Time for a guy who could be a factor for the Braves this season, but not in his current role: Erik Cordier. The 25 (26 this month) year-old Cordier was acquired from the Braves way back in March of 2007 from the Royals in exchange for Tony Pena Jr, then a shortstop. He missed all of the 2007 following Tommy John surgery, and only threw 45 innings in 2008 for the GCL and Rome. In those 45 innings, Cordier struck out 36 and walked 22.
In his first full season following the surgery, 2009, Cordier played the whole year at Myrtle Beach. The control problems that present themselves following Tommy John were still quite prevalent, as Cordier walked 74 (while only striking out 88) in 121 innings. He also allowed 13 homers, which is a little high. In 2010, Cordier was at Mississippi, and he improved a little bit, throwing 143 2/3 innings. There were positive signs from that year, as his strikeout rate increased to 7.33 from 6.55, and his walk rate fell to 4.76 from 5.50, but that mark is still way too high. On a good note, he only allowed three homers on the season, curbing his issue from 2009.
2011 was Cordier's first year at Gwinnett, and it didn't go too well at all. For the season, which includes one start at Mississippi, Cordier only threw 91 innings over 20 starts, walking 51 and striking out 65 with ten homers. His walk rate split the last two years at 5.04, his strikeout rate was the worst it's been in his career at 6.42, and the ten homers he allowed resulted in a step back in homer rate, to 0.99 per nine innings. Cordier had two appearances in the AFL this spring, throwing 2 2/3 innings, walking three, and striking out two.
At this point in time, I'm wondering if it's time to try Cordier out of the bullpen. He's only made five relief appearances (excluding the AFL) over his career, and his stuff may actually profile a bit better there. I mean, look at what happened with Jonny Venters: he turned from a non-prospect as a starter to a dominant late-game reliever. With the extreme logjam of young starting pitching at the upper levels of the Braves system, I don't see how Cordier could possibly crack the top five of Gwinnett's rotation. However, he could crack the top seven of the bullpen, which could give his career new life. If he wants to stay in the organization, that might be the best role for him.
One final note for the road. In 2009, Jonny Venters' final year as a starter, he threw 156 2/3 innings for Mississippi and Gwinnett with a 4.42 walk rate and a 5.63 strikeout rate. In 2010 and 2011, he has thrown 171 innings of relief for the Braves in Atlanta, with a 9.95 strikeout rate and a 4.32 walk rate while allowing just three homers. The conversion worked well for him, so why couldn't Cordier follow in the same path?
Check out THT's player projection for Cordier here
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com