Chase De Jong
Chase De Jong started the 2019 season in a Minnesota Twins uniform and ended it with the Sugar Land Skeeters. That’s quite a year for a right-hander with a four-pitch mix who posted an ERA in the mid-threes in his four MLB starts a season prior. There are plenty of causes for the type of drop-off De Jong has experienced, but to simplify the issues, Chase struggled throwing strikes and when he threw strikes, they got hit. Hard. This is the same issue that the Long Beach native ran into in 2017 before he leveled things out in 2018.
Historically, De Jong struggles when his pitch mix isn’t up to par with his competition. This is what De Jong ran into at the MLB level, causing him to try working the edges of the zone and lose his aggressiveness. If Chase is able to establish himself in his second ALPB stint, he could be a strong top-end of the rotation piece for the Skeeters in 2020.
Michael Nix returns for a seventh season with the Sugar Land Skeeters. The season is Nix’s 10th in the Atlantic League, but his first since 2017. Nix is approaching his age-37 season and, battling the aging-curve the past two seasons with the CPBL’s Lamigo Monkeys, improved his K/9 from 6.4 to 7.2. Ya know, in 2017, Nix pitched for the CPBL’s Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions. I swear, the far-east is the wild west of baseball.
Where were we? Oh, projections. Projecting a good season on the mound for an age-37 season always feels risky. However, it’s hard to bet against Michael Nix. In 2017, a 34-year-old Nix posted a career-best ALPB WHIP (1.003) and he hit a career-high in innings (177) last season with the Monkeys. Low-end projections are aware of Nix’s precarious dance with time and even his average projections remain somewhat skeptical, but it would not be surprising to see another ERA in the mid-3.00s from this familiar face (and arm) in Sugar Land.
Worth noting, Nix will also serve as pitching coach for the first time in his career.
2011 MLB first-rounder, Henry Owens, has been acquired by Sugar Land via trade with the American Association’s Kansas City T-Bones. The 6’6″ left-hander projects to post an ERA in the low-to-mid-4.00s. However, Owens might need to work with new pitching coach Michael Nix to cut last year’s 7.3 K/9 in half if he wants to be a reliable arm on the Sugar Land staff.
Another former Red Sox pitcher has joined the Skeeters for 2020. Kyle Martin joins the Skeeters after two seasons with the NPB’s Saitama Seibu Lions. Martin’s 2018 was impressive after leaving the Red Sox organization for Japan. However, last year, Martin’s peripherals were not as good as his 3.47 ERA suggests. Like Henry Owens, Kyle will need to limit his walks, which rose to 6.0 BB/9 last season. On a positive, Martin’s home run rate dropped to 0.6 HR/9 and he has flirted with 10.0 K/9 throughout his career.
Two Martins make it all alright. Or at least make it a bullpen. Josh Martin joins Kyle Martin in the Sugar Land pitching staff after making 25 appearances with the club in 2019. Josh, who has plenty of bat-missing potential, was a valuable contributor on the mound for the Skeeters and projects to be used frequently in the 7th and 8th innings.
Outfielder C.J. McElroy showed up to Sugar Land for 17 games last season and RAKED. When his run was over, McElroy was on a 6 WAR pace, slashing .365/.406/.444. Last season’s small sample-size with the Skeeters and inconsistency in the minors makes projecting McElroy difficult at this time, but check back during preseason for a detailed projection.