Jose A. Ferrer Could Be a Reliable Arm for the Nats' Future

Despite a rough season, Ferrer has shown flashes of potential throughout, and at only 23 years old, he could be a strong piece for the Nationals down the line.
Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals
Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages

With the Nationals' 2023 season over, there are many aspects of the team to look back at with a healthy mix of positivity and disappointment. The bullpen is a piece that falls somewhere in the gray area of these two emotions. The Nats' relief arms kept the ship steady during another tough season in the Nation's Capital, and served as an important tool for Washington as they improved over last season's win total by 16 games. While hurlers such as Hunter Harvey and Kyle Finnegan have the most eye-catching stat lines for a rebuilding team, Jose A. Ferrer could be a diamond in the rough for the organization.

Admittedly, Ferrer may not inspire confidence when looking at his conventional statistics. Over 34 IP, he posted an unsettling 5.03 ERA and 1.471 WHIP. When you look under the hood however, the 23-year-old southpaw shows promising signs as an effective arm in the future.

When taking a look at Ferrer's stats beyond ERA, the picture starts to come into focus. He had one of the bullpen's lowest FIPs in 2023 with a 4.55, demonstrating that a portion of his failure to limit runs can be shared with those behind him and his own mistakes attempting to cover bases. This sentiment is also echoed by his xERA of 3.74. Similar conditions are reflected in many of his expected stats, such as the disparity between his BA of .289 and his xBA of .251, and his SLG of .422 against his xSLG of .352.

If Ferrer will bring the expected closer to the reality, it will be by continuing to showcase his ability to limit hard contact throughout the season. He kept the average exit velocity off his pitches to a solid 87.8 MPH. Ferrer also only surrendered an impressive 3 barreled balls and held a 36.9 HardHit%. Combined with a 55.3 GB%, he managed to consistently limit hitters' capacity to fully square up the ball during his 34.1 relief innings.

Ferrer also has a dependable off-speed pitch to turn to with his changeup. With 1.9 in of vertical break 1.5 in of horizontal break vs. average, Ferrer was able to use the changeup to get out of binds and work counts in his favor. This led to a 31.9 Whiff% and a 26.5 K% on his main put-away pitch. If he continues to shape the changeup and work on its placement, Nats fans could see Ferrer offer many highlight-reel swings-and-misses on this pitch alone.

Like any other rookie pitcher, there are obvious weapons Ferrer needs sharpen before he is able to fully settle in as a reliable reliever for the Nats, with the main one being his fastball. As with several other members of the pitching staff, Ferrer could not entirely count on his 4-seamer. Hitters were able to capitalize on this. leading to a .287 BA off of this pitch. The most glaring issue with Ferrer's fastball is the movement. It has -6.9 Vertical Movement vs. the average, and ranks in the 19th percentile in FB spin. His velocity is solid, averaging 95,5 MPH, but if he cannot continue to work over the offseason on improving the vertical break and increasing the spin rate of his fastball, or work in an alternative fastball variation such as a cutter, he will likely not have an MLB-caliber off-speed pitch outside of his changeup to lean on.

Jose A. Ferrer had a rough season on paper. He was not a pitcher that stood out as one the skipper could hand the ball to when he needed him the most. Nonetheless, it is worth bearing in mind that he is only 23 years old. Ferrer still has ample time to train and improve, and to gain more experience facing off against MLB hitters. The foundation is clearly there for a consistent tool for the Nationals to turn to down the road, especially when they are back as a contending team in the future.