Luke Putkonen | Pitcher | #39
2014 salary: Pre-arbitration
2013 statistics: 3.03 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 29.2 IP, 4 HR, 9 BB, 28 K, 2.73 BB/9, 8.49 K/9
Projected role: Bullpen/Toledo
The Least Interesting Man in the Bullpen (or the Finnish Flamethrower) actually had a halfway decent time of it with Detroit in 2013, small sample size caveats applying and all. He was drafted as a starter but his big league future is likely in the bullpen, and his ratios weren’t that bad last year. The starter project was abandoned in 2012 and Putkonen posted a 1.91 ERA at Toledo and struck out a batter an inning. Upon promotion to Detroit he was able to maintain a fairly healthy K rate and kept the walks low enough that it wasn’t that big a deal. He was too susceptible to the home run ball, however, giving up four in just 30 innings, a rather unhealthy 1.21 per nine innings.
LuPu, as the kids call him, had a reverse platoon split going last year. Batting averages were similar on both sides, but lefties had an OPS twenty points lower against him than righties did. All four of his homers allowed were to righties as well. His success against left-hand batters can be chalked up to his two solid offspeed offerings; his fastball was rated as a negative pitch for him on Fangraphs, and despite it averaging a healthy 94 MPH on the gun, hitters had a lot of success against it. That said, Putkonen has the stuff to be a useful asset out of a bullpen. Location will be vital for him and will play a role in curbing that inflated home run total.
Putkonen is the likely frontrunner for the last spot in the Detroit bullpen and it’s probably his job to lose, given his ability to pitch multiple innings and his modest success in 2013; Evan Reed or Jose Ortega would likely have to outpitch him to make the club.