You know you’ve had a strange season when your most memorable incident was hurting your teammate…while playing catch on a travel day. Such was the year of Chad Sobotka. Chad was an out-of-nowhere bullpen stud in 2018, and made the club out of spring training with some relatively lofty expectations for 2019.
The first two appearances of the year were actually really encouraging, with 2 IP, 1 H, 2 K, and 0 BB. And then the wheels fell off the bus. Over his next ten innings, Chad gave up 13 runs (!) and was promptly IL’ed with an abdominal strain at the end of April. From that point onwards, it almost felt like Sobotka was an afterthought, both for the rest of the season and moving forward. The crazy part is, he actually wasn’t bad, and may have even been good.
Post-Injury: Minor Leagues
Once Chad got healthy, he was sent to Gwinnett on a minor league stint. He would stay there for basically all of June and August, with trips to Atlanta in July and September. His surface numbers for the Stripers were less than encouraging: 20.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 23 H, 11 R, 4 BB, 32 K. But a deeper dig shows that he was simultaneously unlucky and let down by his fielders behind him. Chad’s BABIP was an astronomical .408 and his xFIP was 2.63, which would have put him in the top 10 of all minor league players if he had enough innings to qualify.
Post-Injury: Major Leagues
There was less bad luck at the major league level, but still enough to heavily way his number down. Over the rest of the season in the majors, Chad was actually pretty good. Aside from a meltdown against the Nationals where he gave up 4 runs and got one out, his rest of season numbers were decent. 16.9 IP, 2.72 ERA, 15 H, 5 R, 10 BB, 21 K.
Next Season’s Outlook
I have Chad as a prime bounce back candidate for a solid 2020 season. He is probably not the closer of the future, but he absolutely could have a role in the back half of the bullpen. He needs to work on some things, but for a player with roughly only a year of MLB experience, there is still plenty of time for him to figure it out.