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December 21, 2012

The Keeper Reaper

Starters for 12/21/12

by Paul Sporer

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Kris Medlen | Atlanta Braves
Shallow (30 keepers): No
Medium (60 keepers): No
Deep (90 keepers): Fringe
NL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

Let’s focus for a minute. We are talking about 12 starts. At least with breakout stars like Chris Sale and Wade Miley it was a full season of work; both topped 190 innings. Medlen threw 138 in all, just 84 of which came as a starter. Mind you, they were an elite 84 innings, but that doesn’t mean you start relying on him as you would a Jake Peavy or James Shields, let alone a Justin Verlander or Clayton Kershaw. The equation changes when we get into auction leagues because he is almost assuredly a cheap asset, but for the purposes of our exercise here, we’re talking straight draft where there aren’t differing costs.

Medlen has become something of a party-crasher as the Braves were expecting a rotation of Tim Hudson and blue chip prospects, but Tommy Hanson’s fizzling out and subsequent trade plus Julio Teheran’s slowed progress (though he still very much remains a blue chip prospect) has opened the door for Medlen. Those not terribly familiar with Medlen may think he is a hot prospect himself, but he is actually 27 years old. The future is no doubt appealing for Medlen, though. He missed all of his 2011, but his 2010 was another hybrid season where he threw 84 innings (108 in all) with encouraging results including a 3.86 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, and 3.9 K/BB.

Roy Halladay | Philadelphia Phillies
Shallow (30 keepers): Yes
Medium (60 keepers): Yes
Deep (90 keepers): Yes
NL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

This may feel like a no-brainer to some. To you: good. You are the ones who pass the class; the rest of you please see me afterward. One year does not a trend make. Yes, Halladay is 36 years old, which definitely adds some extra risk, but 12 months ago he was still unquestionably a top-three pitcher with Verlander and Kershaw; now he’s being viewed, at least by some, as a washed up hag. His pristine seven-year track record from 2005-2011 during which the only thing that stopped him was a freak injury (caused by a line drive from Kevin Mench and his big dumb head) is enough to rely on and go back to the well in 2013.

And let’s not pretend he completely fell apart in 2012. The walk rate spiked a bit to a rate most would kill for but looked horrific against his career-best 2.1 BB/9, and yet he still maintained a 3.7 K/BB in his 156 innings. He was got hit harder, resulting in his first groundball rate south of 50 percent (45 percent) while his line drive was a career-worst 23 percent. You should only be concerned if you believe this was a loss of skill as opposed to injury-related (or mere bad luck). It was the latter for me, so I’m still on board for 2013, and while he may not be “best pitcher in the game”-level, I expect pretty damn close.

Brandon Morrow | Toronto Blue Jays
Shallow (30 keepers): No
Medium (60 keepers): No
Deep (90 keepers): Fringe
AL-only (60 keepers): Yes
Super Deep (200 keepers): Yes

I think Morrow is actually the long reliever of the Blue Jays now after their trades, so I probably should’ve left this for Dan Mennella’s Keeper Reaper. Joking aside, the massive influx of talent north of the border hasn’t cost Morrow his job. In fact, it removed a lot of the burden off of him to be a front-line guy, though I don’t believe “pressure to be great” or anything of that nature has caused Morrow to constantly disappoint relative to expectations. Unless, of course, the pressure was literal and caused his right forearm (2011) and left oblique (2012) to break.

Morrow flipped everything on its head last year. After years of promising peripherals, disappointing ERAs, and FIPs to dream on, he saw his strikeout rate dip by nearly 2.5 per game, his ERA plummet below 3.00, and his FIP elevate to a level that said it probably wasn’t legitimate. The biggest switch was finally showing some ability to leave runners stranded. His two years as a full-time starter saw him fail to strand even 70 percent of his baserunners, but that jumped to 77 last year.

So where we are now? Unfortunately, we are where we’ve been: waiting for an ultra-promising arm to deliver a full season of the excellence he has shown he is capable of in spurts. With that, it is extremely difficult to envision keeping him in any league using the entire player pool, save the deepest dynasty-type leagues. Remember how Rich Harden used to tease us? Morrow doesn’t have a pair of injury-addled sub-50 inning seasons in his mid-20s like Harden did, but we haven’t seen him throw even 180 yet, and the injuries sustained aren’t exactly innocuous non-arm injuries (add right shoulder and bicep as the pre-2011 ailments). Venture at your own risk, but remember, your league doesn’t reward potential.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

Related Content:  Kris Medlen

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