Ricky Nolasco has quickly become one of the most frustrating pitchers for fantasy owners, hasn’t he? Every time we want to believe that he’s going to put things together he disappoints those who had faith in him. Just look at his numbers from 2011:
148 Strikeouts (6.47 K/9)
44 Walks (1.92 BB/9)
Obviously, it was an extremely disappointing season. It was worse over his final eight starts, allowing 4 ER or more in seven of them (and the other start saw him allow 3 ER over 6.0 innings). So is it finally time to write him off?
The strikeouts, which had previously been one of the positive things about him, fell off dramatically. Just look at his month-by-month K/9:
- April – 5.94
- May – 8.39
- June – 5.06
- July – 7.36
- August – 5.74
- September – 5.86
This is the same pitcher who had posted K/9s of 9.49 and 8.39 the previous two seasons, so exactly what changed? His fastball was down slightly (90.5 mph vs. 91.2 in ’10), but far from enough to be a red flag. There was also nothing in his pitch selection, having thrown his fastball 51.6% of the time (he was at 49.2% in ’10).
Considering that he was at 8.96 over his minor league career, there’s a good chance that his 2011 struggle was nothing more than an aberration. Assuming he can return to striking out batters at a relatively similar clip that he had previously (think in the 7.5-8.0 range), things will look significantly better again.
His control, which has always been stellar, was there again. For his career he has posted a 2.08 BB/9, so there is no reason to think that he’s suddenly going to start walking people.
The real question is in his luck metrics. It is easy to assume that he will improve on a .331 BABIP, but it is the third consecutive season that he has been at .316 or worse. Can we safely say that he is going to dramatically improve on that mark?
Actually, I would think there is a very good chance that he does, especially if he can maintain what was the best groundball rate of his career (45.1%). Of course, it went along with a career worst line drive rate (23.8%), but that alone does not appear to be repeatable. Having been below 19% in three of the four previous seasons, you would think that he’s going to improve in that regard.
So what exactly is the bottom line? He’s a great control pitcher who should strikeout more batters and showed the potential for a solid groundball rate. That is the perfect makeup for a pitcher, especially one that most owners will likely have grown frustrated with and have written off.
Would I trust him to be one of my top starting pitchers? Absolutely not, but he has sleeper written all over him. Considering where you will likely be able to draft him, it’s low risk, high reward. Let others pass and be prepared to take the risk and hopefully reap the benefits.
What are your thoughts of Nolasco? Do you think he he’s worth the risk? What type of season do you think he can have?