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Post-Hype Sleepers: Francisco Liriano

There was a time when Francisco Liriano was on a gravy train with biscuit wheels.  He posted a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 144 strikeouts, and a strong groundball rate in 121 innings in 2006, his rookie season.  His stuff was ridiculous - a fastball averaging 94.7 mph and a nasty slider, coming from the left side.

But Liriano's elbow started barking in August of '06, and by November he was on the table for Tommy John surgery. 

The Twins had Liriano up for three ugly starts in April of '08, but then had him start his next 20 in the minors.  He pitched well but the Twins waited until August 3rd to recall him, causing some to suggest the team was trying to avoid Super Two status.  Liriano was sharp over those final two months - 2.74 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9.  Warnings signs we might've missed: his fastball velocity hadn't returned, and he faced terrible offenses in 7 of the 11 starts.

Fantasy touts, myself included, figured Liriano was ready to return contribute in 2009, even if he didn't return to greatness.  I liked him for a sub-4.00 ERA, a sub-1.30 WHIP, and plenty of Ks.  He was being drafted in the 6th round - typically too rich for my blood, but not indefensible.  Liriano was a huge bust though - 5.80 ERA, tons of walks, hits, and home runs, and a 91.7 mph average fastball.  David Golebiewski of FanGraphs says Liriano wasn't as bad as his numbers, but his stuff was still way off.

Here in 2010, Liriano is being drafted at 280.80 - the 24th round in a 12-team mixed league.  At present, he's a risk-free choice.  You're not risking much even if he moves up in draft position over the next couple months.  And he will move up - Liriano dazzled in the Dominican Winter League and figures to do the same in Spring Training. He says his velocity, location, and slider are back and he feels like he did in '06.  Take him in the 15th round or later and see if the statement holds up.



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