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Post-Hype Sleeper: Homer Bailey

Prior to the 2007 season, Baseball America ranked Homer Bailey the fifth-best prospect in all of baseball.  Before the '08 season, they had him ninth.  But after the '08 season, Bailey sported a 6.72 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9 in 81.6 big league innings.  He also allowed 102 hits in that time.  '09 was a little better - Bailey's Triple-A performance improved, and his Major League numbers in 20 starts were at least tolerable.

Back in March, Bailey still went undrafted in mixed leagues.  I projected him to post a 4.64 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 175 innings, and he bested those rates only by a bit - 4.46 and 1.37.  He was limited to 109 Major League innings, hitting the DL with shoulder inflammation on May 24th.  He wasn't activated until August 15th.  Given Bailey's WHIP and the injury risk, there's really not enough here to justify drafting him inside the first 15 rounds in 2011.  But there are signs that he could have a big campaign, even if the hype has subsided.

  • Bailey throws hard - an average fastball velocity of 92.8 this year and 94.4 last year.  In late September, Bailey touched 97.  As simple as it is, fastball velocity is a good way to identify breakout players. 
  • He had strong peripheral stats - an 8.26 K/9 and 3.30 BB/9.  His K/9 ranked 27th among those with 100 innings, and pretty much all the names surrounding him on the list are good fantasy pitchers.  His 4.46 ERA was deceptive - xFIP says 3.91 and SIERA says 3.79.  Given the same peripherals next year Bailey should be in that range.
  • Bailey's work leading up to his DL stint wasn't amazing - 5.51 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.24 HR/9 in 50.6 innings across nine starts.  But check out what he did after he returned: 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.62 HR/9 in 58.3 innings across ten starts. That included nine and ten-strikeout efforts.

Before the '09 season Bailey had never topped 147.6 innings in a season.  In '09, he tossed 203 - an increase of more than 55 innings.  He wasn't efficient, either - in his big league time in '09 he ranked 7th-worst in baseball (100 innings minimum) with 17.7 pitches per inning.  He didn't improve upon that this year, ranking third-worst with a similar figure.  There was no difference before and after his DL stint, either.  My guess: Bailey's injury this year was related to his '09 workload.  Also, he really labors out there, so even if he makes 30 starts don't expect more than 175 innings in 2011.

Bailey's pedestrian fantasy rate stats in 2010, his time lost to injury, and his inefficiency make him a risky play for 2011.  Those red flags also make him a great sleeper, as he'll probably go late in drafts.

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