5. Kevin Correia, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2010 ERA: 5.40. Last season, Correia focused more on throwing a cutter, which showed promise but was inconsistent. Although he might rely on it a little too much, I think we can expect some improvement in the pitch in its second year of use, especially because he can still throw that true slider (which is a quality pitch) when he needs to. I think he's going to do a better job this year of staying off the barrel of the bat against lefties and has a chance to improve his numbers even moving out of Petco. His homers-per-fly ball rate was just under 15 percent, which as I've already mentioned is a very high number. It's unlikely to be as high again. Correia posted the best ground ball rate of his career in 2010 and his best strikeout rate as a starter, which are two more promising signs.
One other thing that at least bears mentioning here: Kevin's brother, Trevor Brent Correia, died in a tragic hiking accident last May, and you have to think that might have affected him in some capacity. When the tragedy happened, the pitcher was clicking along with a 3.97 ERA; after it, he posted a 5.84 ERA.
1. Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh, 2010 ERA: 7.57. Chuckle all you want -- especially you Pirates and Braves fans -- but I'm not ready to write Morton off. Nothing went right for Morton last year, in either performance or luck, but don't cast him away just yet. First, for a little background, check out this complimentary blog about him that I wrote early last season.
Now let's fast-forward to the present. Let's just say I'm looking forward to checking out Morton when I trek from Arizona to Florida a week from now, because spring training reports about him have been very positive thus far. In fact, earlier this week, I discussed him with another scout who has seen him as much as I have in the past, and he offered a glowing report.
New Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has gotten Morton back to using his two-seam fastball, a pitch he had abandoned in recent years. It appears to have quickly become a go-to pitch he can rely on when he really needs to throw a quality offering for a strike, something that he has been missing as a major leaguer. Also, the scout I talked to noted that "his delivery is as smooth as I've ever seen it and his [arm] slot looks a little lower. He's working 91-94 mph but still getting that sink and dumping that fastball down in the zone. I think if he's that smooth with his delivery, he has a chance to command the ball now. I didn't trust his command before because he couldn't repeat his delivery."
It's quite possible that Morton will tease us yet again, but he's a four-pitch guy with a chance to have three (especially his curveball) that are plus if he can command the ball consistently and pitch with confidence. It's early, but I'll take a chance on his raw stuff one more time, given the positives I'm hearing and the apparently substantive changes in his repertoire. Don't dismiss him because of last year's implosion; there's upside here, if he wins a rotation spot