Although he was not likely to win a rotation spot out of Spring Training, righty Dallas Beeler was a guy who figured to factor into the rotation plans at some point this season, as he did last year in a fill-in capacity. Still just 25, Beeler has clear big league upside, but his remaining minor league options would allow the Cubs to keep him at depth at AAA Iowa for now, so that was always the expectation this Spring.
But that didn’t explain why he hadn’t yet seen any action in a Spring Training game like the other nominal fifth starter competitors, and fringe bullpen candidates.
It turns out there is an explanation, and it’s not a great one: Beeler has been dealing with a shoulder issue (Tribune, Cubs.com). I know shoulders are extremely scary, but it’s a tightness/soreness situation, which is potentially good news, because if it were something structural, there’s a good chance everyone involved would know it by now. For his part, Beeler told the Tribune that his arm is “10 times better” than it was earlier in the Spring, and he’s currently building back up arm strength, taking things slow because it’s so early in the year.
Hopefully that’s an indication that all we’re looking at is unfortunate – but not worrisome – early-season shoulder malaise, and it will merely delay the start of Beeler’s year, rather than become any kind of long-term problem. As I said at the outset, given the normal attrition a big league rotation sees these days, a typical team will use upwards of nine or ten starters for at least one start in a season – presumably, Beeler is one of the guys who would pick up some of those starts, and could factor into the rotation down the road as well.
Beeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery out of college and missed much of the 2013 season with a torn tendon in his middle right finger, has been effective when healthy. Last year at AAA, he posted a 3.40 ERA and 4.07 FIP in 124.1 innings (20 starts). He subbed for two big league starts, getting great results with meh peripherals. Beeler is a command, groundball type, so he’s never going to have a flashy strikeout rate (just 16.6% at AAA last year). But he could be a guy who doesn’t walk anyone, keeps the ball in the ballpark, and posts a near-elite groundball rate. Those guys often carve out nice careers at the back of the rotation.
If they can stay healthy. Here’s hoping that’ll be the case for Beeler, and he’s starting comfortably at Iowa in April.