Jeremy Hellickson Faces Uphill Battle in Salvaging Career Post-Trade

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Jeremy Hellickson Faces Uphill Battle in Salvaging Career Post-Trade
Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

We all knew it was a matter of when, not if, Jeremy Hellickson's days with the Tampa Bay Rays were officially over.

Late Friday night, ESPN reported that the Arizona Diamondbacks were to be his new home, as they dealt minor leaguers Andrew Velazquez and Justin Williams for the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year.

Initial reactions whenever a pitcher is dealt out of the American League—let alone the homer-friendly AL East—is that greener pastures certainly are waiting.

Hellickson needs those greener pastures, as he has pitched to a less-than-stellar 5.05 ERA over his last 44 starts. Of those 44, 13 occurred after offseason elbow surgery forced him to miss the first three months of the 2014 season. 

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

That is hardly a small sample size and something that seems to indicate his ROY form is far in the rearview mirror.

But his National League ERA is going to start shrinking like a balloon with a small hole in its side, right? Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart certainly seems to think so, as reported by Jack Magruder of Fox Sports Arizona.

"He is going to be outstanding here," Stewart said. "I always give the guys moving from the American League to the National League a plus. Moving out of the American League East gives him another plus."

Don't count on it. Sure, the average NL starter's ERA over the last three years was 0.27 runs lower than their AL counterparts, according to statistics and some quick division.

Hellickson's problem is the NL West is not the safest of landing zones, especially when you're arriving at a team boasting one of the worst offenses in the sport.

In 2014, the Diamondbacks scored just 615 runs with a .678 OPS, good for No. 25 and No. 24 in MLB, respectively.

OK, so run support will not come easily for Hellickson, but what about his home ballpark, Chase Field? Leaving Tropicana Field has to be a plus, right?

Unfortunately, there isn't much reprieve here, either.

"As for Chase Field, that doesn't suit fly-ball pitchers well," wrote Matt Snyder of "Only six ballparks saw more homers last season, and only Coors Field yielded more runs. On the flip-side, Hellickson is coming from Tropicana Field, which was 25th in homers and 15th in runs."

When looking at the rest of the division, the picture gets far darker.

As Snyder references above, Chase Field allowed the seventh-most homers in baseball in 2014. Dodger Stadium landed at fifth, and Coors Field was second only to Yankee Stadium.

About half of the worst parks in MLB to be a fly-ball pitcher in happen to be where Hellickson will pitch the majority of his games.

It's not all doom and gloom for him, however.

AT&T Park in San Francisco and Petco Park in San Diego are both safe havens for any pitcher, and a fresh start in a league where the threat of a designated hitter is long gone can only be a positive thing.

Case in point, someone who Jeremy Hellickson always reminded me of is former Diamondbacks hurler Ian Kennedy.

Tossed aside after early struggles with the Yankees, Kennedy found a home in Arizona and pitched extremely well at times.

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Similar to Kennedy, Hellickson is a fly-ball pitcher who relies on good control and a feel for changing speeds to succeed. Neither has what would be confused for anything close to top-end velocity.

If Hellickson can follow a similar path, Arizona may just have a diamond in the rough that it can try to polish up and save from a downward spiral of a once-bright, young career.

If not, we may have seen the last of him as an impact pitcher at the MLB level, and the low-risk, medium-reward attempt will have failed.

Ultimately, this is a move that makes a lot of sense for a team with the No. 27 ERA in baseball last season (4.44). It did not give up a prospect in the deal that could truly damage the farm, and it desperately needs to build a young rotation for the future.

There's no reason to fault Arizona for what it pulled off Friday night; it is just very unlikely that the final results will be glowingly positive.

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