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Don’t forget about Nick Vincent

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The headline is as much a reminder to myself as anyone else.

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

One of the changes that MLB rolled out recently is the return of the 15-day injured list. This is to prevent teams from manipulating the injured list to effectively expand the size of their bullpens. It’s something that Farhan Zaidi and the Dodgers loved to do. One of the side effects is that there have been more relievers used than before. In 2018, there were 506 unique relievers to throw at least one inning. The previous high was 461 in 2016. That’s more than an entire 40-man roster’s worth of relievers getting a cup of coffee in the bigs.

Why do I bring this up? Well, this might explain why a pitcher like Nick Vincent could toil in obscurity. It’s hard to keep track of every reliever when there are 500 of them. Do you remember Jose Valdez throwing five innings for the Giants last year? What about Roberto Gomez? Or DJ Snelten?

Pitching for the Padres and the Mariners his whole career doesn’t help, but it’s so difficult to make a name for oneself as a reliever. Even FanGraphs forgot about Vincent, leaving him off the Giants depth chart. To gain notoriety as a reliever, one must do at least one of the following:

• Be the best at something

• Pitch in the playoffs

• Be a closer

• Hail from a country that doesn’t generally produce baseball players

• Have a memorable name

Nick Vincent checks none of those boxes. There’s no black ink on his Baseball-Reference page, he’s never made a playoff appearance, he’s generally been a 7th inning guy, he went to high school in California, and his name is Nick Vincent.

Still, he’s had a very good career. Just check out his career numbers.

Nick Vincent

Year IP ERA FIP ERA+ K-BB%
Year IP ERA FIP ERA+ K-BB%
2018 56 1/3 3.99 3.75 102 17.2
Career 332 3.17 3.09 121 18.5

Vincent doesn’t have the most exciting repertoire, at least not on the surface. He primarily throws a cutter that hovers around 87 MPH and a fastball that tops out at 90 MPH. When he’s feeling saucy, he’ll throw a sinker or a changeup. But as Bryan pointed out when the Giants signed him, his fastball and cutters both have above-average spin rates. Those pitches have been quite effective.

Vincent may be an unexciting middle reliver, but he’s been a solid pitcher throughout his major league career. An 18.5 percent strikeout minus walk rate, and a 3.09 career FIP are both very good!

Now, he’s not the only quality bullpen arm the Giants have added this offseason. He’s fighting for a spot with Travis Bergen, Trevor Gott, et al, so he may not be on the Opening Day roster. He may not even be on the roster by the end of the week either. As part of his minor-league contract, Vincent can opt out if he feels that his talents will be wasted in the minors or if he decides that he can’t stand Brandon Crawford’s music choices in the clubhouse.

Vincent isn’t necessarily a lock to opt-out if he doesn’t make the major league roster out of Spring Training. He might not feel confident about his chances on the open market. Teams weren’t exactly lining up at his door, and heck, Craig Kimbrel is still looking for a job. He could just be happy to have a job and the promise of a roster spot eventually.

Perhaps he’ll be patient and wait until he’s called up as soon as someone is hurt/ineffective/traded. I doubt the Giants will just let him leave unless they really haven’t liked what they’ve seen in Arizona. Even if that means optioning Andrew Suárez to Triple-A to make room for Vincent, they’ll do what they can to keep Vincent in the organization.

I expect we’ll see Vincent on the big-league roster at some point this season even if it’s not to start the season.

Projection

IP: 45

K: 42

BB: 12

HR: 5

ERA: 3.60

bWAR: 0.2

Whether or not he begins the season with the Giants, I imagine innings will be hard to come by. He’ll get enough playing time to show contenders what he can do.

Traded?

Yes. With as much bullpen depth as the Giants have, any reliever that’s only around for this year should be moved. I’m sure the Cubs will be desperate for bullpen help when they’re 10 games back of the Reds at the All-Star break. Vincent also seems like the kind of guy that would go to the A’s and have a sub-2.00 ERA.