The Oakland Athletics acquired Jesse Hahn from the Padres in the deal that sent All-Star catcher Derek Norris to a re-tooled San Diego squad. Many are already penciling Hahn into the A’s rotation behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir, seeing the Norris trade as another stroke of Billy Beane‘s genius. We have yet to see him throw a pitch for the green and gold, so now would be a good time to get to know the guy that could be the team’s third starter come opening day, Jesse Hahn.
Hahn was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft. He was traded by Tampa to the Padres in late January of 2014, and ended up with Oakland by the end of the calendar year. Tampa has a nose for starting pitchers, which should be encouraging to A’s fans.
In his three seasons in the minors, Hahn compiled a 6-4 record with a 2.26 ERA while totaling only 163 1/3 innings while Tampa took it slow with him after his surgery. Last season Hahn made it to the majors, bypassing Triple-A entirely after posting a 1.91 ERA in Double-A over 42 1/3 innings. While in San Diego, the righty went 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 73 1/3 innings. His peripheral stats all look good, with a 1.214 WHIP, 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and a home run rate of 0.5 per nine. His walk rate was a little high at 3.9, but hopefully we’ll see that revert back to his 2.6 rate while he was in the minors.
Baseball Prospectus cautions that Hahn may be on an innings limit, somewhere in the 150-160 range while he builds up his arm strength little by little. He should be a staple in the Oakland rotation for years to come, so this would be a smart approach for the Oakland Athletics.
This proposed innings limit has ramifications on the depth that the A’s have in their rotation. They could potentially have two long men in their bullpen, say Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz so that there is a righty and a lefty, and limit Hahn to five innings per start to get the most out of him throughout the season. A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker are also set to return from their own Tommy John surgeries as the season progresses, so that will definitely be on the minds of the Oakland brass as the season unfolds. He won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2017 season, so Hahn is an investment worth protecting.
Hahn in considered a three-pitch pitcher with a two-seamer, a four-seamer, and a curveball, all of which he uses roughly about the same amount. BP says of his pitches, “The thing about his heaters, though, is that they both work at almost identical velocities (92 for the four-seamer, 91.6 on the two) but move in opposite directions. He gets good plane from the extension of his 6-foot-5 frame, and from his high-three-quarters release slot, he generates about seven inches more vertical movement on the two-seamer and another four of east-west. The distinct movement patterns allow each of his fastballs to play up, and in addition to producing solid whiff rates with both variants he generates a whole bunch of off-center—and specifically ground-ball—contact.”
This may not sound like much to the average fan, but the baseball nerd in me loves this scouting report. They also add that Hahn’s curve is “a legitimate swing-and-miss complement” which anyone that has seen this pitch can attest to. It’s filthy.
Hahn had two bad outings last season. One was in his major-league debut on June 3rd against Pittsburgh, when he went just 3 2/3 innings and gave up six hits, two walks and four runs. He followed that up with a six inning, one hit performance against the Mets. The other poor start came against the Cardinals on August 16th when he went 5 2/3, allowing five runs. After that start he was moved to the bullpen, only pitching in two more games the rest of the season.
At the time of the trade, Hahn was projected to be a top-of-the-rotation starter alongside Sonny Gray. While that may not be the case this year with a potential innings limit, the Oakland Athletics may have found their legitimate number two starter of the future for when Kazmir’s contract expires at the end of the 2015 season. Jesse Hahn will be a fascinating player to watch in 2015, both in terms of his development, and how the A’s use him throughout the season.