by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Of the seven players who were extended a qualified offer it should come as no surprise that Hyun-Jin Ryu was the only one who accepted. It’s not to say that he’s not worth a one-year, $17.9 million offer, because from a talent level he might be (though might is the key word), but it’s hard to envision him having received more via free agency. That’s because he’s consistently struggled to stay on the mound, and last season was no exception:
89 Strikeouts (9.73 K/9)
15 Walks (1.64 BB/9)
45.8% Groundball Rate
It was a dominant season, but he only made 15 starts. In fact since throwing 152.0 innings in 2014 he’s totaled 213.2 innings (including missing all of 2015). As a one-year gamble he showed why there’s value and upside, but would anyone have really given him more on a year contract? Not likely, and as we look at the numbers the 31-year old posted there are going to be obvious questions as it is.
Obviously, right off the bat we know that he benefited from a fair amount of luck considering his BABIP (career mark of .302) and 85.4% strand rate. A regression in both of those, which is fair to expect, is going to immediately have a negative impact.
It’s also impossible to expect him to maintain this type of elite control. Sure he showed great numbers early in his career (BB/9 of 2.30 and 1.72 over his first two seasons), but he’s far removed from those types of numbers with a lot of injuries in his past. Over 126.2 IP in 2017 he posted a 3.20 BB/9 and while he may be better than that it’s also hard to envision the elite type of mark.
How about the strikeouts, which were a career high? Over the past few seasons he’s started to incorporate a cut fastball, utilizing the pitch 24.88% in 2018. While it’s not a swing and miss pitch itself, you have to wonder if it helps his changeup play up better as he set a career high with a 23.48% Whiff% on the pitch. That’s intriguing, and it’s also no surprise that he excelled considering how much he used that pitch and his curveball, both to significant success (AVG/SLG):
- Changeup – .177/.274
- Curveball – .216/.314
Again can we expect him to match the success he had last season? Probably not, but there’s reason to believe that he could maintain nearly a strikeout per inning. Coupled with at least good control, even if it’s not elite, and there’s reason for optimism when he’s on the mound…
And that remains the biggest knock against Ryu. At this point how many innings can we reasonably expect in 2019? Is 125 a fair expectation? Would we be thrilled with 150? If he ever made 30+ starts he’d likely be a Top 30 starter, but keep in mind that it’s a long shot at best.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections: