While we all await the Colorado Rockies' (possible) moves at the upcoming Winter Meetings, the club was busy tinkering with bullpen depth last week when they signed relief pitcher Brian Schlitter, a cast-off from the Chicago Cubs who gets ground balls and has shown a plus-plus hair/beard combination.
Based on the resounding results of the poll in this Rock Pile, you all wanted to learn more about Mr. Schlitter, so here you go! Also, one quick note as we start this series: the Rockies have also re-signed Gonzalez Germen, Simon Castro, and Nelson Gonzalez this winter; for the purposes of this series of player profiles, we will be ignoring returning players and only focusing on new acquisitions.
Scouting Brian Schlitter
A relief pitcher since the day he was drafted — Schlitter has never started a game in his professional career — indulge in the righty's big league stats split over three seasons, all with the Chicago Cubs:
Here are a few good videos of Schlitter's mechanics from the last several seasons; the big righty has a cross-body motion and hard glove-side follow through similar to (but perhaps not quite as extreme as) that of Rockies' closer Adam Ottavino:
At 6'5", 235 lbs., Schlitter uses his size and frame to get a downward plane to his stuff (career 56.5% ground ball rate), and his fastball (career average velocity 93.1 mph) is solid, though probably not a true power offering.
Schlitter acquitted himself fairly well in his lone long-term season in the big leagues (2014), and he has a very strong track record in the minor leagues, where he's also seen a significantly higher strikeout rate. Now, it's time for the reliever — who has 104 career minor league saves — to transition to a big league job in this opportunity with a new club after eight years in the Cubs' organization.
Miscellaneous notes on Schlitter
- Schlitter, an Illinois native, was drafted twice. First, in the 35th round in 2005 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, though he didn't sign. Then, in 2007, he was selected in the 16th round by the Philadelphia Phillies out of the College of Charleston.
- The Phillies traded Schlitter to the Chicago Cubs for Scott Eyre in August, 2008.
- Before 2011, Schlitter bounced between the Cubs, Yankees, and Phillies on waiver claims, though he never played in the big leagues that season and was eventually returned to Chicago.
- Later in 2011, he had elbow reconstruction surgery and missed a calendar year.
- Schlitter told MLB.com the surgery never fazed him: "Once I had surgery, I knew I had to go through the rebuilding process, kind of like what we're doing here as a whole [with the Cubs]. It just takes time. I just had to prove I was healthy and there were no problems and no doubt in their mind that I could perform at 100 percent."
- According to the Chicago Tribune, Schlitter added a cutter/slider to his repertoire ahead of the 2015 season in a bid to make the Cubs' bullpen under new manager Joe Maddon.
- Schlitter doesn't appear to have a readily available Twitter account, but the site wasn't kind to him on June 14 (he got two outs with no damage that day! He even picked up the win!):
Sounds like he's going to fit right in with the Rockies! (**rim shot**)
Schlitter's best comp on the Rockies
The first guy I thought of was Justin Miller — a big, right-handed relief cast-off from another organization who might get a long shot in Denver in part because of the Rockies' bullpen issues. And while that may generally be true in an esoteric sense, Schlitter (career 5.3 K/9) doesn't miss bats like Miller (10.3 K/9 in 2015), and isn't the same fireman with late-inning potential.
Instead, Schlitter may more closely compare to Simon Castro; in small samples, both Schlitter (career 56.5%) and Castro (50.0% in 2015) have teased good ground ball rates that likely attracted the Rockies, though neither one has significant strikeout numbers like Miller or other more obvious candidates for late-inning relief work.
What to expect in 2016
Whether he's more Castro or more Miller — or something else entirely — Schlitter is probably on the outside looking in for a big league relief job come Spring Training. With the Rockies' general and consistent lack of bullpen depth vis-a-vis hot garbage, though, there's no doubt if he's healthy and around to start the season in April (most likely beginning at Triple-A Albuquerque, I'd imagine), Schlitter will eventually get his chances at Coors Field.
With a high ground ball rate and low strikeout numbers, Schlitter doesn't miss enough bats to earn himself any significant late inning work in the big leagues, but if he can get ground balls in 2016 at the rates he has shown in previous seasons, he becomes an attractive buy-low candidate for 6th- and 7th-inning gigs next summer.
Now, one question remains: what the hell are we going to nickname this guy? Please, by all means, share all your ideas in the comments. Schlitter's (not) full!