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2019 VEB Community Projections: Luke Gregerson

The righty has been historically good, but may not be healthy.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll be honest. When I saw that I was set to write the community projection post for Luke Gregerson, I thought there was a chance he would not be on the team or he would have already re-injured himself. Well, unfortunately he’s in a bit of a limbo situation at the moment, having not pitched at all in Spring Training, but still in that dreaded theoretical spot where he could maybe, possibly contribute and be good.

Gregerson is a perfect case study on how relievers make no sense. Khalil Greene’s stock had gone down considerably by the time the Padres were interested in trading him, so much so that they traded him for a 25-year-old relief only prospect who hadn’t pitched beyond AA. And then... the Padres easily won the trade.

Gregerson skipped AAA entirely and had a 2 WAR season in his first year with the Padres, and was arguably even better in his second year, but HR/FB% went from 4.8% to 11.6% so it is not reflected in his WAR despite more innings, more groundballs, and significantly less walks. He followed up his sophomore campaign with four straight seasons with a below 3.00 ERA and threw at least 66 innings in three of them. He was helped by playing in Petco Park and then later Oakland’s pitcher’s park.

He signed with the Astros and put together two straight 1.2 fWAR seasons with them, before succumbing the home run ball in 2017. He threw 61 innings, struck out 26.6%, walked 7.6% and had a 3.45 xFIP. But 23.6% of the flyballs he allowed went for homers and so he had a 1.92 HR/9 and 4.57 ERA with a similar FIP. The Cardinals signed him, expecting the 23.6% HR/FB to be a mirage, because well, he had a whole career of allowing flyballs to be homers at a 10% clip.

And then the man who had thrown at least 55 innings in every season of his career and who had thrown at least 60 innings in all but two got injured and couldn’t pitch more than 12.1 IP. He also had a 25 HR/FB% in his limited sample, so pretty much went exactly the opposite of how the Cardinals expected it to go. But you can see from his first eight seasons why the Cardinals signed him. It was a fairly reasonable deal that hasn’t gone as planned. Will his 2019 make up for it? You decide.