Jeremy Hellickson made a splash in his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Rays (2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP), though you can take one of two stances as we head into his sophomore campaign:
- His 2011 success was based on a lot of luck and therefore he is going to regress mightily in 2012
- He underperformed in some areas (i.e. a 5.57 K/9) and therefore he should be in line to post similar numbers (even if they regress slightly overall)
So, the question is which side of the fence do you fall on? For me, it’s the first option and there’s not much of a debate. While you can argue that he should improve in the strikeout rate (he posted a 9.83 K/9 over his minor league career), I don’t think it will be enough to offset the other issues that could plague him.
Before we get into the problems, let’s take a look at the numbers he posted a year ago:
117 Strikeouts (5.57 K/9)
72 Walks (3.43 BB/9)
The most glaring problem is that he enjoyed significant luck last season, something that is virtually impossible for him to repeat. The first number is his BABIP, which was at .223 in 2011. That was the best rate for any pitcher who qualified for the ERA title. In fact, the second best was Justin Verlander, who had a .236 mark. After that there was only three other pitchers who posted a mark of .250 or better.
Since 2007 there have only been seven pitchers to post a BABIP below .240 and no pitcher has done it twice. In fact, Hellickson is the only pitcher to have posted a mark better than .236 (you have to go back to Chris Young in 2006, when he posted a .226 BABIP over 179.1 innings, to find someone who came close).
Is there any doubt that the BABIP is going to rise, and potentially significantly?
The other luck metric that screams regression is his 82.0% strand rate. The only pitcher to post a better mark in 2011 was Jered Weaver, who was at 82.6%. There were only six players who were at 80% or better and 11 who were at 79% or better.
Again, the number was too lucky to expect him to repeat.
That’s not to say that Hellickson doesn’t have potential value. You can’t write off what he accomplished in the tough AL East in 2011 and declare him a pitcher to avoid. I would absolutely consider him a Top 50 starting pitcher and a solid option as a SP4 (maybe a SP3 depending on your format). He brings the potential for strikeouts coupled with good control (which should lead to a good WHIP).
Unfortunately the luck was too favorable to think that he can come reasonably close to replicating his ERA. It wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him come close, if not surpass, a 4.00 ERA.
Just keep that in mind before depending on him in 2012. He’s not being drafted significantly early (he’s currently the 37th pitcher coming off the board according to Mock Draft Central with an ADP of 128.83), but I would still have my reservations about drafting him. I would much rather look at someone like Shaun Marcum, who is going around 20 picks later.
What about you? What do you think of Hellickson for 2012? Is he a pitcher you think will thrive?
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Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: