The starter/reliever prospect post
My distaste for having good minor league pitchers relieve in the minors has come up before, so by request here’s my view in a little more detail.
If a minor league pitcher has good stuff, even if it’s only two good pitches, they should start until their progression stalls. You want to get these kids as much experience as you can, and the regular, pitch-count protection of starting allows a team to get them a lot of playing time (starting pitcher: 200+ innings, reliever: 50-80) throwing to live batters in game situations. Between starts, you get quality side sessions with the coaching staff. If they’ve got two pitches, that’s a lot of time to try and figure out how to spot a new pitch.
Even then, a two-pitch starter can be effective if those two pitches are nasty enough, and the way to refine craft is to get them experience and instruction, and that’s starting.
There’s a case that pitchers who are unsucessful starting can succeed in relief, because they can put more on each pitch, not worrying about endurance, plus repetoire limitations become less important.
I agree — but I don’t want to concede that before you absolutely must.
Another argument is made relieving is different, that coming into a game in progress is so crazy that pitchers have to be prepared for it — that you can’t have a starter convert after a couple years of minor league experience. If you think someone’s a reliever, you should train them to be a reliever. I’ve never seen any evidence to support this. Relievers are, by and large, converted relievers. Few elite relievers were minor league relievers.
I think the opposite is true, though. If a team drafts a college closer, has them close all through the minors, then take over the closer’s job for the big team, you’ll never know if that guy could ever have been a quality starter. While there may be many starter candidates for conversion to the bullpen, someone who builds their whole career off a couple pitches thrown as hard as they can until they fall over is rarely going to be an easy conversion project.
Let your most talented pitchers start until the force a move to relief on their own. It’s that simple.