Bobby Cramer, a left-handed pitcher from Anaheim, has had a professional baseball career that can only be described as R.A. Dickeyian — one full of curves, stops-and-starts, twists-and-turns, and various other pitfalls that might have dissuaded a lesser man.
He signed with Tampa Bay in 2003 as an undrafted free agent and made slow progress rising through their ranks, never pitching above High-A ball. Because of arm and elbow troubles, he missed part of the 2004 season and all of 2005 and 2006 because of Tommy John surgery. In 2007, Oakland signed him to a minor league deal, but the team released him, despite good numbers, because of shoulder problems.
In 2008, Cramer pitched for the Orange County Flyers in the Golden Baseball League, and he once again put up good numbers. Oakland signed him once again to a minor league deal for the 2009 season and beyond.
Cramer bounced around a bit during his time in Oakland’s minor league system. He began 2009 playing for the High-A Stockton Ports, pitching 5.2 innings with them. He was then promoted to the Double-A Midland Rock Hounds, where he pitched 43 innings. He then went on to pitch 14 innings for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats to finish the season.
Cramer began 2010 in Sacramento and pitched 41.2 innings there, but he was sent to the Tigres de Quintana Roo midseason, and wound up pitching 128 innings in Mexico. He ended the season on the parent club, starting four games for the Oakland Athletics to moderate success.
In 2011, he started the season in the A’s bullpen and appeared in three games before being sent back down to AAA. He pitched 22.1 innings with Sacramento before being called up to the Major Leagues once more in early June. He made only two appearances out of Oakland’s bullpen before being designated for assignment in early July and released a week later.
Oakland released Cramer again in 2011, and he returned to the Tigres de Quintana Roo in 2012 to continue his career. After finding some success there once again, he was contacted by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, who had been scouting him since 2010 and were interested in his services since Koji Onuma had retired and opened a spot on their roster. Cramer agreed and signed for a 10 million yen — roughly $110,000 — contract from mid-July until the end of the season. That experiment did not work out so well, as the lefty only made two starts and did not pitch particularly well in either. After the season ended, the BayStars announced that they would not offer Cramer a contract for the 2013 season, making him a free agent.
His story is actually an interesting and compelling one. Athletics Nation had the chance to interview Cramer, here: Part One, Part Two.
Mexican League Stats
Standing at 6’1" and weighing a solid 205 pounds, like many other lefties, Cramer doesn’t exactly light up the radar gun. Pitching from a high 3/4 delivery, his fastball sits between 85 and 90 mph, and he supplements it with a curveball that is his bread and butter pitch. In his limited major league career, Cramer threw his curve almost as much as he threw his fastball — 35.2 percent to 33.1 precent — and a developing change-up.
In his own words, he "[doesn’t] throw hard but [has] good control and keeps the ball down. That’ll work at any level". Though his strikeout rate is relatively low, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a solid 3.8 over the course of his career because of his ability to limit walks. Bobby also sports a healthy groundball rate: 52.4 percent in Triple-A and 56 percent Double-A.
Does He Make Sense For The Mets?
For most of his career, Cramer was a starting pitcher. He does, however, have experience as a reliever. As a result, he could theoretically be plugged into the starting rotation or the bullpen. Given his skill set, and the pitchers currently on the Mets' roster, it would seem that there is little chance he makes the team as a starting pitcher. Though his stats are not horrible, there are enough back-of-the-rotation pitchers in the system — Jenrry Mejia, Collin McHugh, Jeremy Hefner — who would probably get a shot to prove themselves as major league starters before Cramer.
Josh Edgin, as things can be prognosticated right now, is likely to start the 2013 season in the bullpen as the team’s primary left-handed reliever. Whether or not the Mets want to support Edgin and not wear him out as the previous regime seemingly did to Pedro Feliciano, or just because it’s good baseball acumen, the team might elect to use two lefties in the bullpen.
If they do, Cramer could be their man. Tim Byrdak is starting the season on the disabled list and is not expected to resume pitching until the second half of the season, if that early. Robert Carson has pitched better since transitioning to the bullpen, but his numbers still leave much to be desired. Darin Gorski is still too undeveloped to play in the Major Leagues, and he has been a starting pitcher thus far in his professional career. And the aforementioned Feliciano may or may not be able to make it back to the big leagues ever again. If Cramer were offered a chance to compete for a bullpen spot, he wouldn’t exactly have stiff competition.
Given that he has very little MLB service time, Cramer would still be a pre-arbitration player for a few more years; he would first be eligible for arbitration in 2016 and would only hit free agency in 2019. It's not that I expect Cramer, who would be 40 in 2019, to still be with the team, but his relatively cheap price tag makes him all the more appealing.
All in all, I think Cramer could be a decent depth signing. With Garrett Olson having been signed by Oakland, the former Athletic could fill that vacant role — the left-handed pitcher with good numbers who never panned out — in Triple-A with bullpen experience. Cramer has experience pitching in the Pacific Coast league and actually doesn't have half bad numbers for such a hitter-friendly environment. If he does actually crack the MLB roster for whatever reason and finds success, we might even have a semi-feel good story on our hands, akin to that of Nelson Figuroa. In a season that, on the surface, does not seem to hold too much promise, a story like that could be refreshing.