LJ Rader

Draft Strategy

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AL-only Post-Hype Pitchers

Friday, January 28, 2011


Earlier this week I broke down some AL post-hype hitters, and now it's time to move to the rotation. The post-hype pitcher is a lot more "hit or miss" and "fragile," as an early career setback (either an injury or early struggles) to an elite hitting prospect usually just delays his progress, while one to a pitcher can sometimes prove career threatening. Last year Aaron Gleeman listed Phil Hughes, Clay Buchholz, Ian Kennedy, David Purcey, and Garrett Olson as some post-hype AL-pitchers worth targeting. Both Hughes and Buchholz made the All-Star Game and proved to be difference makers for fantasy owners that were lucky enough to scoop them up. Kennedy played well after moving to the Diamondbacks, while Purcey and Olson each failed to produce any value in fantasy. This year's crop of AL post-hype starters has a similar feel to last year's group.

Brian Matusz, Orioles

If you want to know why the Orioles have been so bad for so long, check out their first round draft picks over the last decade. Over that period of time the ADP of the O's first pick was 6.4, and not a single one of those players selected made the All-Star Game. It's only fitting then that the ace of the post-hype rotation would be a former O's first-round pick. Brian Matusz -- the No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft and Baseball America's No. 25 and No. 5 prospect in 2009 and 2010, respectively -- had a dominant 2009 (his first and only year of minor league ball), posting a 1.053 WHIP and 3.78 SO/BB ratio over 113 innings between High A and AA. He earned himself an August call-up, pitching 44.2 innings to a 4.63 ERA and 1.478 WHIP. Matusz opened 2010 on the team's 25-man roster and posted a 4.30 ERA and 1.343 WHIP over 175.2 innings, including yielding just 10 total earned runs over his last eight starts.

2011 outlook: Matusz is shaping up to be 2011's version of David Price, minus the potent offense and spectacular bullpen necessary to facilitate a 19-6 record. Compare the sophomore campaigns of both Price and Matusz and you'll see that the latter actually had a much better SO/BB ratio in addition to an almost identical WHIP and ERA+. It's hard not to love what Matusz brings to the table, as the 24-year-old already features four pitches and the command of a seasoned veteran. He isn't going to blow anyone away with his fastball and he still needs to work on inducing groundballs, but the total package makes him one of baseball's brightest up and coming stars. He'll be undervalued on draft day due to his underwhelming early statistics, but look for him to provide great returns in every category aside from wins.

Rick Porcello, Tigers

Porcello -- BA's No. 21 prospect pre-2008 and pre-2009 -- was a popular name heading into 2010 after posting an impressive 3.96 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 13-9 record in 2009 as the then youngest player (20) in the majors. The former No. 27 overall pick in the 2007 amateur draft failed to fulfill the lofty expectations set forth for his sophomore campaign, pitching to a 10-12 record with a 4.92 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. Porcello threw his fastball 70.5% of the time in 2010 (compared to 77.3% in 2009) and his slider 17.8% of the time (compared to 5.4% as a rookie). The effectiveness of both pitches dropped, though he did improve on both his curveball and changeup.

2011 outlook: While most pitchers Porcello's age are just graduating college or in the mid-minors, the 22-year-old is set to embark on his third major league season. His SO/BB ratio improved .50 points last season, and another year working with pitching coach Rick Knapp should help him harness both his fastball and slider. He may never be a strikeout machine (5.4 SO/9 as a minor leaguer and 4.7 in the majors), but he has the potential to win at least 16 games in 2011 with a stellar ERA and WHIP.

Derek Holland, Rangers

Holland -- the Rangers' 25th round pick in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft -- rightfully earned attention after posting a 0.769 WHIP over 26 innings at AA Frisco in 2008. BA named him their No. 31 prospect heading into 2009, and it wasn't long before Holland found himself with the big league team, logging 138.1 major league innings as a 22-year-old in 2009. A March knee injury kept him from cracking the Rangers' 2010 opening day roster, though he pitched well in five games during May before coming down with rotator cuff inflammation. Holland impressed with a 1.87 ERA over 11 mid-season starts with AAA Oklahoma and then returned to the Rangers in August to strike out nearly a batter an inning in 10 starts and four relief appearances down the stretch.

2011 outlook: The baby-faced 24-year-old is a post-hype prospect not because of major league struggles but because injuries have allowed him to fly under the radar. He won't know his role for the 2011 season until the end of spring training, but as of now it's looking like he'll win the Rangers' No. 5 starter job. His value hinges on the team's handling of Neftali Feliz and the progress Brandon Webb shows during the spring. Holland is a legitimate talent that is projected to put up some solid numbers; right now it's just a matter of whether he'll pitch out of the rotation (where he'll have fantasy value) or out of the pen.

Luke Hochevar, Royals

Consider Hochevar a post post-hype prospect, as he made his major league debut in 2007 and has already logged 387.2 major league innings. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 MLB Amateur draft was named BA's No. 32 and No. 63 prospect pre-2007 and pre-2008, respectively, but struggled in his first two major league seasons. Hochevar finally appeared headed in the right direction when he posted a 1.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 48.0 innings at AAA Omaha in 2009, but struggled after getting called up to the show in mid-May that same season and then missed a large chunk of 2010 after suffering an injury to his elbow.

2011 outlook: Hochevar is slated to open the season as the Royals No. 1 starter, which should tell you all you need to know about the state of their rotation. It was just two seasons ago that a healthy Hochevar posted fantastic numbers at AAA over a significant number of innings, and while it's not unreasonable to think 2011 will be the year he finally puts everything together, the odds are against him. At this point he shouldn't be drafted in any format, but a strong spring training should at least spark the interest of AL-only leaguers. Those that have already started preparing for their drafts should throw his name on their list of potential sleepers.



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