OXON HILL, Md. – The Strikeout Factory is currently being rehabilitated, but the Braves believe there was plenty reason to make a low-risk investment in former Yankees power-armed left-handed prospect Jacob Lindgren.
Lindgren, nicknamed “The Strikeout Factory” for his 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings in the minor leagues, signed a one-year major league contract Sunday with the Braves, two days after the Yankees made him non-tendered free agent.
Lindgren, 23, had Tommy John elbow surgery in August and is expected to miss the entire 2017 season. Still, the move by the Yankees surprised many observers, considering his potential and the buzz generated by the 2014 second-round draft pick from Mississippi State when Lindgren ascended through the minors and made his big-league debut in 2015.
Is it turned out, the Yankees wanted to re-sign Lindgren to a minor-league contract, but he went closer to home when the Braves offered a major league deal. The Braves will pay him about $1 million in 2017 including a small signing bonus.
The Biloxi native wrote on his Twitter page, “I am excited to announce I have signed with the Braves. Most kids in the ‘Sip grew up doing the chop. I am blessed to live a dream.”
Lindgren will require a spot on the Braves’ 40-man roster until they can place him on the 60-day disabled list, but Atlanta officials saw that, and the one-year rehab process for TJ surgery, as minor inconveniences in comparison to the performance they believe he’s capable of when healthy.
Lindgren has less than one year of major league service time, and the Braves could control him for five more seasons after 2017 before he’s eligible for free agency. The lefty has a low- to mid-90 mph fastball and a wipeout slider that’s his best pitch.
He posted a 1.84 ERA and 85 strikeouts, 32 walks and no home runs allowed in 40 minor league appearances. Lindgren had a 5.14 ERA in seven major league appearances in 2015 with eight strikeouts, four walks and three homers in seven innings, before season-ending surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.
After struggling with command at 2016 spring training, he pitched in only six games at Single-A Tampa before being shut down for more elbow issues that eventually required Tommy John surgery.
After the Yankees made him their first pick (55th overall) in the 2014 draft, Lindgren posted a 2.19 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 13 walks in 24 2/3 innings at four levels from rookie ball to Double-A in a half-season of pro ball.
In 2015, he had a 1.23 ERA and 29 strikeouts (10 walks) in only 22 innings at Triple-A before being brought to the majors in late May, the third member of the 2014 draft class to reach the majors.
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