by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
As we’ve said, the Indians have a recent track record of young pitching breaking out. First it was Corey Kluber, then Carlos Carrasco. Who could be their 2015 breakout performer? Don’t be surprised if it is T.J. House.
You could argue that House has already emerged, posting a 3.35 ERA over 102.0 IP in 2014. However that mark came courtesy of a 1.32 WHIP so there’s obviously room for improvement.
What’s important to takeaway from looking at House is that he not only has displayed the three skills we look for, but there’s upside for more:
In his rookie season House posted a 7.06 K/9 and, despite a 6.91 mark in the minors since 2011, there is actually room for growth. He posted a 9.3% SwStr%, as well as a 33.3% O-Swing%. Compared to league average marks of 9.4% and 31.3%, respectively, they do offer the potential for further growth in the strikeout department (especially considering his strong finish, with an 8.36 K/9 in August and 8.25 in September).
All we really need is for him to get to a league average mark, which was 7.73 last season, though there is a chance he takes an even bigger step.
In the Majors he posted a 1.94 BB/9 and he owns a 2.66 mark in the minors since 2011. Even a small step backwards isn’t going to have a significant impact on his numbers. He is a very good/potentially great control pitcher.
He posted an elite level 60.9% groundball rate in the Majors last season. That came after a 52.8% mark in the minors in 2013 and 57.3% prior to his recall in 2014. Like with his control, maybe he takes a small step back but it is going to be an asset regardless.
So why the elevated WHIP? The problem comes down to luck (.332 BABIP) and, more specifically, luck against right-handed hitters (.346 BABIP). Since 2011 in the minors righties own a .316 BABIP against him, so this isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, the only pitch he had success against righties with was his slider:
- Sinker – .351
- Change – .304
- Slider – .172
- Curve – .667
That’s a significant concern, as he needs another weapon to use against them if he wants to have success. It’s going to be the biggest obstacle working against him, and one we will have to monitor come Spring Training. Given the team’s recent track record, though, seeing him figure it out wouldn’t be surprising.
Time will tell if House can take the next step and emerge as a solid fantasy contributor. He certainly has all of the makings, assuming he can find a way to consistently get right-handed hitters out. The draft day expense shouldn’t be much, though, making him an intriguing name to target late.
Sources – Fangraphs, Minor League Central, Brooks Baseball