RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: July 3, 1983
Signed: International Free Agent, 2001 (Rangers)
How Acquired: Free Agent
Country: Dominican Republic
Agent: Wasserman Media Group
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Volquez has had a long struggle as a pitcher with great stuff but poor command. As a top prospect with Texas, he threw a fastball in themid-90s, reaching 97, along with a plus change and solid curve. He eventually gave up somevelocity to try to improve his command and, in the majors, hisvelocity sat at 93-94 with unusual consistency, at least until 2013. He’s generally been a ground ball pitcher, with rates between 45 and 54%. His K rates have usually been good, but not great, but he’s had significant problems with walks. He’s literally had no platoon split, with a career difference of just one OPS point betweenleft- and right-handed batters. After struggling badly in his first couple major league opportunities with Texas,Volquez seemingly put it together with the Reds in 2008, albeit with a high walk rate. He had to have Tommy John surgery the next year, though, and never got back to his 2008 level. The Pirates signed him to a one-year, $5M contract as a free agent.
Volquez pitched reasonably well as a swing man in rookie ball, with a good K rate.
At age 20, Volquez pitched well in low A and then even better in the last third of the season in high A. The latter stint came in the high-offense California League.
Volquez split most of the season between high A and AA, and pitched better than his ERAs indicate. The Rangers called him up at the end of August and he made three starts and three relief appearances. He struggled throughout.
Volquez spent most of the season in AAA. Opponents batted only .203 against him there, but his control was poor. The Rangers called him up in early August and he struggled through eight starts. He walked more than he struck out and allowed better than a HR every five innings.
The Rangers sent Volquez down to high A to work on his command issues. He continued to walk hitters there, but after moving up to AA and then AAA, he dominated increasingly, cutting his walk rate and striking out well over a batter an inning. The Rangers called him up in September and he pitched better than before. After the season, the Rangers traded him to the Reds for Josh Hamilton.
Volquez had a big year in the Reds’ rotation, holding opponents to a .232 average and fanning over a batter an inning. He did, however, walk nearly a batter every other inning.
Volquez struggled more with his control through seven starts and went on the disabled list in May. He returned for one start at the beginning of June, then went back on the DL with elbow tendonitis. He ultimately had Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season.
Volquez was suspended for 50 games at the start of the season when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Once the suspension was over, he worked his way back from the elbow surgery, moving up to the majors in mid-July. He pitched decently with the Reds, but continued to walk a lot of batters. His velocity recovered fully.
Volquez opened the season with the Reds but continued to have trouble throwing strikes. He also had serious gopher ball problems, allowing 19. The Reds optioned him to AAA in late May and he bounced back between there and the majors for the rest of the year. After the season, the Reds included him in a big trade with the Padres for Mat Latos.
With the Padres, Volquez had a mediocre season. He had a huge split between the Padres’ pitcher-friendly home park and road games, with ERAs of 2.95 and 5.60, respectively, and a difference in opponents’ OPS of over 200 points. He continued to have a good K rate and very high walk rate.
Volquez struggled through a bad five months with the Padres before San Diego released him in late August. Oddly, he cut his walk rate, although it was still high, but he was hurt by a high batting average on balls in play of .337. His xFIP of 4.23 wasn’t nearly as bad as his ERA. The Dodgers signed Volquez three days after his release to help their injury-depleted rotation. He pitched much better in LA. Volquez’ average velocity, which was remarkably consistent throughout his career at roughly the mid-point between 93 and 94, dropped to 92.4. Some of this may have been due to him throwing fewer four-season fastballs and more sinkers, at least according to PitchFX.
Volquez was another in a series of experiments by the Pirates in pitcher-reclamation, following A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Mark Melancon. Like all of those three, he’s had xFIPs better than his ERAs in some years, especially in his miserable 2013 season. Naturally, the local media and many fans bemoaned the replacement of Burnett with Volquez, especially after Volquez struggled in the spring (for some reason, the lesson that spring stats mean nothing just never sinks in with a lot of fans and reporters), but it turned out to be a highly successful move. Volquez was the only pitcher to stay in the rotation all year and led the staff in wins and in innings (by 30), and was second in ERA among the starters to Vance Worley. (Burnett, meanwhile, went 8-18, 4.59 for the Phillies.) Volquez got better as the year went along; his monthly ERAs:
Volquez’ K rate wasn’t especially high, but his walk rate was easily a career low and he had an above-average groundball rate of 50.4%. He also had one of the lower HR rates of his career. Volquez was helped by a slightly low BABIP of .263. He had some trouble with left-handed batters, allowing them an OPS of .728 compared to .634 by right-handed batters. Volquez’ season raises interesting questions about advanced statistics, which weren’t impressed by him at all. His xFIP was 4.20, over a full run higher than his ERA and even higher than his xFIP in his miserable 2013 season. SIERA, which is possibly a better measure than xFIP, also gave him a 4.20, just slightly lower than his 2013 SIERA.
The Pirates no doubt will take Volquez’ 3.04 ERA over anything SIERA or xFIP has to say, but the latter metrics may play a role in their decision whether to try to retain him. He presents the same basic quandary as Liriano (with whom Volquez is friends and who urged Volquez to sign with the Pirates): both are pending free agents with erratic pasts who turned things around in a big way with the Pirates. Volquez won’t get as much money as Liriano and probably won’t be a candidate to get a qualifying offer, but he should at least get more than one year.
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2003
MLB Debut: 8/30/2005
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2014
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 8/30/05
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2006, 2007, 2011)
MLB Service Time: 6.059
|October 29, 2001: Signed as an international free agent with the Texas Rangers.
August 30, 2005: Contract purchased by the Texas Rangers.
December 21, 2007: Traded by the Texas Rangers with Danny Ray Herrera to the Cincinnati Reds for Josh Hamilton.
December 17, 2011: Traded by the Cincinnati Reds with Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger to the San Diego Padres for Mat Latos.
October 31, 2013: Became a free agent.
December 11, 2013: Signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates.