We've been running through the 2014 season for each member of the Indians and key prospects from their farm system. (You can find every entry in the series here.) Now we've reached a countdown of the top ten players on the team, as voted by the Let's Go Tribe staff.
#10: Scott Atchison
- Position: Right-handed pitcher
- Age: 38
- Acquired: Signed as a free agent on January 6, 2014
- Contract status: $900,000 in 2015, under team control through 2016
Scott Atchison pitched for Terry Francona in Boston for a couple years, and the two got along very well. Francona was happy to have Atchison in camp this spring, and while many fans viewed Atchison as something of a longshot to make the roster, given his age and mediocre 2013, he made the roster and fairly quickly earned himself a position of importance within it.
The former 49th round draft pick began the season with five scoreless appearances, totaling 6.1 innings, in which he allowed only one total base runner. By May he'd gone from cleanup duty to often pitching the 7th or 8th inning of a tight game, and he was sporting an ERA around 1.50. His only real rough patch of the season came at the very end of May and early June, but it was short lived and not all that rough (5 earned runs allowed during the span of a week), and from that point on he was steady.
Atchison became a well-liked figure on the team; his younger teammates felt comfortable teasing him on Twitter (which they wouldn't have done for a guy they didn't like). In August the Indians decided to bet Atchison can sustain his success, signing him to an extension that will pay him a career high $900,000 in 2015, with a team option for $1 million in 2016. Maybe this makes him the new Jason Giambi, with the key difference of seeming a lot more likely to help the team with his on-field play.
Atchison appeared in 70 games for the Indians, and in 79% he didn't give up any earned runs, and only 4 times all season did he allow more than one earned run. He didn't strike many guys out (his 6.13 K/9 ranked 73rd among the 80s relievers with 60+ innings), but he also didn't walk many, or allow many home runs. Notably, Atchison's velocity was the best of his career, with his fastball averaging 92.1 MPH, and his slider (the pitch he threw most frequently) at 87.5 MPH.
2014 grade: B (and he gets an A for exceeding expectations)
Can Atchison turn in another fine season at an even older age? In the last 25 years only ten relievers have had back-to-back seasons with 50+ innings and an ERA+ of at least 125 (Athcison was at 135 this season) at the age of 38 or older. I expect we'll see a few more bad outings next year, but I think Atchison can continue to be a worthwhile contributor. Either way, we'll always have this year.