Prospect Report: Jeremy Hellickson

In many organizations Jeremy Hellickson, or “Hellboy” as he’s nicknamed, would be considered a shoe in to open the 2010 season as a part of the Major League rotation.  Just look at the 22-year old righties 2.45 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 10.42 K/9 over 114 innings between Double and Triple-A in 2009 as proof.  He is one of the brightest pitching prospects in the game, but pitching in the Tampa Bay Rays system, that doesn’t get you much.

Just look at the top four in the Rays rotation:

  • James Shields
  • Matt Garza
  • Jeff Niemann
  • David Price

Hellickson will have a chance to break camp with the team, though he will be competing with fellow prospect Wade Davis, who posted a 3.72 ERA in six starts for the Rays in 2009.  That battle can go either way, but we should assume that sooner or later, Hellickson is going to get his chance to make his Major League debut, and that makes him a pitcher that needs to be on all fantasy radars.

Baseball America, who recently ranked him as the Rays second best prospect (ahead of Davis), described his arsenal as saying:

“Hellickson rarely gives hitters a chance to gain the upper hand. He works ahead in the count with impeccable command of his low-90s fastball, which touches 94 mph and has nice sink. His changeup has become a plus pitch as he has added late fade over the past two years. He can throw his solid curveball for strikes or get hitters to chase it out of the zone. He throws strikes and creates deception by delivering all of his pitches from the same arm angle.”

If there was any concern over Hellickson’s control, that clearly should not be an issue.  You would expect him to walk more batters as he moves up the levels, facing more patient and experienced batters.

In 57.1 innings at Triple-A in 2009, his BB/9 was just 2.4, versus a K/9 of 11.0.  In fact, in his nine starts he never walked more than three batters.  Over his last four starts, he walked just 5 while striking out 41 in 27 innings of work.  Three times he reached double-digit strikeouts, with the other start at nine.

The one concern could be the number of innings he’ll be allowed to throw in 2010.  Last season he worked just 114 innings, missing time due to a sprain in his throwing shoulder.  In 2008 he did work 152 innings between Single and Double-A, so it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, type of inning cap the Rays give him.

All you have to do is look at his career minor league statistics to realize that there is nothing left for him to prove.  Just look at some of the highlights of his 461.0 innings pitched since being a fourth round draft pick in 2005:

  • 2.71 ERA
  • 1.02 WHIP
  • 9.9 K/9
  • 2.0 BB/9
  • 0.8 HR/9

There’s just nothing not to like in those numbers as he has excelled at every level and with every challenge that the Rays have thrown at him.  While he likely won’t be able to immediately put up these types of numbers in the Major Leagues, his strikeout rate alone makes him an intriguing option.

You’ll want to pick your spots, considering he’ll routinely face the Yankees and Red Sox, but all keeper league owners should already have him stashed away.  Those in yearly leagues should monitor his progress and pounce once he gets a shot in the Major Leagues.

He’s that type of prospect and certainly could help make a difference in fantasy formats if you use him appropriately and pick your spots.

What are your thoughts?  Could Hellickson be fantasy viable in 2010?  How good do you see him being?

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