Amazingly, there were five pitchers who qualified for the ERA title who posted a K/9 of 5.00 or lower in 2012. Is there any hope for fantasy appeal among these pitchers? Let’s take a look and find out:
Henderson Alvarez – Toronto Blue Jays
K/9 of 3.80
A popular sleeper prior to the season, this number is unbelievable. However, he did post an impressive 57.0% groundball rate and solid control, with a 2.59 BB/9. So. the question is if the strikeout rate could possibly improve?
Of course, it would nearly have to double for us to really want to target Alvarez, especially pitching in the AL East, but that’s obviously too much to ask for. He did have a 6.50 K/9 in the minor leagues, but with only 88 innings above Single-A (he had a 6.75 K/9 at Double-A), it is hard to put much stock in the number.
He does throw hard, averaging 93.3 mph on his fastball, but he needs to find a pitch to get batters to swing and miss inside the strike zone. Last season he posted a Z-contact% of 92.2% and an overall contact rate of 88.8% (courtesy of Fangraphs), the latter of which was the highest in the league (not a surprise considering the lack of K).
There is hope that he can get the strikeouts up to the 5.0-5.5 range, as he was at 5.65 in 10 starts for Toronto in 2011. If he can get back there, he is going to hold at least some value in all formats as a back end starter/spot starter. At this point I would consider him worth the end round flier, but nothing more than that.
Clayton Richard – San Diego Padres
K/9 of 4.40
Richard actually showed strikeout ability in 33 starts for the Padres in 2010, posting a 6.83 K/9. So what has happened? He simply may have altered his style, forfeiting strikeouts for more groundballs (53.8% vs. 46.1%) and better control (1.73 BB/9 vs. 3.48 BB/9).
Can we believe the latter? Probably not, but he has been trending towards more groundballs over the past few seasons. That’s not a bad thing, but in Petco Park it also isn’t a necessary change either. At this point, he is a pitcher I would be willing to write off on draft day though I would monitor him on the waiver wire.
Scott Diamond – Minnesota Twins
K/9 of 4.68
He actually sowed significantly better stuff in the minor leagues, including a 6.27 K/9 in 39 Triple-A starts. He is a control/groundball pitcher, the normal mold from a young Twins starter. He also doesn’t throw hard (averaged 89.4 mph) on his fastball, so it is going to be harder for him to generate a significant number of swings and misses.
After posting a 5.97 K/9 in May, he didn’t top 4.90 again for the season. While the minor league numbers give us hope, the reality is he may just not have the stuff to strikeout more than 5 batters per 9 in the Majors. That would make him a tough sell for most. His potential in WHIP makes him at least worth taking a closer look at, however.
Kevin Correia – Pittsburgh Pirates
K/9 of 4.68
He has transformed himself, cutting down the strikeouts and going with more control and groundballs. Unfortunately, the overall results just haven’t been there. He gets hit hard and, unless he can walk less than 2 per 9 innings (like Diamond did in ’12), he doesn’t even have the WHIP potential. An easy pass for me.
K/9 of 5.00
It’s Jeremy Guthrie, do I really need to say more? He has no value to fantasy owners.
Make sure to check out the rest of our extremely early 2013 rankings: