Taken by the Braves out of nearby Mercer University in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, Cory Gearrin made his big-league debut in 2011 and has jumped back and forth between Gwinnett and Atlanta ever since, generally dominating the minors with mixed results in the majors.
Gearrin is a right-handed side-armer with a 57.1 ground-ball percentage in 38 1/3 major-league innings; he naturally draws comparisons to Peter Moylan, and the idea is that he will be a capable successor in that getting-important-outs-including-but-not-limited-to-double-plays-against-righties role.
He’s primarily a fastball-slider guy, mixing in the occasional changeup, and his fastball (a sinker, naturally) averages right around 90 mph. He strikes out a lot more hitters than you’d expect — 10.6 K/9 in the majors, 10.2 in the minors — but he also walks a lot more than you can really afford in such a specialized reliever, 4 per nine in the majors and throughout his minor-league career. His BABIP with the Braves (.337) is not low, but it’s lower than I expected, given those strikeout numbers and his career ERA, and given all the innings I think I remember in which every hitter he faced hit a double to the wall. His FIP (2.70) and xFIP (3.21) do not align with his ERA (4.70), but I guess this is the sort of thing you get from someone who’s been prone to some Really Bad Innings.
As you’d expect from this type of pitcher (although maybe not quite to this extreme), he’s been great against righties (.149/.245/.174 against) and awful against lefties (.368/.463/.614) — what you might not expect is that 40.6% of the batters he’s faced at the major-league level have been left-handed. (Uh, Fredi?) Some have speculated that he does much better after a day off than after a day of work. Two points: 1) Who doesn’t?, and 2) The stats I’ve looked at don’t really bear that out. He was sometimes dominant on the third day in a row; he sometimes got hit after a day or more off. If the contention were true and bound to last, it would be a real problem, because a guy you can only use against righties every other day is a guy who’s too limited to belong on a major-league roster . . . but I don’t think there’s much to worry about in that regard.
With the acquisition of Jordan Walden, it doesn’t look like Gearrin will have a roster spot (unless the Braves INCLUDE A RELIEVER IN A TRADE FOR JUSTIN UPTON) to open the season, but I’m sure he’ll get a fair amount of work with the big club as the year goes on, as other guys get injured or are ineffective or whatever. This is his last option year, so this will be the last chance for the Braves to jerk him around. When he’s used properly, there’s a lot to work with.
It remains an open question whether a bullpen can afford to have a right-handed specialist like this, but we’re in an era of increased bullpen numbers and specialization, and the Braves made the Moylan thing work for several years — my guess is that he shows enough to warrant a more-secure spot next year, if not by the end of this one.