by Matt Wilkes and Steve Mancuso

Reds sign RP Cam Bedrosian to minor league deal

The Reds signed right-handed reliever Cam Bedrosian to a minor league contract this afternoon. He’s not on the 40-man roster but has been invited to spring training in Goodyear. If that last name sounds familiar, it’s because Bedrosian is the son of Steve Bedrosian, who pitched in the majors from 1981-1995, winning the Cy Young award as the Phillies closer in 1987.

Background

Bedrosian (29) was selected by the LA Angels of Anaheim with their #1 pick (29th overall) in 2010. He had pitched for East Coweta High School, which is about 45 minutes southwest of Atlanta.

Cam Bedrosian started 21 games in lower-A ball but otherwise has been a reliever in the Angels system. He made his Big League debut and 16 other appearances in 2014 and split the 2015 season between AAA and the Angels. Bedrosian pitched for the Angels through the 2020 season.

At the conclusion of 2020, the Angels tried to send Bedrosian, who was out of options, back to AAA. He refused the assignment and became a free agent. He has 5+ years of service time and is eligible for a third year of arbitration. Bedrosian has earned $6.7 million from the Angels in his career, including $2.8 million in 2020.

Bedrosian did “start” seven games for the Angels in 2019, but it was in an opener role, usually for one inning. His highest pitch count in those starts was 22.

Injury History

Bedrosian has hit the injured list a few times in his career:

  • 2011 – Tommy John surgery (entire season)
  • 2016 – finger flexor tendinitis, upper arm blood clot (2 months)
  • 2017 – groin (2 months)
  • 2019 – right forearm (1 month)
  • 2020 – right adductor (1 month)

The last of those is worth elaboration. The adductor (groin) muscle group is in the inner leg and attach to the pelvis. As a right-handed pitcher, Bedrosian’s right adductor would play a crucial role in back leg drive and power striding off the rubber. More on this later.

Major League Career

Bedrosian became a full-time major leaguer with two months left in the 2015 season. Through the first four months of 2016, he appeared to be on track to become a dominant closer for the Angels. He struck out 51 and walked 14 in 40 innings in a set-up role (2.13 FIP, 2.96 xFIP, 2.77 SIERA). But then Bedrosian was sidelined with the finger tendinitis and was later diagnosed with a right forearm blood clot, forcing him to miss August and September.

Bedrosian’s groin injury hit in the first week of the 2017 season and when he returned to the Angels in mid-June, he was good (3.89 FIP, 4.10 xFIP, 3.75 SIERA) but not elite like he had been in 2016. That’s also how he pitched in 2018-2019 (3.98 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, 4.01 SIERA).

Bedrosian’s 2020 numbers come from a small sample (14.2 IP), so don’t read too much into them. He made four appearances the first week, used mainly when the Angels were behind. Then he missed the month of August with the adductor injury, returning on September 2. He pitched in seven games, always when the Angels were behind, usually by several runs.

Bedrosian’s 2020 numbers were bad (2.92 FIP, 5.81 xFIP, 5.08 SIERA). The gap between his FIP and xFIP is because Bedrosian managed to not give up a home run. If you neutralize his HR luck, you get the high xFIP. His strikeout rate (19.1%) was a career low and walk rate (10.3%) was his worst since 2015. Bedrosian’s ground-ball rate fell by 13.5 percentage points and fly-ball rate increased by 20.4 points.

Pitch Portfolio

Bedrosian throws a four-seam fastball about half the time and a slider the other half. He also has a splitter but barely uses it (~1% of the time). Early in his career, two-thirds of his pitches were fastballs, but he’s steadily increased his slider usage over the years. In 2019, he used his breaking ball a bit more than his heater.

The four-seamer possesses above-average spin (75th percentile) but its velocity has been declining for quite some time. It averaged 96.0 mph in 2016 and has dropped every year since, bottoming out at 92.2 mph last year. After returning from blood clot surgery in 2017, Bedrosian was still hitting about 95 mph. But then he hurt his groin early in 2017, and his velocity has never really returned.

The lack of velocity has contributed to a poor whiff rate (17.1% for his career), well below the league average (about 20%). However, its spin is encouraging. Not only does it get above-average raw spin rate, but Bedrosian greatly increased its spin efficiency between 2019 (79%) and 2020 (92%) by using a more overhand arm angle. As a result, his vertical movement (rise) rose from 1.8 to 3.1 inches above average, tied with Lucas Sims for the fifth-best mark in baseball. That’s something the Reds can work with, even with diminished velocity, by having Bedrosian throw up in the zone more.

Among the 324 pitchers who threw at least 100 four-seam fastballs in 2020, Bedrosian’s average fastball height ranked 148th — right about average. Getting it up in the zone could prove beneficial. The Reds are already huge advocates of this approach. Only the Brewers had a higher average fastball height in 2020.

Bedrosian’s slider also brings some intrigue. The pitch has typically sat around 83 mph. It dropped by 2 mph in 2020, which potentially contributed to a career-worst 26.1% whiff rate and 22.2% chase rate. It’s important to remember, of course, that this was a small sample size and he dealt with injury.

Despite the lack of whiffs, though, Bedrosian still held hitters to a .263 xwOBA with the slider in 2020, right in line with his career mark and the league average. Why? It, too, gets above average spin (around the 72nd percentile) and elite vertical movement. In 2020, only two pitchers who threw at least 50 sliders got more drop vs. average. Here’s what it looks like:

Conclusion

Cam Bedrosian was an above-average — but not great — reliever from 2017-2019, the bulk of his MLB career. The Reds are hoping he returns to that form. If Bedrosian’s slippage in 2020 is related to lingering groin issues, and he can avoid a relapse, there’s a shot for him to once again be the pitcher he was up to 2019. With his spin rates and pitch movement profiles, the Reds’ coaching staff may be able to help Bedrosian unlock more potential in spite of the velocity concerns. Unlike many veteran relievers that get picked up as free agents, Bedrosian is on the younger side (29) and will pitch at that age through the 2021 season. He also has far more major-league experience than many of the other bullpen candidates the Reds have acquired during the offseason. If he’s healthy, there’s a decent shot he makes the Opening Day roster.

Featured Image: Keith Allison

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

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pinson343
pinson343
11 days ago

Nice analysis, Steve, thanks. I appreciate how you and the other writers at RC+ take the effort for an in-depth analysis of an acquisition such as this one when most others have nothing but dismissive complaints.