Thursday, November 28, 2013

Exit Music (For A Player): Josh Fields

We're taking a look at the Astros who are still on the 40-Man Roster as part of our off-season Exit Music (For A Player) recap of 2013. Read the archive here. Today we take on Josh Fields.

Acquired: Selected in the 2012 Rule 5 draft from the Boston Red Sox.

41 appearances - 38IP
ERA: 4.97; FIP: 5.10; xFIP: 4.20
1.29 WHIP. 82 ERA+
Baseball-Reference WAR: -0.1; FanGraphs WAR: -0.3
K/9: 9.5; BB/9: 4.3
2013 Salary: $490,000

Fields is a perfect fit for the 2013 Astros. Low-risk/high-reward, good enough that the Red Sox were probably pissed he was picked, but a little expendable. Fields was the Mariners' 1st Round pick in the 2008 draft, and was a part of the 2011 deadline three-team trade with the Dodgers, Mariners, and Red Sox that sent Erik Bedard to Boston, Trayvon Robinson to Seattle, and Tim Federowicz and Stephen Fife to Los Angeles - which means that the Red Sox got the worst part of that deal.

So Fields brought his impressive 2012 season (11.9 K/9 at Double-A, 12.5 K/9 at Triple-A) to Houston...and performed about exactly how you would expect a rookie to perform. His first two outings of the season in early April went without a hitch - one batter faced, one batter retired. Then he strained his right forearm and didn't make it back to the team until June.

June was alright. Ten appearances - a 4.66 ERA (five of the nine hits he allowed in 9.2IP went for extra-bases). July was not. Eight appearances, 7IP, but nine hits plus seven walks - six more than he had issued in June for a 2.29 WHIP and a 9.00 ERA. Things got a little better in August, he walked four batters in 10.1IP, but September was great: 10.1IP, 4H/2ER, 10K:6BB and a 1.74 ERA/0.97 WHIP.

Thing with relievers is that a couple of bad outings and it blows your statistics right up. In 41 outings, Fields gave up 3ER twice, 2ER three times, and one earned run nine times. He recorded fewer than three outs in fifteen outings, facing the minimum in seven of those.

High-Water Mark:
August 5 vs. Boston. Recorded his first career save by striking out all four batters he faced (Napoli, Gomes, Saltalamacchia, and Drew) to preserve a 2-0 win.

What Went Well:
*It's too early to tell if Fields' .245 BABIP is an anomaly that is going to regress like an SOB in 2014, but he did have the 12th-lowest BABIP among rookie pitchers in 2013. And, in his Double-A and Triple-A levels, hovered around a .255 BABIP.
*Strikeouts. Fields' 9.5 K/9 rate was the best on the staff. He struck out at least one batter in 29 of his 41 appearances.
*September. Fields ended the season on a great - if unsustainable - note. He held batters to a .114/.244/.257 slash line, with 60% of his pitches going in for strikes, and a 26% non-contact strike rate, helping with the .125 BABIP.

What Didn't:
*Walks. When Fields threw a first-pitch ball, he went on to post a 20K:16BB ratio. If he threw a first-pitch strike, that became a 20K:2BB ratio. And it's not that he had season-long command issues: He only walked batters in 12 of his 41 appearances, but he walked multiple batters in an outing five times.
*His curve. Fields' fastball is solid (FanGraphs had it at +2.5, not incredible, but alright). That said, his curve - which he threw almost 20% of the time in 2013 - is rated at a -4.8.
*Flyballs. He only got grounders in 37.4% of balls in play, and 15.7% of all the flyballs left the yard.

Did You Know:
*Fields was born in Athens, Georgia, graduated from a high school in Athens, and went to the University of Georgia in Athens. He was first drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft by his hometown Braves, but elected to return to school.
*The Mariners drafted him in June 2008, but on the advice of agent Scott Boras didn't sign until February 2009 because of the gap between the $2m Fields wanted and the $1.5m the Mariners were offering. Because he was a college senior, Fields wasn't subjected to the signing deadline.

2014 Contract: Pre-Arbitration
2014 Outlook: Fields will be in the bullpen and, depending on any off-season moves the Astros are sure to make, may be able to continue where he left off - in the 9th inning.