Detroit Tigers

A Look At Rick Porcello

20 year-old Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello was given a spot in the big league rotation today.  He'll attempt to make the jump from High A ball to the Majors.  Let's start with the scouting reports.

ESPN's Keith Law had this to say about Porcello, who posted a 5.2 K/9 and 64.1% groundball rate at High A last year:

He doesn't miss a lot of bats with the new approach, but generating ground balls keeps the pitch count down, and pitchers who throw strikes and don't give up home runs can be very successful. But bear in mind that Porcello has the raw stuff to be more of a strikeout pitcher, and when he reaches the majors, he could blend the two approaches and be one of the top pitchers in the game.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus admits Porcello is "incredibly difficult to project" due to the Tigers' mandate last year to work efficiently.  He says Porcello's "readiness is debatable."

In other words, throw projection systems out the window (although Baseball Prospectus' top comp of Roy Halladay is intriguing).

So here we are with a prospect all the gurus love and no ability to project his stats.  What to do?  My usual recommendation is to draft/pick up now and ask questions later.  That applies, but don't be cutting anyone you drafted in the first 18 rounds or so for him.  I think Porcello will hold his own in the Majors, but he may only go five innings in a lot of his starts and the Tigers' bullpen is questionable.  So he may not win games.  And he doesn't profile as a guy who will rack up Ks like Tim Lincecum did, even if he does bump his K rate in the Majors.  It's probably best not to get seduced by Porcello in a mixed league, especially one with 12 teams or less. 


23 year-old righthander Justin Verlander shut down the fearsome Texas lineup Saturday night, tossing seven scoreless innings while throwing just 89 pitches.  He whiffed seven, including Brad Wilkerson three times.  What's Verlander's outlook for the rest of the season?

I created a Top 20 Fantasy Rookies list back in November, and Verlander ranked 4th.  A little background from Baseball America:

The Padres passed over Verlander for the #1 pick overall, opting for Matt Bush.  Ouch!  He throws a mid-90s heater with a nasty curveball.  His changeup rates well too.  Verlander was a college pick, and breezed through the minors with a 1.29 ERA in 118 innings last year.  He made a couple of starts for the big club that summer, but they didn't go well.

He would've gotten a callup in September, but had been shut down earlier with a tired arm/shoulder. 

To get a better read on the situation, I posed a question to Will Carroll during a February chat:

tdierkes (Chicago, IL): Around how many innings can we expect out of Justin Verlander? I don't think he's ever topped 120 in a pro season.

Will Carroll: 130 last year, between three levels. He ended up tired last year, but not injured. Ideally, I'd like to see him between 150-170 but I wouldn't hate seeing 190 from him if the internal numbers look good.

Hence my projection of 165 innings this year.  Maybe 27-28 starts.  Seems like Will thinks he can get another 3-4 starts on top of that if everything feels good late in the season.

I was fairly modest with his K rate, going with 6.8 per nine.  That's still above average.  I see him having good control and doing a great job keeping the ball in the park.  My initial projected 0.65 HR/9 was a tad ambitious; I've moved it to 0.75 per nine.  Still would be fantastic.

Overall, I projected a 3.48 ERA and 1.24 WHIP for the kid.  He's a serious ROY contender and should win 10+ games for the Tigers.  Given the modest innings total, Verlander is about a $5-6 in a mixed league, maybe 50th overall. 

Verlander is obviously a great keeper league pick.  And the dollar value is deceiving - depending on your league, you can probably get a lot more than that out of his roster spot.  If you only account for DL trips, you could get screwed.  If he tires again late in the year he probably will not go on the DL.  But if you're in a typical league with a few bench spots, you can factor in another 40-50 innings of slightly above average pitching from another starter  if Verlander is shut down or skips a few starts.   


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A Note On Chris Shelton

As much as I like Chris Shelton, it is important to observe the opposing pitcher for his league-leading five home runs.

Scott Elarton (2)
R.A. Dickey (2)
John Koronka (1)

Three of the five blasts came at Ameriquest against pitchers who do not belong in the Major Leagues.  I think I went deep off Dickey's 65mph knuckler last night.  And Elarton had the fifth worst HR/9 in baseball last year.

So while I respect and admire the torrid start, keep in mind that Shelton has to face the Cleveland, Chicago, and Minnesota pitching staffs quite a bit.  He's been feasting on some of the worst pitchers in the game so far.

On the docket in the near future:  Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras, and Jon Garland.  Expect him to slap Garcia around a bit, at the least.   

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