by Andrew Gould
A long time ago the sun shone brightly on Rick Porcello’s future as a prominent ace. Now, at the ripe old age of 23, Porcello continues to fall shy of the lofty expectations in his fourth season with the Detroit Tigers. A couple of solid starts to begin this year provided a glimpse of hope that he would take a leap forward this year, but instead he has taken another step back.
In 12 starts Porcello sports an ugly 5.03 ERA and 1.54 WHIP. The man once touted as Detroit’s premier prospect now holds a career 4.60 ERA and 1.40 WHIP with an underwhelming 4.88 K/9 ratio. The Tigers obviously cannot give up on their young hurler this early, but how should fantasy owners handle Porcello?
When analysts discuss Porcello’s credentials they seem oblivious to how poorly the former first-round pick has performed. Broadcasters oddly still cast Porcello as a top-line starter with memories of his 14 wins as a rookie in 2009. Wins still matter to them for some reason, but we know better than that, right?
Although Porcello delivered more than anyone could reasonably expect from a 20-year-old, his stats have headed down the wrong path ever since. His WHIP has inflated in each season of his career as opposing offenses hit him harder and harder. Usually a young pitcher thrown into the big leagues so early would gradually progress, but Porcello is driving in reverse.
Another odd facet of Porcello’s career is his frequently lower FIP. Excluding his rookie campaign, Porcello’s FIP has been at least a half run lower than this ERA. Ground ball pitchers are typically the ones who can at times defy the peripherals, but Porcello pitches to contact in front of a defense that lends him no favors.
Even if Detroit’s defense stepped up their game, which is unlikely, Porcello will not help any fantasy owners unless he can strike out more batters. While his strikeout rates have improved somewhat, nobody can get too excited about his K/9 ratio spiking up to 5.16. Unless he finds a way to elevate this number, Porcello can never be relied upon in fantasy leagues.
His career path feels reminiscent to Mike Pelfrey, another highly regarded prospect who never met his ceiling but stayed in relatively good graces because he hung around enough to win some games. These guys are okay for the bottom of a real team’s rotation, but they will only fail fantasy owners.
Porcello is not getting worse; his .333 BABIP and 12.9% HR/FB rate have impaired his numbers. Still, he is also not improving and we can’t wait around for him forever.
Right now Porcello should not be owned in anything but a deep dynasty league. It’s time to overlook his high ceiling and instead note the lackluster results.