by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The 2014 season was a Cy Young caliber campaign for Johnny Cueto, with 20 wins, a 2.25 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. Does that line guarantee that he produces like one of the elite for a second consecutive season? Absolutely not, and chances are that there’s a significant regression in his future.
The first number that jumps out to you is his 8.94 K/9 (242 K). For his career he owns a 7.41 mark and he had been in that vicinity the previous few seasons:
- 2009 – 6.93
- 2010 – 6.69
- 2011 – 6.00
- 2012 – 7.05
- 2013 – 7.57
He does generate a lot of swings outside the strike zone (35.6% O-Swing% in 2014), but overall he simply doesn’t get swings and misses. Last season his SwStr% was 9.8%, similar to his 9.1% career mark. The league average was 9.4%, so can we truly buy into the improvement?
Granted, he’s always going to have good control (2.40 BB/9 in 2014, 2.71 for his career), but he’s hardly an elite groundball pitcher. Last season he posted a 46.2% groundball rate (19.3% line drive rate), yet he was incredibly lucky with a .238 BABIP and 82.5% strand rate. It’s nearly impossible that those numbers replicate themselves and alone would hurt his potential projection. When coupled with a likely decline in strikeouts as well?
It’s a pretty simply formula actually:
Fewer Strikeouts + Regression in Luck = Significantly More Base Runners
More men on base is likely going to mean a significantly higher ERA, which we would’ve expected anyways given his strand rate. Extra base runners plus a regression in his strand rate? Maybe it’s not ugly, but it certainly isn’t going to be as pretty.
None of this means that Cueto isn’t going to be a viable fantasy option, because he should be. However the numbers could easily be closer to the 2010 Cueto (3.64 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) as opposed to the 2014 version.
Obviously we aren’t going to be paying 2010 prices on draft day, with his current average ADP sitting at 33.3. Chances are I’m not going to be owning him in any format as there’s simply too high of a price tag and too much risk to justify making the selection.
Sources – Fangraphs, Fantasy Pros
Make sure to check out all of our early 2015 rankings:
- First Basemen
- Second Basemen
- Third Basemen
- Starting Pitchers
- Relief Pitchers
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