Chris Volstad: The Big Subtraction
What do we know about Chris Volstad? Well, for starters, he’s really tall. At 6’8”, he’ll have at least three inches on anyone else on the Cubs roster (and a full foot on the miniature Tony Campana). However, before visions of a young Randy Johnson start dancing in your head, you should probably keep this in mind: after three seasons, his numbers seem to indicate that he’s potentially not all that good.
As most (all?) of you know, Volstad was the Miami Marlins’ contribution in the “Addition by
Subtraction” trade that sent perpetually distracting CarlosZambrano to South Beach. Getting rid of Big Z was the story of the trade, with Big V expected to be nothing more than a serviceable back of the rotation starter with a young arm, a smallish salary and enough potential to be an intriguing addition to a rebuilding team.
Quantitatively, what exactly does “not all that good” mean? How about a career ERA of 4.59 with a winning percentage to match at .451? Not good. How do fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings over his first three full seasons in the majors sound? Meh. Do you like a starting pitcher that has averaged nearly one and a half home runs per nine innings in two of three seasons? Me neither. Does a career WHIP of 1.4 get you excited? Of course not.
So, is there anything good to say about Volstad (other than that he’s really tall)? Absolutely…it’s not all doom and gloom. For a 25 year old, he has already racked up quite a bit of MLB experience and has proven to be able to stay healthy, logging at least 29 starts in each of his first three seasons. Durability was certainly not an attribute that was in surplus for the Cubs’ rotation last year. Additionally, while he doesn’t strike a lot of batters out, he also doesn’t award many freebies, walking 60 or few batters (right around 3 BB/9) during his first three full seasons.
At just 25 years old, Volstad still has time to realize the potential that made him a first round pick in the 2005 draft. I’m a big fan of looking at age similarity scores on Baseball-Reference.com and dreaming about what could be (much like purchasing a lottery ticket and envisioning what I’m going to do with all that cash), and the comps for Volstad show there is definitely some reason to believe that he could wind up being a great pick-up for the Cubs. The following are the ten players that ranked most similar to Volstad through age 24:
- Jeff Weaver (986)
- Ben Sheets (981)
- Scott Olsen (977)
- Melido Perez (974)
- Frank Viola (969)
- Johnny Cueto (968)
- Don Cardwell (966)
- Kyle Lohse (964)
- Tom Glavine (964)
- Ryan Dempster (961)
What to expect in 2012? Based on the way he’s pitched thus far in the spring, I expect Volstad will end up with one of the final spots in the rotation when the Cubs head north for the summer and will be an unspectacular but consistent presence at the back of the rotation every five days between April and September. My dream scenario? His age 25 season is a hybrid of Ben Sheets’ who jumped from 6.4 to 10 K/9 and Tom Glavine who improved from 10 wins to 20. A season like that and we might start calling it the “Volstad Trade” instead of the “Zambrano Trade”.