Fantasy baseball Pitching Report: Odorizzi a worthy replacement
Jake Odorizzi became the second high-profile pitching prospect to emerge from the minors this year, making his season debut about a month after the Reds' Tony Cingrani. Like Cingrani, Odorizzi earned his promotion thanks to a combination of success at the Triple-A level and an injury to an ace on his parent club. For Cingrani, it was Johnny Cueto. For Odorizzi, it was David Price. After getting touched up for three runs by the Blue Jays in his first two innings Monday, Odorizzi did not allow another hit in his final three innings and retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced. He struck out six batters while walking just one, and a poor call by one of the umpires made his line worse than it should have been. The question for us in this week's pitching report is what value should fantasy owners assign to Odorizzi for the remainder of the year?
First, allow me to mention the obvious. Odorizzi's value is largely tied to how long Price remains on the shelf. The Rays have yet to place a timetable on his return, but when he first went down, manager Joe Maddon indicated he'd likely miss just two or three starts. If that's the case, owners in redraft leagues shouldn't break the bank to acquire Odorizzi. If you're in a deeper mixed league, perhaps 14 or 16 teams, sure, jump on in. But if your league has 12 teams or fewer, you might want to think about adding a different pitcher.
There's also the chance that Odorizzi makes enough of an impression on Maddon and his staff that he remains in the rotation even after Price returns. Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore all have secure spots in the rotation, but Roberto Hernandez could be a target for Odorizzi. He's no more than filler at the backend of the rotation, posting a 5.24 ERA and 1.37 WHIP thus far. If Odorizzi pitches well in Price's stead, the Rays could choose to keep him around while moving Hernandez to the bullpen.
Odorizzi didn't snag any headlines, but he was an important part of the Wil Myers-James Shields trade the Rays and Royals pulled off during the offseason. He has the right pedigree, selected as a first-round pick back in 2008. He was ranked the No. 92 prospect by Baseball America coming into this year, and was 45th on MLB.com's board.
For the sake of argument, let's go ahead and assume Odorizzi spends a decent chunk of the season in the majors. If that's the case, he'll end up being owned in all formats. In eight starts at Triple-A Durham, he was 4-0 with a 3.83 ERA and 47/15 K/BB ratio. He isn't overpowering with his fastball, but it sits in the low-90s, and is hard enough to be effective. Most importantly, he had one of the best curveballs in the minors, something with which the Blue Jays became quite familiar with on Monday. When Odorizzi dominated the Toronto lineup, his curveball was doing most of the work. If he gets somewhere between 15 and 20 starts, we can safely expect seven wins, 80 strikeouts and an ERA around 4.00 in 80 innings.
• Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks -- In this edition of the Starting Pitcher Barometer, we'll take a look at three lesser-known pitchers having great seasons. The first of those is Corbin, who struck out 10 in a complete game Monday, allowing just one run on three hits and one walk. Heading into the start, he had a 1.52 ERA, and while he has been fortunate to this point, his 3.10 FIP is strong. Now, we should expect him to regress a little. Before Monday's stellar outing, he had a .259 BABIP and 89.2 percent strand rate. No matter how well he pitches, those numbers are bound to work against him eventually. But there's way more to like than not here. His average fastball velocity is up to 91.7 MPH from 90.9 last year. He's throwing fewer changeups and more sliders this year, trading his least effective pitch for an off-speed option he has been able to get outs with consistently.
• Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh Pirates -- Locke is a bit like Corbin-light. He has had less success, and his seems more fleeting, but he's still worth owning in most mixed leagues. The good news is that he's 4-1 with a 2.73 ERA. The bad is that his FIP is 4.47, he has a .224 BABIP and 82.5 percent strand rate, and he has just 32 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. He's a guy you have to treat with caution. He doesn't have an overwhelming fastball, and his secondary offerings are just average. It's also hard to completely ignore the success he has had this year. He's available for the taking in most leagues. If you need another arm at the end of your rotation, feel free to give him a few turns. Just understand that he isn't matchup-proof.
• Tommy Milone, Oakland A's -- Milone may be last in the column, but he's the favorite among the three listed here to keep up his current performance for the rest of 2013. He's coming off a strong 2012 that has carried right over in to this season. Last year, he had a 3.74 ERA and 3.93 FIP. This season, his ERA is 3.47 and his FIP is 3.59. He's striking out 7.74 batters per nine innings, nearly one-and-a-half more than last year. A lot of that owes to an increased frequency of changeups, which has proved to be one of his best pitches. According to Fangraphs, he has had the 24th most effective changeup this season, and he's throwing it 28.6 percent of the time, up from 25.5 percent last year. He should be owned in all mixed leagues.
• Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves -- I was all in on Medlen coming into the year, but at this point I'm happy I didn't end up with him. His average fastball velocity is down to 89.5 MPH, and his previously dominant curveball and changeup have nearly abandoned him this year. As such, he's striking out far fewer batters this season than he did a year ago. His strikeout rate is down to 15.3 percent from 23.1 percent in 2012, and he's whiffing just 6.04 batters per nine innings, nearly two fewer than he did last season. His 3.02 ERA looks good enough, but it belies a 4.62 FIP. He does make a nice buy-low candidate, but understand that he does not look like the pitcher we saw in 2012 and 2010.
• Ryan Dempster, Boston Red Sox -- Dempster is still striking out a ton of batters, but he has had two terrible outings in a row -- in his last 9.2 innings, he has allowed 11 runs on 15 hits and seven walks. There's no way you should ever consider cutting him, but his last two starts show why he can't be counted on to be a high-level rate pitcher for the remainder of the season. He still has plenty of fantasy value thanks to his strikeouts, but he's nowhere near the elite pitcher he looked the first five weeks of the season. It might be worth putting him on the market after his next good start.
• No doubt that's what John Farrell and Red Sox fans everywhere are saying regarding the impending return of Andrew Bailey. When he does return, he'll slide right back into the closer's role. He should be owned everywhere. If for some reason an owner in your league dropped him when he hit the DL, grab him while you can. And again, I still think Koji Uehara has plenty of value. As for Junichi Tazawa, you can probably let him go once Bailey returns.
• Brandon League's days as the Dodgers' closer are likely coming to an end, even with Kenley Jansen's back-to-back dreadful outings over the weekend. There's just no denying that Jansen has been the better pitcher this year and has the better closer profile. For now, both are worth owning, but Jansen has a 31/6 K/BB ratio and 1.07 WHIP, and the typical fastball-slider combo that suits closers so well. Jansen will be the official closer for the Dodgers before long.
• Finally, Mike Dunn picked up a one-out save Sunday after Steve Cishek allowed one hit and one walk while getting the first two outs in the inning. Cishek's job is safe for now, but Dunn has been rather effective this year, striking out 20 batters and walking nine in 20.2 innings. He has allowed just one home run and 16 hits, and has clearly been a better pitcher than Cishek in 2013. If he were to become closer, he'd have to overcome the anti-lefty sentiment in the ninth, but it's still a situation worth monitoring for the time being.