Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Has Framber Valdez Emerged As A Top 25 Starter?

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There’s often been hype, and disappointment, surrounding the Astros’ Framber Valdez. However a 3.57 ERA over 70.2 IP in 2020 gives an indication of how high his upside may be, and he showed all three skills we look for from a pitcher:

  • Strikeouts – 9.68 K/9
  • Control – 2.04 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 60.0%

The southpaw has always shown this type of groundball stuff, with a 62.8% groundball rate over 178.1 IP in the Majors. The difference is an improvement in both his strikeouts and control, giving him the allure of the total package.

Of course his SwStr% (10.0%) and O-Swing% (28.6%) may not quite justify the improvement, as it’s not a vast improvement over his past. He also virtually shelved his fourseam fastball, giving the impression of a two-pitch pitcher:

  • Sinker – 55.48%
  • Curveball – 33.46%
  • Changeup – 7.91%
  • Fourseam Fastball – 3.15%

Can he repeatedly get through a lineup given that type of pitch mix? Opposing hitters hit .124 against his curveball, as it also represented his best swing and miss pitch (19.09% Whiff%). It makes sense to throw it often, and the groundball rate also justifies the usage of his sinker.

His BABIP (.312) and strand rate (67.5%) don’t indicate much luck, and it’s interesting that opponents were better against him early in the game (not late) as evidenced by the BAA:

  • 1st Time Through – .288
  • 2nd Time Through – .213
  • 3rd Time Through – .219

That would make it appear that Valdez can operate with the current mix, and that’s extremely promising. With his stuff the potential is there to be among the elite. Maybe he’s not a Top 25 option entering 2021, but the upside is there. He’s going to be well worth targeting.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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