Way back in my very first article on these pages, I put forth the the notion that Vance Worley would be the number five starter in the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation. I predicted that his low walk rate would give him the edge over Jeff Locke. Now, two and a half months later, we find ourselves right in the middle of spring training, and as Opening Day looms, we should ask: Has Clint Hurdle gotten any closer to deciding between Locke and Worley?
Certainly, after Worley’s excellent showing against the Orioles yesterday, it is a great time to ask the question. Before I give you my take, here’s a few from our readers, taken after The Vanimal’s outing yesterday:
So are we ready to call it? Let’s look at their spring numbers:
Say it with me: it’s only spring training, and it’s still early. However, in roughly the same amount of work, Worley has shown to me to have a bit more upside as he has the capability, in theory at least, to strikeout more hitters than Locke. Looking at 2014, Worley had a 6.4-to-1.8 SO/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) to BB/9 (walks per nine innings) ratio while Locke came in at a 6.1-to-2.7 ratio. However, neither has such great swing-and-miss stuff to push them out in front of the other.
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The Pirates are at an odd place right now with these two arms. Not only do they have to consider past and current performance, but the team must also decide what roles Vance Worley and Jeff Locke play in the club’s future. Both are out of minor-league options and both are theoretically under team control until 2019. With Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, and Jameson Taillon waiting in the wings, it’s hard to see either hurler with the club much longer, but who might get an edge based on how they might help the team in the next few years? For me that may just be Locke, who gets some extra juice being a left-hander who has consistently improved his control year-over-year and has shown considerable flashes. If he factors into the club’s future, even in the short-term, should they risk dampening his development by asking him to switch roles to a long-relief/garbage-time/spot starter piece in the bullpen?
In the end, I still believe that The Vanimal gets the spot. Locke deserves a ton of credit for working on the control issues from his disastrous second half in 2013, but Worley seems to be a tick more dependable. Locke gets his chance to match Worley this upcoming Tuesday, March 17 2015.
It will take a great outing from Locke to get a foothold in this competition. If he turns in even an average start, Vance will have taken the last spot in the rotation for his own.
Quite the journey for The Vanimal.
Respect the specs.