By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Vance Worley, Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies
2011 season: 25 G, 131.2 IP, 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 119 K, 46 BB
During his minor league career, Worley put up decent stats but was largely overshadowed by prospects with flashier stuff. In the Majors last year, that might have happened again. Though he put up strong numbers, Worley was an afterthought in a rotation that included Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. He might not have the ceiling of any of those players, but he certainly has the potential to hang around the big leagues for a while.
Worley lacks a true out pitch and thus doesn’t overwhelm hitters, but he nonetheless is able to keep them off-balance. The depth of his repertoire is what helps to compensate – he throws a four-seamer, two-seamer, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup, all with decent command. With that arsenal and some deception in his delivery, Worley got a fair share of strikeouts last year without issuing too many walks, leading to his stellar ERA. It also helped that despite the hitter-friendly nature of Citizens Bank Park, he was able to keep the ball in the field of play, as he surrendered just 10 homers on the season.
With that said, Worley should be expected to regress somewhat this year. Pitchers who have a deceptive delivery usually have a harder time once the league has seen them, as batters learn their motions and pick up their timing. That started to begin a bit in the second half, when he put together a 3.48 ERA compared to his 2.20 mark in the first. And considering that he’s not much of a ground-ball pitcher, Worley’s home run rate is likely to rise. He posted a 2.34 ERA in Philadelphia last year – a mark better than Halladay’s or Oswalt’s – and that is almost certain to increase this season.
Still, Worley can be a solid big league contributor. It would be easy to compare him J.A. Happ, another recent Phillies pitcher who surprised before coming back down to Earth, but Worley isn’t in the same boat. His strikeout rate was significantly higher last year than Happ’s ever was, and his walk rate was a tick lower as well. Overall, Worley is a good bet to perform like a No. 4 starter this year – the 24-year- old righty won’t be in the race for the Cy Young, but he can eat innings with an ERA that is at or better than the league average. There’s value in that, especially for a team like Philadelphia, which already has a top-heavy rotation. Worley might remain in the shadows of the Big Three, but if he can continue his success, it’s doubtful that either he or the Phillies will mind.
Next up on March 19: Washington Nationals