Could Felix Doubront Help the Milwaukee Brewers?
It was not long ago that Felix Doubront was a hot prospect coming up through the Boston Red Sox farm system. He was ranked as the #5 prospect in the Red Sox system after the 2010 season, one that saw a then 22 year old Doubront post a 2.81 ERA in 80 innings between AA and AAA before making his major league debut with the Red Sox, giving up in 12 earned runs in 25 innings while striking out 23. The lefty throwing Doubront was a mainstay in the Red Sox rotation between 2012-13, starting 56 games and posting a 4.59 ERA, winning 22 of 38 decisions. He was at his best during the 2013 postseason, during which he gave up just one run in seven innings as the Red Sox went on to win the World Series.
Things took a downward turn for the now 27 year old Doubront last season, however. With a fastball velocity down three miles per hour from his peak season of 2012, Felix struggled to a 6.07 ERA in 59.1 innings with the Sox last season before he was shipped off to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later. Felix was slightly better with the Cubs, starting four games and giving up nine runs in 20.1 innings pitched. He struggled to get strikeouts with his diminished velocity, posting a K/9 mark a full two strikeouts lower than his career rate of 7.9, and he gave up 12 home runs in 79.2 innings combined between his two stops last year.
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The Cubs agreed to a one year, $1.925 mil contract with Doubront over the winter, avoiding arbitration. Coming into Spring Training this season, the Cubs expected Doubront to compete for the open fifth starter spot in their rotation. Felix failed to fit the bill, however, yielding 17 hits in just seven innings pitched, giving up nine runs. With Doubront out of options and no longer in the running for a roster spot, the Cubs granted the 27 year old lefty his release earlier today.
It’s unlikely that Doubront will remain a free agent for long, given his track record and the constant need for pitching around the league. One team that has been maligned for it’s thin rotation depth is the Milwaukee Brewers, who could have use for Felix Doubront as a depth piece within the organization.
It was only two seasons ago that Doubront posted a solid 95 ERA+ and 2.3 fWAR as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Doubront posted consecutive seasons of 43.7% and 45.6% before falling off to and even 38% last season. Felix, giving up more fly balls than previously in his career, therefore gave up a noticeably higher amount of home runs than his career averages. While Doubront’s 5.54 ERA between the Cubs and Red Sox last season was rather unsightly, he also suffered from a 65.9% strand rate, roughly seven percent below league average.
The Brewers have done well lately in picking up pitchers off the scrap heap and getting some value from them, getting huge successes from guys like Zach Duke and Jeremy Jeffress last season. AAA pitching coach Fred Dabney has a good reputation for working with pitchers, and Felix Doubront could easily become his latest reclamation project. If Doubront can recapture his groundball inducing ways, he could be a valuable weapon to have in reserve at AAA.
The Brewers’ reportedly halted their plan to continue stretching out Tyler Thornburg today, instead opting to let Thornburg compete for the Brewers’ final available bullpen spot. Should Thornburg indeed turn back to relief, the Brewers would have Taylor Jungmann and Michael Blazek as their top options should one of the Brewers’ starting five go down with an injury. Jungmann has never pitched in the majors and Blazek has limited experience as well, so it’s likely the Brewers would be interested in adding some depth to their rotation. Having Doubront would also give the Brewers a left-handed rotation option in addition to their stable of righties.
Felix Doubront is by no means an ace, but given his relative youth at only 27, there is a solid chance he can at least find the form that allowed him to put up 3.7 fWAR and close to a league average ERA in the AL East over the 2012-13 seasons. The Milwaukee Brewers figure to have a solid starting rotation heading into 2015, however their biggest question is depth. It is almost guaranteed that the Brewers’ will need additional starters beyond their current rotation this season, and while both Taylor Jungmann and Michael Blazek look to have promise, having an experienced starter on the back burner would be a smart decision. For an organization with a reputation for helping pitchers get their careers back on track, a union with the left handed Doubront could make perfect sense. With Felix Doubront likely available to be brought in on a minor league deal, it would basically be a no-risk situation for the Milwaukee Brewers.