Show of hands: who knew that Buck Farmer existed before the 2014 season? Those who follow our minor league coverage (when we have it) may have seen Farmer's name pop up at some point, but the general public knew very little about the 23-year-old right-hander before his big league debut on August 13. Now, he will likely be in a battle for the fifth starter job next spring.
A fifth round draft pick in 2013, Farmer began the season at Single-A West Michigan. He got off to a blazing start in the first half, allowing a 2.60 ERA and 2.78 FIP in 103 2/3 innings. This included five scoreless outings and six more with just one run allowed. Farmer's dominance was not surprising, though. At 23-years-old, he was older than most of his competition at that level. Still, Farmer's performance earned him a spot in the Midwest League All-Star game.
Shortly after the MLB All-Star break, Farmer was called up to Double-A Erie, where he logged a pair of quality starts in as many games. The call-up to Double-A — which saw him skip High-A Lakeland — was short lived. Farmer was then pulled up to the majors, where he made his debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates while the Tigers were on a four-game losing streak. Farmer pitched well, but a lone bad pitch to Travis Snider resulted in a three-run homer. Farmer's final line? Five innings pitched, four earned runs, four strikeouts, one walk, and one losing streak snapped.
The excitement over Farmer's debut outing would be short-lived, however. Farmer was called up 10 days later, despite a disastrous debut outing at Triple-A Toledo to pitch against the Minnesota Twins. Once again, he was put behind the eight-ball. The previous evening, Robbie Ray only recorded five outs and the Tigers gave up 20 runs. Unfortunately, Farmer was not able to do any better. Like Ray, he was removed in the second inning and the Tigers went on to lose 12–4. Farmer made a strong start at Triple-A to close out his minor league season, and finished his year with a pair of relief outings in blowout losses at the MLB level.
One thing that stood out among Farmer's numbers was his excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio at Single-A West Michigan. He struck out over 10 batters-per-nine innings while walking just over two, resulting in a stellar 4.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unfortunately, this did not continue at the major league level. Farmer walked five of the 46 batters he faced, a 10 percent clip. However, he still maintained an excellent strikeout rate, leaving some to wonder if Farmer should be made available for full-time bullpen duty next season. Wade Davis lite, anyone?
For most pitchers, an 11.57 ERA and 5.81 FIP would be a disaster of a season. However, considering where Farmer started the season, making it to the big leagues is an accomplishment in itself. He dominated the Midwest League and put together a solid start in his MLB debut, helping to snap a four-game losing streak. His second start was a colossal failure, but by that point the Tigers were playing with house money.