Late Round Draft Day Targets: Strikeouts

Finding strikeouts late in your draft is not something that is particularly easy to do.  Generally, one of the reasons pitchers fall on draft day is because they lack in one area (most notably, no upside in strikeouts).  However, there are a few pitchers out there who could significantly help you in the category.  Here are five pitchers who are being picked after #216, on average, and I have projected to strikeout at least 170 batters in 2011:

Edinson Volquez – Cincinnati Reds
The only reason Volquez is being selected this late is because he is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery.  He showed that there was cause for concern in his control, posting a BB/9 of 5.03 in his 12 starts in 2010, but that really shouldn’t be news.  Even prior to the injury Volquez didn’t have elite control but, with more time to recover, you would think that he should be able to find the strike zone more.

What he did prove after returning was that he has the same electric stuff as he did prior to the injury.  He averaged 93.6 mph on his fastball and posted a K/9 of 9.62.  Yet, people are still scared off, giving him an ADP of 316.19.

Really?  This is the same pitcher who struck out 206 batters to go along with a 3.21 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 2008.  If that isn’t worth selecting late in your draft I don’t know what is.

Brian Matusz – Baltimore Orioles
In his first full Major League season Matusz showed plenty of potential, despite his 4.30 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.  Unfortunately, those types of numbers are quite common when you call the AL East home, which is going to help deter some fantasy owners from drafting him.

You shouldn’t let the numbers dictate your approach, as he made significant steps forward after the All-Star Break.  In the first half of the season he posted a 4.77 ERA and 1.45 WHIP.  Afterwards, he posted an impressive 3.63 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.  He was unlucky in the first half, with a .322 BABIP, but the number was more believable in the second half, at .278.

It wasn’t only luck, however, as his skills overall were better.  His walks decreased, from 3.31 to 3.13.  More notably, his strikeouts increased significantly, from 6.98 to 7.88.  The latter number is much more indicative of what the 2008 first round draft pick (fourth overall) did over his minor league career, where he posted a 9.64 K/9.

With a full season under his belt, even in a difficult division, he appears primed to establish himself as a viable option.  While you may not want to play him start in and start out, based on the matchups, he definitely can bring strikeouts to the table.  With an ADP of 248.79, there is no questioning the upside and the value he brings on draft day.

Ian Kennedy – Arizona Diamondbacks
The former Yankees farmhand finally got a full-time rotation spot after being traded to the Diamondbacks and he certainly made the most of it.  In 194.0 innings he posted a 3.80 ERA and 1.20
WHIP.  You certainly can argue that luck was on his side (.256), which does raise a slight red flag in his overall numbers.

However, he has shown good control every step of the way (2.79 BB/9 over his minor league career) and an ability to generate strikeouts.  Last season he posted a K/9 of 7.8, and given what he did over parts of three Triple-A seasons, the potential is there for so much more:

  • 2007 – 19.0 IP, 8.8 K/9
  • 2008 – 69.0 IP, 9.4 K/9
  • 2009 – 22.2 IP, 9.9 K.9

Considering he’s sporting an ADP of 246.21, he’s well worth the gamble.

A.J. Burnett – New York Yankees
We all know why he is going late in drafts.  You just never know what you are going to get from him, whether it is year to year, start to start or even inning to inning.

However, if he is on he has the stuff to be among the best pitchers in the game.  From what I’ve seen from him this preseason I have liked what I’ve seen, but he has a long ways to go to win back any confidence from fantasy owners.  However, we are talking about an ADP of 353.16, and, at that point, he is well worth the risk.

He has two season of over 200 Ks under his belt and additional seasons with 195 and 198.  He’s going to bring great frustration from time to time, but at that point in the draft he also could bring a heck of a lot of reward.

Bud Norris – Houston Astros
Over his minor league career he has a K/9 of 9.50.  Over his Major League career he is actually at 9.11.  He even exploded in 2010 with a 14 K game against the Pirates in August.  So, exactly why is he sporting an ADP of 364.47?

Well, a 4.92 ERA and 1.48 WHIP will do that to you.  However, the numbers are not really indicative of the skills he has shown.  He was sabotaged by poor luck in ’10, with a .314 BABIP and 67.1% strand rate.  Improving those two numbers alone would go a long ways.

He also suffered from poor control, with a BB/9 of 4.51.  However, over his minor league career he was at 3.67, so there certainly is reason for hope.

He brings plenty of strikeout upside, which alone gives him value as a late round flyer.  With other numbers that should improve as well, there is a lot to like.

What are your thoughts on these five pitchers?  Who would you select late?  Are there any other potential strikeout pitchers you are targeting late?

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Make sure to check out our previous late round articles:

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