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September 10, 2013

Five to Watch

Injured NL Starting Pitchers

by Craig Goldstein


If it wasn’t made clear in my first article on starting pitchers who were due for a bounce back, my view on starting pitching is that depth is everywhere. I mean, hell, I tried to make a case for Edinson Volquez as a viable option heading into next season (author’s note: I’m a dolt). Perhaps Volquez was the wrong option to hang my case on, but I selected him in an effort to prove a point. That point you ask?

The point is that starting pitching depth is just about everywhere. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of five NL starting pitchers who either haven’t pitched in 2013, or have only just returned recently. They range from “I’ve been waiting on him for a couple years” to “I legitimately forgot he existed even though he’s on my favorite team*.”

*this exercise assumes your favorite team is the Dodgers and that you are me

Cory Luebke, San Diego Padres
Remember, way back in February, when the Padres had a potential rotation of Cory Luebke, Casey Kelly, and Joe Wieland, supplemented by any number of guys like Tim Stauffer, Tyson Ross, Edinson Volquez, and more? Well, Eric Stults is going to be the staff leader in innings pitched, so y’know, @cantpredictball and all that.

Long a favorite of mine and others, Luebke hasn’t pitched in a MLB game since April 27 of 2012. That’s a long time off for someone who was just only coming into his own when he went under the knife for Tommy John and flexor tendon surgery. The excitement about Luebke emanated from his strong 2011. True, it was only 140 innings, but a 27.8 percent(!) strikeout rate against an eight percent walk rate should get even the most out-of-touch fantasy owner to take notice. Add in PETCO Park as a backdrop and the scene looks even prettier. Luebke’s 3.29 ERA, while more than acceptable, was actually higher than it should have been, according to his FIP, which checked in at a cool 2.93.

The issue of course is that those beautiful numbers will be two years old before Luebke takes the field again. When he did play in 2012, the numbers, while still good, were compiled in a small sample and were not nearly what they were in 2011. His K% dropped a stunning 10 percentage points and while his walk rate dropped almost two percentage points, that doesn’t quite make up for it. All that said, he still had a 2.61 ERA and a 2.80 FIP in 31 innings pitched before the injury struck. It should also be noted that Luebke’s 27 percent strikeout rate was never going to be sustainable as a starter, as Luebke only made 17 starts in 2011, with another 29 appearances coming out of the bullpen.

So the ultimate question is, which Luebke are you getting if you plan on plunking down a pick for him in a redraft or if you’re going to use a keeper spot on him in a deep dynasty league. The answer, of course, is that we just don’t know. But we can assume that something closer to his 2012, at least as far as his rate stats go would be reasonable. That would be something along the lines of seven strikeouts per nine inning, a stellar WHIP due to a low walk rate combined with pitching at PETCO and low win totals because Padres. Luebke is expected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, and whether I’d burn a roster spot on him in a dynasty league would depend heavily on his showing there. If he’s not healthy, I probably ditch, but if he is, he’s a worthwhile rotation piece.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Daily Roundup: Around ... (09/10)
<< Previous Column
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Would-B... (09/06)
Next Column >>
Fantasy Article Five to Watch: Hot Cor... (09/16)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Ten... (09/10)

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