Caleb Ferguson was one of the bright spots in the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2018 and is looking to repeat his production and hopefully build on it in 2019.
Boasting a fantastic 3.17 DRA and 29.2 K%, Ferguson proved himself.
Well-respected prospect evaluator, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, had some interesting points to make regarding Ferguson’s current state and his future as a major leaguer.
Stuff from Keith Law and Kiley McDaniel this week pic.twitter.com/Y1vuPeR8cj
— Future Dodgers (@FutureDodgers) January 31, 2019
In this thread from Future Dodgers are some quotes about other young Dodger pieces, but the question referring directly to Ferguson is the bottom right question.
What are your thoughts on Caleb Ferguson? He’s not on the BIG BOARD. Is he a 45 guy with a chance of being a back end starter or do you see a higher/lower ceiling there?
McDaniel notes that Ferguson’s ceiling as a 45 Future Value (FV) prospect may be realized as a setup man, which is interesting considering Ferguson’s background. Ferguson came up to the big leagues as a starter, what he was throughout the duration of his minor league career. However, Ferguson proved to be a viable bullpen piece at the major league level after a slew of awful spot starts. Dave Roberts trusted Ferguson in high-leverage situations at the end of the season, allowing him to set up closer Kenley Jansen on numerous occasions.
Caleb Ferguson in 2019
As we head into the 2019 campaign, it appears Ferguson will be worked out as a reliever which is probably the right move for him and his future. His stuff played up in a bullpen role because he truly lacks a reliable third pitch and saw a sizable velocity spike.
Ferguson utilized a fastball that he threw around 72% of the time and a curve that he threw for 25% of his offerings. A similar pitch breakdown is most likely to be expected in 2019, should Ferguson make the club out of Spring Training.
Something that is fantastic to see out of a young 22-year-old arm like Ferguson is his near elite spin rate marks. Ferguson ranked in the 92nd percentile with his fastball and in the 64th percentile with his curve according to Baseball Savant. The fastball is his pitch and it ranked 17th in all of Major League Baseball with 2824 RPM. The only Dodger to rank higher was Rich Hill
Although the organization still views him as a starter, the amount of depth the Dodgers possess in their starting pitching corps pushes the odds of Ferguson ever being a starter for LA to very slim.
In the minors, Ferg typically sat in the 91-93 mph range but in the Dodgers’ bullpen, he sat closer to 93-95 mph and hit as high as 97 on the radar gun. Overall, his fastball velocity increased as the season progressed. In June, his average velocity was 93.5 mph compared to a 95.5 mph average in September.
Each of these true pluses in Ferguson’s peripherals leads me to believe that Ferg will play an enormous role for the Dodgers in 2019. The Steamer projection system has him in for a 3.53 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 2019 but I fully expect him to outperform both of those numbers.
His numbers against right-handed bats were quite intriguing considering he is a lefty. Although his ERA is a bit inflated against RHH (3.99), Ferguson managed a 12.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 against them, both elite numbers. He was just as good against lefties with a 2.75 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. The idea that Ferg can pitch effectively to both righties and lefties make him a potentially invaluable asset.
Something else that is important to note is just how inflated Ferguson’s final numbers were. A 7.59 ERA across 10 2/3 innings as a starter are to blame. Ferguson posted a stellar 2.35 ERA out of the bullpen across 38 1/3 frames, which is more of an accurate representation of where Ferguson is at.
C-Ferg is just 22 years of age and already has elite marks under his belt at the major league level.
Let’s hope we see more of the same from Ferguson in 2019 because the bullpen needs consistency. It is truly not of the question that Ferguson could post a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP this season. It is also not out of the realm of possibility that he locks down the 8th inning job as his own.
We shall see what becomes of Ferguson not just in 2019, but beyond. The future is bright with #64.
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