John Ely, a third round selection of the Chicago White Sox in 2007 (the Dodgers acquired him as part of the Juan Pierre trade), has certainly been solid over his first four big league starts. He was shaky in his major league debut (5 ER in 6 IP against the Mets), but has still managed the following line:
25 Strikeouts (8.8 K/9)
3 Walks (1.1 BB/9)
Those are impressive numbers, to say the least. Over his last three starts he’s allowed 2 earned runs or less. He hasn’t walked a batter since his first start. In his last 19.2 innings he’s struck out 21.
The walks are probably the most impressive number. He does have tremendous control, but thus far he’s been better then that. Over his minor league career (375.2 innings), he posted a BB/9 of 2.8, so there’s no questioning his ability to throw strikes. It’s impossible to see him continue to avoid walks at this type of pace, however.
No, I wouldn’t expect him to often see him three batters per start (as he did against the Mets), but look for his BB/9 to sneak up to the 2.5-3.0 range as he continues to face big league hitters.
The strikeout rate is a bit deceiving as well. Over his minor league career he posted a K/9 of 7.9, so to see him take this type of jump in the major leagues is surprising. It could be tied to a lack of knowledge on him, having thrown just 18.0 innings above Double-A before his recall.
Does he have the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher? It would seem like it, reading this description of his arsenal from Baseball America prior to the 2009 season:
“Ely’s best pitch is a plus-plus changeup, and he does a nice job of setting it up with an 88-94 mph fastball with good movement. His 12-to-6 curveball can be an out pitch at times, too.”
Of course, you would have liked to have seen more strikeout potential from him in the minor leagues in order to fully believe this type of performance. Even at Triple-A prior to his recall he had struck out just 12 in 18 innings, good for a K/9 of 6.0.
It would just appear that he’s due for a regression there.
So, we’re likely going to see a decrease in strikeouts and an increase in walks. That means he’s a pitcher to avoid, right? Think again.
He’s actually been unlucky in the strand rate, with a 60.0% mark. Even if he is going to allow more base runners, that number should improve to the norm, meaning he has a chance to at least maintain his ERA.
The WHIP is going to regress, but again, it should continue to be a usable number thanks to his control. Minimizing the walks really goes a long way in helping a pitchers overall numbers. It also helps that he produces a good number of groundballs, a 50.1% clip in his minor league career.
If the strikeouts are for real (doubtful), all the better. Still, you have a solid groundball pitcher who doesn’t hand out many free passes. Throw in a great offense behind him and you get a pitcher that certainly is worth taking the flyer on. I would watch the matchups for now, but if you are in a deeper format, he’s definitely proven usable if the matchup justifies it.
What are your thoughts on Ely? Do you think he’s for real? Is he someone you’re willing to take a flyer on?
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