Left-handed specialist Andrew Chafin is a lock to make the Diamondbacks roster when their season opens March 29th. With a spring glut of right-handed relievers, Arizona may feature Chafin as their lone lefty in the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks are relying on a capable crew of right-handed relievers to shoulder most of the bullpen burden this season. But their embarrassment of righty riches might have some southpaws feeling left out. For one left-handed reliever, though, it’s not so wrong to not be right.
Andrew Chafin is maybe the only lefty safely assumed to be pitching out of the D-backs bullpen on Opening Day. Right-handed pitchers being in abundance this spring, Chafin could start the season as Arizona’s sole southpaw riding the bullpen cart. If he’s not too weird-ed out by it, that is.
Drafted 34th overall in 2011, Chafin was first called up briefly in 2014 as a starting pitcher. He made only three starts that year, going 0-1 with 10 strikeouts in 14 innings.
In 2015 Chafin successfully transitioned from starting pitcher to reliever. That year while still technically a rookie he put up maybe his best numbers so far posting a 2.76 ERA 1.15 WHIP and 5-1 record in 75 innings. Since then the big lefty from Ohio has pitched exclusively in relief.
Particularly for the past two seasons Andrew Chafin has been steadily carving out a niche career as Arizona’s left-handed specialist. Against lefty hitters in 2017 he tossed 23 strikeouts with a 1.19 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in under 23 innings pitched.
Chafin’s value comes from the fact that he is a situational pitcher used against same-handed hitters when needed. Left-handers have only managed to eke out a measly .201 batting average against him in his career.
The rest of the D-backs bullpen however is apparently being filled out by the most qualified candidates regardless of which side they throw from. Case in point: the only left-handed relievers on Arizona’s 40-man roster other than Chafin are T.J. McFarland and recently optioned Jared Miller.
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While Miller looks like a future relief stud, he has no major league experience. With the ability to stash him as insurance in the minors, there’s no rush for the Diamondbacks to bring Miller up at the moment.
McFarland is under contract for $850,000 in 2018 and cannot be optioned to the minors. Arizona could try to trade the veteran lefty but, with a lifetime 4.49 ERA 1.54 WHIP and .298 BAA, they might just be forced to designate McFarland for assignment at some point before the season starts.
By proving his worth as a left-handed specialist over the last four years, Andrew Chafin has secured a role in the Diamondbacks bullpen. However, Arizona’s RHP depth combined with their lack of quality lefty relievers under contract means that Chafin might be one lonely loogy.
Versatility is the name of the game for the D-backs this year. It’s not so much about throwing from the left or from the right. It’s all about the reliever’s ability to pitch multiple innings or to come in the game in varied situations. As such, Chafin’s case is the exception and not the rule.
The Diamondbacks seem content with their existing relievers without placing too high of a value on handedness. Besides, when something is this right, it can’t be wrong.
Andrew Chafin is holding down his usual role as lefty specialist in Arizona’s bullpen. There’s not a specific need for the Diamondbacks to carry another LHP. They can get quality production from their relievers regardless of which arm they throw with. As a result, when the season starts, left-handed pitcher Andrew Chafin could be the Arizona bullpen’s lone lefty.