It’s no secret that we wanted Washburn traded and had little to no interest in retaining him for 2010. So, if the M’s moved him, we were going to be happy, even if the guys they got back weren’t much to write home about. But should you be excited about Luke French?
Depends on your expectations. He has extremely low ceiling for a 23-year-old – as a guy with an 87 MPH fastball who pitches up in the zone and depends on his breaking ball to get outs, he’s not that much different than Garrett Olson in terms of raw stuff. And I know that most of you are sick and tired of watching Garrett Olson take the mound, so that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
However, there’s a pretty big difference between the two – French can actually get right-handed hitters out. Olson’s problem as a starter is that he gets destroyed by RHBs, and opposing managers can just stack the line-up with them when he’s in the rotation. French, however, uses his change-up effectively to keep RHBs off balance – he actually ran a better BB/9 and K/9 against righties than lefties in Triple-A this year.
That won’t continue in the majors (and it hasn’t during his first few appearances), but he’s not totally hopeless against RHBs. As an exteme flyball lefty, he’s going to get the same bump from Safeco and the outfield defense that Washburn did, and while he doesn’t have as varied of an arsenal, there are reasons to expect French and Washburn to be near equals going forward.
Between French, Rowland-Smith, Vargas, and Olson, the M’s now have four LHPs who all take advantage of the cavernous left field area in Safeco Field. Odds are they’ll be able to get two quality starters out of that group, and with Felix/Snell/Morrow around, the team has options for the front of the rotation as well.
French will probably never be an all-star, but as more depth for the back-end of the rotation, and a guy who should benefit greatly from the context he’s coming to, you should be quite happy with the return.