We haven’t discussed Edinson Volquez much, but as he prepares to return from Tommy John surgery quicker then anyone could have expected (he’s scheduled to start tomorrow) it’s interesting to look at what could be in store for the second half.
He had a magical debut season in Cincinnati in 2008 after being acquired for Josh Hamilton. He went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, striking out 206 batters over 196.0 innings.
It wasn’t all rosy, however, walking 4.3 batters per nine innings, which caused the WHIP to be usable, but less then stellar. That’s the main concern with Volquez as he comes back. His control was awful last season prior to being shut down, walking 5.8 per nine innings (32 walks over 49.2 innings).
Coming back from Tommy John surgery, we’ve seen many pitchers struggle with their control. A prime example is Francisco Liriano, who had a BB/9 of 2.4 prior to missing a year with the injury. In 2008 his BB/9 was 3.8 (76.0 innings) and in 2009 it was 4.3 (136.2 innings). It was not until this season that he has finally rediscovered the control he once had.
With Volquez, he never had good control. It’s easy to say that he’s walked just five batters over 24 minor league innings during his rehab, but the competition is not quite the same. Plus, all five of his walks have come in his last 11 innings, certainly not a good sign.
During his rehab, he’s struck out 19 over 24 innings, a K/9 of 7.1. It is an extremely small sample size, so we can’t draw any definitive conclusions. Still, if that is actually the number that translates to the major leagues, there are going to be concerns.
The fewer strikeouts he gets, the more balls that are put in play. That’s going to have an impact on his WHIP, because even with the same luck it is going to result in more hits.
A lot of Volquez’ value was in his ability to strike batters out. If that does not fully come back, and coming back from injury there is every reason to believe that he won’t get there until 2011 at the earliest, he’s going to lose value. Throw in the concerns about his control that already existed (and are magnified due to the missed time) and it is not unthinkable that he struggles mightily in the second half of the season.
Is he worth owning? Absolutely, but do not consider him your savior or a must use option in any format. I also wouldn’t use him for his first couple of starts, no matter what he shows early. It’s just too big of a gamble, given the uncertainty of what he may bring to the table. When a pitcher is coming off Tommy John surgery, what we thought we knew about him is irrelevant. He’s a new pitcher, and we need to take the time to learn what he will be in the second half of 2010.
Proceed cautiously and hope for the best. That way, you can benefit from any success, but don’t get burned if he struggles early (a very realistic possibility).
What are your thoughts on Volquez? How cautious will you be with him? Do you think he’ll be usable in 2010?
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