Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
Kyle McClellan is no longer a hometown favorite—he joined the Texas Rangers on a minor league contract.
Kyle McClellan won't be blocking anybody or overrated by anybody in particular now that he's a (minor league) member of the Texas Rangers. He won't have Tony La Russa's confidence, and he won't have that vague I'm-the-dependable-one reputation, around the team and the fanbase, that comes with having a low BAbip and not striking anybody out. He won't even be a Hometown Favorite. So: Who is he? What's left?
1. A really low BAbip. For his career, across 1612 plate appearances, Kyle McClellan's batting average against on balls in play is just .270. That will—has, in fact—paper over a lot of mistakes, although it's hard to come up with any reasons why it would be an organic part of his pitching.
2. A neat reverse split. I love these, probably more than I should. McClellan's performance against left-handers to date is almost entirely responsible for that low BAbip—they've hit just .211/.295/.341 against him, or .233 on balls in play. McClellan has two really effective off-speed pitches, a curveball and a changeup, and he doesn't throw a slider, so this is easy enough to rationalize.
And while I wouldn't try to make a right-hander with a good changeup an ersatz left-handed specialist, exactly, I would, if I were a bullpen-loving manager, try to make sure he faced slightly more than his share of lefties.
3. A swingman, which makes it harder to see just where he fits on any given team. As a reliever McClellan had flashes of above-averageness, and it seems like adding replacement-level-starter to his resume would improve it, but it's easier to see McClellan latching on in the back of the bullpen somewhere and riding a low BAbip into a set-up job than it is actually making 15 starts anywhere else.
4. A guy who looks competent. This is how he won a job in St. Louis in the first place; it's how he provided some really valuable relief innings; it's how he hung around past his expiration date. And it's probably how he'll slip back into the major leagues, if his shoulder is sound.
Kyle McClellan looks like a pitcher. He's got a bunch of pitches, his fastball is inconspicuous, and even when his command is not very good at all he appears to know where each individual pitch is going. A lot of it's an illusion; he's no more competent than the one-pitch reliever with the really high strikeout and walk rates, in terms of actual results. But it's his standout talent, and it's going to impress risk-averse managers until the day he retires.