Thursday - Apr 18, 2019

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Bargain Basement Shopping: Starting Pitchers

Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels – A WHIP asset, he won’t hurt you in ERA, and he’s likely to net you somewhere north of 140 K’s. Weaver’s biggest issue is health as he still hasn’t had anything close to a 200 IP season, and I wouldn’t expect him to all of a sudden be able to produce one this year either. His strikeout rate bounced back after a 2007 dive, but a 4.33 ERA could dent perceived value and make him a very nice draft day bargain. He’s been around so long he doesn’t feel like a pitcher that hasn’t even reached the prime of his career, but that’s what he is (only 26 years old). That’s what inflated expectations after an 11-2 debut will do! His 9.1 K/9 in 74 IP during the second half of 2008 gave us a taste of the dominance portrayed in the minors.

Justin Duchscherer, Oakland Athletics – The Duche’s fastball is more reminiscent of a stiff wind than the high heat, but his unusual arsenal and delivery proved difficult for major leaguers to catch up to last year when he was healthy. Duche has excellent control so it’s unlikely he will fall too far, but he may see his HR/9 increase and his strand rate drop. It’s beneficial that he has one of the best defenses and parks in baseball for pitchers, so don’t expect that fall to be too great. That said, don’t expect another ERA below 3.00 either. Health concerns remain (see: balky elbow), but even 140 IP’s of the Duche should turn a profit.

Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros – Humor me, throw out all the scouting reports on this guy and just look at the raw data. Recent seasons indicate a sub-4.00 ERA + 1.3 WHIP are very possible with an improving and solid K rate. Likewise, regarding the BB rate, a favorable G/F rate and quality defense behind him. Injuries (notice a trend?) put the brakes on a potential breakout season, but he remains a pitcher on the rise, even at the age of 30. I realize his stuff isn’t great and he’s never been a favorite of scouts, but it’s pretty difficult to argue against the numbers he’s posted.

Manny Parra, Milwaukee Brewers – There are things I don’t like about Parra’s 2009 prospects, but there’s so much more I like about him I felt inclined to include him. Let’s get the bad out of the way first. He’s not going to be a fan of SI writer Tom Verducci, his defense behind him is terrible in several places, his BB rate in 2008 is unacceptable, and his bullpen (or lack thereof) will only further hurt his ERA and win totals. There’s plenty to be alarmed about. Now for the good – he had increasing K/9, an improving K/BB, a high GB%, and an unlucky HR/FB%, second half 2008 improvement (which was masked by an unlucky hit rate), a solid minor league track record, and the scouts like his stuff. If shortstop Alcides Escobar is moved up the big league club, it really doesn’t matter where J.J. Hardy goes as the defense will be improved regardless. I don’t know what Parra you’re going to get in 2009, but at his current cost it’s certainly worth the price of admission, especially if the staff you have assembled can withstand a less than favorable WHIP.

Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds – He has three main issues affecting him. Control (although solid minor league numbers suggest this can be fixed), break down, and Dusty Baker (two and three sort of go hand in hand). He’s built like Pedro and throws more breaking stuff than Pedro ever did, but I’d be surprised if he made it through the whole season without at least missing some starts. He possesses tons of upside in walks and HR/9 and mild upside in strikeouts. The primary difference between him and a lot of other youngsters who can strike people out is his control. His flyball tendencies got the best him in the form of gopheritis, and flyball pitchers and Great American Ballpark are usually a bad combo, but he actually improved this area of his game as the season progressed. If his HR per flyball reduces to more reasonable levels and he hones his control, he could be your 2009 breakout.

Kenshin Kawakami, Atlanta Braves – The scouting reports say that while his fastball is just average, he earns high marks for his cutter, his slow curveball and his control. I relied on a lot of outside sources to formulate my opinion on Kawakami, and most of them seemed to think highly of him. He posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 117.3 innings in

Japan last year, and while the

Japan-to-America translation is a difficult one to project, just looking at the data projects him having success. CHONE projects Kawakami for a 3.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 8 wins, and 113 Ks in 123 innings. I’m sure the Braves are looking to get 180+ innings out of him (he pitched < 120 IP’s in 2008 but he has pitched north of 150 IP’s in previous seasons), extrapolating his numbers out to 180 IP’s wouldn’t be a good idea but slight increases across the board still net a 4.00 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 160 K pitcher in 180 IP’s. How many players that put up that stat line can be found buried in the 200 something’s in your draft or in the single digits in your auction? He’s displayed great control his entire career including five straight seasons of sub 2.0 walk rates. His strikeout rate over that span has fluctuated, and I’m concerned that with the lack of an out pitch he may not live up to CHONE’s projection. Still, based on what I’ve read, I feel safe saying his downside is Hiroki Kuroda circa 2008.

Other pitchers drafted outside the top 200 that I like:

Andy Sonnanstine (

Tampa

Bay),

John Smoltz (

Boston),

Jeremy Guthrie (

Baltimore),

Kelvim Escobar (Los Angeles Angels), and

Chris Carpenter (

St. Louis). I’d have written about him but I think the cat may be out of the bag with this one; he’s still listed outside the Top 200, but for those paying attention I don’t think he’s outside the Top 200 anymore.

Good luck!

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