by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Entering play on Monday there were five qualified starting pitchers who owned a K/9 under 4.00. Do these pitchers have hope of improving on the mark, or is it a crippling number that makes them easy cuts? Let’s take a look and try to figure it out:
Jeremy Hellickson – Philadelphia Philles
K/9 – 2.65
He’s never been a big strikeout pitcher, but he does still own a career 6.74 K/9 (and has posted marks of 7.46 and 7.33 pitching in the NL the past two seasons). His velocity is down slightly, with his fourseam fastball averaging 89.62 mph. With his changeup being his biggest swing and miss pitch (28.12% Whiff% in ’16), you have to wonder if the lack of velocity is playing a significant role in his struggles.
It’s early in the season so we want to be patient, but if there isn’t a significant change his solid start is going to vaporize before our eyes. At this point it’s hard, especially given how deep pitching is and his relative lack of overall upside.
Verdict – Ditch
Jaime Garcia – Atlanta Braves
K/9 – 3.27
The owner of a career 7.21 K/9, Garcia has always shown the potential to give enough strikeouts to go along with control and groundballs. Not only is he not striking people out, but his control has been average (3.27 BB/9) and the groundballs haven’t been there (40.5%). It’s only two starts, but it’s concerning all the same.
It’s interesting that he’s utilized his fourseam fastball more in the early going (45.12%), an adjustment we’d expect the veteran to make. Obviously if this continues for more than another start or two the outlook could change, but for now he’s always shown enough that as long as he’s healthy he’s going to hold appeal.
Verdict – Hold
Hisashi Iwakuma – Seattle Mariners
K/9 – 3.60
His strikeout rate had started to fall last season (6.65 K/9) and he’s always had issues with home runs (1.16 HR/9 for his career). Never a particularly hard thrower, his fastball is down to 85.3 mph this season and that could be part of the issue. He also is struggling with his control (3.60 BB/9), and while that should improve the other marks make some ugly numbers likely. Home runs aren’t an issue if opponents don’t make contact, but with that not likely here he’s going to be torched before long.
Verdict – Ditch
Ivan Nova – Pittsburgh Pirates
K/9 – 3.75
His curveball was his best outpitch last season (17.82% Whiff), yet he’s used it nearly half as much in ’17 (28.46% to 14.86%). Does that make much sense? The mystique of pitching for the Pirates helps to give him the benefit of the doubt, but even in two starts when we see a 27.1% O-Swing% and 3.4% SwStr% we’d have concerns.
He hasn’t walked a batter and there is groundball stuff, so all he needs to do is add a few more strikeouts and he’ll be fine. He’s never going to be a sexy option, but a solid one to fill out your staff. For now stay the course
Verdict – Hold
Patrick Corbin – Arizona Diamondbacks
K/9 – 3.94
His fourseam fastball is averaging 93.02 mph this early in the season, which is promising. At the same time he’s not missing many bats (6.1% SwStr%), isn’t fooling anyone (23.7% O-Swing%) and was so bad last season that he was pulled from the rotation. Maybe if he was throwing strikes, which he’s not (3.94 BB/9), and that was one of his biggest issues from a year ago (3.82 BB/9). There’s enough intrigue, considering the upside that he once showed, so it all depends on who you’d be moving him for. In most cases there’s likely a better pickup available.
Verdict – Maybe Ditch, Maybe Hold
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out our Preseason 2017 Prospect Rankings:
|Top 50 Prospects||1-50|
|Right Handed Pitchers:||1-10||11-20|
|Left Handed Pitchers:||1-10|