When you look at Rick VandenHurks totals for his career 150 major league innings nothing immediately off the page. But look a little deeper and we see a potential dark horse candidate for the back end of the Marlins rotation who could make a big impact. VandenHurk, who turns 25 on May 22nd, stands 6’5 and works with a low 90’s fastball that occasionally has some tail, a hard, mid 80’s 12 to 6 curve and a pretty good sinking changeup in the low 80’s. He does have the tendency to get the fastball up which leads to a lot of homers, but this could be the year he gets it all together assuming he can stay healthy.
Comparing VandenHurks last season with the previous 2 before it we see dramatic changes in important peripheral stats. Because he only pitched 4 games in 2008, I’ll add ’08 and ’07 together into 1 stat line.
’07/’08 95.2 ip 114 ha 74 er 58 bb 16 hr 102k 6.99 era
’09 58.2 ip 57 ha 28 er 21 bb 11hr 49k 4.30 era
The disparity in the box score numbers is really nothing to get excited about, but even some shallow peripheral numbers show big improvement. ’07/’08 saw a hit/9 of 10.77, which improved to 8.7 in ’09. Vandenhurks walks are also down, ’07/’08 with a rate of 5.5/9ip which improved to 3.2/9ip in ’09 all while keeping his great strikeout rate(9.6/9ip to 7.5/9ip). Bottom line is, VandenHurk is more ready now than ever to try to fill a meaningful role in the Marlin rotation. As of this writing the Marlins have VandenHurk pegged as 6th on the depth chart, but how much actual stock to put into that is anyones guess. Sean West and Chris Volstad are the 2 primary guys in front of VandenHurk for back end rotation spots. Both pitched well last year, but West has 1 season under his arm and Volstad has been bothered in the past by some nagging injuries. Though it wont necessarily take an injury to get Rick into the rotation. A great spring training will be hard to ignore.
In any event the Marlins rotation will be a fun one to watch come spring. With Andrew Miller also battling with VandenHurk, West and Volstad for the final 2 spots in the rotation after Johnson, Nolasco and Sanchez.