We all love to see our players thriving, but does that mean we shouldn’t consider selling them while their value is at it’s peak? Let’s take a look at two starting pitchers who have been tremendous in April, but could be in store for a major regression as the season progresses:
Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays
My concerns surrounding Hellickson have been no secret. I have been putting out warnings since the calendar turned from 2011 to 2012, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I am going to be putting out another one now. Of course, his early season success would make you think that he’s pitching lights out baseball, as he’s gone 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA. As you dig a little deeper, however, you realize that a regression may not be far off.
For Hellickson to be able to replicate last season’s success he needed to improve his strikeout rate (5.57 K/9 in ’11). Unfortunately, he has actually seen that number fall thus far in 2012, posting a 4.97 K/9. Unless he can get that number up towards his minor league career numbers (9.83 K/9), things are going to snowball before you know it.
The fact of the matter is, how long can his luck really continue? Over his first four starts he has posted a .218 BABIP and 87.6% strand rate (he was at .223 and 82.0% in 2011). Those are just numbers that are nearly impossible for him to maintain, meaning the ERA is going to stumble.
He’s already struggled a bit with his WHIP (1.33), but that’s because his control hasn’t been there (4.26 BB/9). He should improve there, when the BABIP turns it won’t matter. His current WHIP could easily settle in as a realistic number.
We all know that Hellickson has name appeal and is coming off an impressive (yet lucky) season. The fact that he’s posted good numbers in April just adds fuel to the fire. Sooner or later the luck is going to turn and the bottom should drop out of his numbers. You will want to cut bait before that happens, and now is the perfect time to do so. His value may never get higher, especially in 2012.
Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati Reds
We have all learned by now that Cueto isn’t the strikeout pitcher he once appeared to be (he’s posted a K/9 below 7.0 since 2009). In other words, seeing him with a 6.12 mark thus far this season should not be surprising to anyone.
However, there are three areas that he easily could regress:
- Control – Thus far he has a 1.95 BB/9, despite a 2.99 mark for his career
- BABIP – He’s currently posting a .255 mark and, while he was at .249 last season, he had been at .290+ every year before that
- Strand Rate – Does anyone really believe in his 91.2% mark
Considering he could (and should) regress in all three of these areas, there is no questioning that his current 1.39 ERA and 1.09 WHIP are going to plummet in time. His name value alone will get people interested and, with his start, you can extract top dollar from an opposing owner.
I wouldn’t say that he’s going to be an unusable option going forward, because he should be a good starting pitcher this season, but he’s not close to this good. Get the top value while you can.