This is an important season for Matt Garza. His contract with the Brewers vests for an additional year only if he makes a certain number of starts over the next two seasons. So it must be exceedingly frustrating for him that before the season even began, he hit the disabled list with an oblique strain. We've seen those types of injuries steal months from pitchers in the past. Last year one such injury cost Wily Peralta two months. Until now the Brewers were able to use their off days to roll with a four man rotation. But now they need their fifth starter. And it appears to be Zach Davies.
The Brewers acquired Davies at last year's trade deadline from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for OF Gerardo Parra. Many of you probably recall his starts from last September. He appeared in six games for the Brewers totaling 34 innings. He put up a pretty solid 3.71 ERA and 3.81 FIP. The peripherals were something of a mixed bag though. His 17.3 K% was below average and his 10.8 BB% was worse than average. However his .210 BAA was excellent, which helped keep his WHIP quite manageable (1.21).
Davies has a slight build (6'0'', 150 lbs) and his fastball works in the 88-91 range most of the time. He gets overlooked by many for those two things. While it's true that his build and fringe average fastball limit his ceiling, I don't believe that means he cannot survive at the major league level as a starter.
His change-up is a plus to plus-plus pitch. And he also has an average curveball. And his above average command allows everything to play up a bit. He'll need that command in every start though, because he's not going to get his fastball past many hitters. And if his command is off, then hitters have the chance to really tee off on him.
He reminds me a lot of the good Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers. He's even a bit similar to fellow rotation mate Chase Anderson. However he differs in one pivotal area: batted ball distribution. The others are all fly ball pitchers. However Davies has always induced ground balls at a well above average rate. It's a really interesting package.
Davies will never be the 1/2 in a rotation. But I think he's a very solid 4/5 that will sometimes pitch better than that. I could see him making 20+ starts this year, depending on injuries/trades, and ending with an ERA similar to last year's. That's the best case scenario--in my mind anyway. But if his command waivers that ERA could end up above 4.00. But that's the nice thing about a rebuilding season. The Brewers can afford to let him work things out at the major league level.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs
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