hope someone outplays because he's not the type of pitcher you want to count on. The Braves should not offer arbitration, but a minor league offer with an invite and an opt-out date could be reasonable.

Brandon Cunniff, RHP, 28 years old

2016 Review: Cunniff was a surprise in 2015. After flaming out with the Marlins, Cunniff didn't throw an in-game pitch for over two years before the Braves brought him aboard in 2013 for 20 games. The next year, he was good - though nothing special - over 71 innings mostly at Mississippi. Still, with the Braves bullpen a wasteland in 2015, he got an extended look. He struck out over a batter an inning, walked a small town, gave up some long homers, and generally did little to excite. He was designated for assignment last December and moved off the 40-man roster. However, he made it back to the majors in August and after a shaky first five games, Cunniff turned it on in September. Over his final ten games, he K'd 11 in 11 innings, allowed just one homer, and walked just two unintentionally. His xFIP in the month of 4.96 makes his success a little suspect, but then we are getting into sample size messiness.

2017 Projection: The Braves can't DFA him again and send him to the minors without his consent. Nevertheless, the Braves probably aren't too enamored with Cunniff despite his strong finish. He'll be 28 in 2017 and while he was dynamite at times with Gwinnett last year, his numbers just kind of blend rather than stand out. Chances are he will be in the mix, but will have a long road in front of him to make the roster next spring.

Chase d'Arnaud, UTIL, 30 years-old

2016 Review: This season marked the fifth year d'Arnaud has been in the majors. He's still not arbitration-eligible, though. Never before had d'Arnaud received such an extended look in the majors and for a time, he became the latest Nick Green, or Pete Orr, or Brooks Conrad - utility guys who look really good in a small sample and people want to see them play more. He was hitting .299/.364/.393 after 35 games and 129 PA. Over his final 49 games (133 PA), he hit a paltry .190/.271/.276 and struck out at a pretty good clip (26 K's to be exact). We began to see why the Pirates gave up on the former fourth-rounder. His flexibility was a plus and d'Arnaud started games at every position aside from pitcher, catcher, and first base. Hard to get a read on his defensive capabilities as he didn't spend more than 145 innings at any particular position, though he graded out very well at third and less-than-ideal up the middle.

2017 Projection: If the Braves don't have to move him off the 40-man this offseason, d'Arnaud will be given a chance to get his roster spot back in the spring. I thought he was out of options, but he has one left (Thanks Braves Options Guy). It's worth mentioning in case the Braves try to outright him to the minors, d'Arnaud seemed to enjoy his time with the Braves - who also pimped his band on more than one occasion - and might be more willing to accept a minor league assignment if DFA'd because of that. d'Arnaud has enough speed to fulfill the 25th man role for an NL team where he can play all over and be used as a pinch runner if need be. But with his offensive limitations, he's not a guy who the Braves need to make room for.

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