Checking in on Chris VolstadBy
Back in January, Miami quietly dealt 5th starter Chris Volstad to Chicago, and in return recieved the embattled Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs also picked up most of Zambrano’s $18 million dollar contract, giving Miami all the more reason to take a chance of Zambrano, and ship the perenially underwhelming Volstad off to Theo Epstein. While the trade has not worked out exactly as planned for the Marlins, who hoped to use him as they competed for a playoff spot, it has gone quite well compared to how it’s turned out on the Cubs side.
Drafted 16th overall in 2005, Volstad quickly rose through the Marlins farm system, and was even ranked the organization’s number one prospect by Baseball America in 2006. At the time the team promoted him to the MLB, he was expected by most to be a key part of the future in Florida, and considered one of the better young starters in the game–although things have turned out very differently since then.
This season has been especially rough for Volstad, who has posted an awful 5.99 ERA to go along with a 3-10 record. His Fielding Independent totals are slightly better with a 4.73 FIP and 4.62 xFIP, yet Volstad has underperformed his underlying metrics throughout his time in the Majors, so this development should not be surprising. He once again is allowing homeruns at an extreme pace–12.6 HR/FB%–but at this point, it is no longer reasonable to expect his HR/FR% to regress toward league average; rather, he is more likely to continue allowing homeruns at a rate closer to his career 12.4% HR/FB mark.
Volstad has been the target of some back luck this year, stranding only 60% of baserunners, but he’s also striking out fewer batters and walking more. His improved peripherals in 2011 were almost certainly one of the reasons the Cubs were willing to accuire him, hoping that the former top prospect could continue to build on his development from last season. Unfortunately, he’s taken a significant step back in that department this year. His K/9 is down from 6.34 to 5.11 and his BB/9 is 3.53 after a 2.66 mark in 2011.
So poorly has Volstad played, in fact, that he spent much of June and July in Triple-A, before being recalled to the Cubs once again. In all, Volstad has amassed just 0.5 fWAR over 91.2 innings, compared to Zambrano’s slightly better 0.9 fWAR season.
The outlook is bleak at best for the 26-year old Volstad, who is currently spending his fifth year in the big leagues without any sustained success. Any hope that this season he would finally make the jump to becoming at least a solid back end starter is now gone, and it is increasingly apparent this is the best Volstad is going to be. For the Marlins, it seems they bailed at just the right time (if not too late), managing to at least get something in return for the former first round draft pick.