In our 3-part series of which pitchers are candidates for the 5th spot in the rotation but probably won’t end up as the 5th starter, Justin Grimm is up next. Grimm, who will be in his age-25 season in 2013, will most likely begin the season at AAA Round Rock, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a strong look in Spring Training to see if he can manage the 5th and final spot of the Rangers’ rotation.
After being drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 amateur draft, Justin Grimm has spent the majority of the last two seasons pitching at every level of the Rangers Minor League system. In 2011 between Low-A Hickory and High-A Myrtle Beach, he compiled a cumulative record of 7-3, spinning 140.2 IP while striking out 127. His ERA was 3.39. The following year (which was actually last season), he pitched at three different levels: Frisco (AA), Round Rock (AAA) and with the Rangers. He threw a combined 134.2 innings in the Minors, compiling a 2.84 ERA, while striking out 103.
In his limited action in the Major Leagues, he pitched 14.0 innings (5 games, 2 starts) and his ERA was an even 9.00 — worth 0.3 fWAR. Jesus, this is getting as repetitive and boring as the book of Genesis.
If you’re not familiar with Wins Above Replacement, then no, you can’t divide 14 into a full season of innings — say 200 — and say “So that’s what his WAR would be!” It doesn’t work that way. If that was the case, he’d be a 4.5 fWAR pitcher, meaning we would not question the merits of his starting rotation resume. He would already be there.
Based on the objective data, Justin Grimm is along the lines of your typically average strikeout pitcher (230 K’s in ~275.0 Minor League innings) with above average command (just 78 walks in his MiLB career). At the same time, based on runs allowed, at this point he’s nothing more than a basic #4 starter — nothing special, probably replacement-level, but someone who will provide innings. (If nothing else.)
The fact is, we just don’t have enough information regarding Grimm to have a solid foundation to project his Major League output. Unlike Robbie Ross and Martin Perez, whom we saw pitch on several occasions last year, Justin Grimm is imprisoned by the infinitely small sample of 14.0 innings under his big league belt. We’re reduced to the idea that he’s nothing but a basic right-handed pitcher, if for nothing else that he has yet to prove himself in one direction or the other.
With that said, assuming Robbie Ross begins 2013 in the bullpen, Justin Grimm will either be the #1 spot-starting option (if Martin Perez is the #5 starter to open the year), or the #2 alternative if Texas’s #5 starter is yet to arrive with the club. (In that case, Perez would likely get the first crack at the rotation, and Grimm would be #2.)
Like Robbie Ross, neither Baseball Reference nor FanGraphs has a projection for Grimm in 2013. Dan Symborski, who annually produces his ZIPS projections, has Grimm totaling -0.1 WAR in 2013, but that’s an incredibly loose system, as he has Grimm pitching 126.0 innings. I can only imagine the conclusion his computer-based system came to was based upon Grimm’s previous Minor League seasons. Can’t read a whole lot into that.
If you’re asking me, which I don’t know why you would, I’ll expect no more than three Major League starts from Justin Grimm in 2013, which will either be due to (a) injury or (b) to give one of the regular starters a break. Even at a replacement level, there is a ton of utility in having depth in the pitching department. Guys go down injured all the time, and we have no reason to expect Texas to be the exception to the rule in 2013. However, if and when his name does get summoned, don’t expect Justin Verlander on the hill. Odds are just as likely he gets traded to another organization in 2013 as he sees daylight with the Rangers.