Young Pitchers to Watch

Young Pitchers to Watch

Young Pitchers to Watch
By Joe Nelson

In the 2006 season several rookie pitchers posted great numbers and paid out big money to backers with great results. Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano, and Jered Weaver were the three rookie goldmines that tore up the American League that summer. In the last two seasons a lot of attention and expectation has been placed on young pitchers with great projections with hopes of creating a similar run. This is not a new phenomenon with Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden being great historic examples of rookie success but for every pitcher that turns in a great rookie season there are many more that do not have that kind of success even with great expectations. Since that summer there has been a lot of attention on finding the next young profit-maker to ride but so far few have emerged and many are being priced out of reasonable value, despite proving little.

There are many candidates that could emerge as a dominating young starter this season but the value will escape the young hurlers quickly as bettors are hoping to find similar results to the runs found in 2006. Remember that all three of the examples from 2006 were playing on good teams with Detroit and Minnesota both making the playoffs and the Angels just missing out. Here some pitchers to watch in 2008 but be cautious as finding one pitcher, let alone three, to recreate a great run like in 2006 will be very rare.

Strong Consideration:

Clay Buchholz, Boston:

The secret that Buchholz has good stuff is well past out and the no-hitter last season in just his second start in addition to playing for the World Series champion Red Sox will erase any possibility of playing on Buchholz as anything less than a modest favorite in most match-ups. Buchholz has had decent numbers so far this season but Boston is 0-2 behind him as a favorite and throughout his brief career walks have been a bit of a concern, but not yet a problem. The early 0-2 start may actually be a good thing for Buchholz backers as he may be have slightly deflated lines in his next few starts and he did not pitch poorly in losses to Toronto and New York. He will obviously still be a huge favorite in many match-ups but Buchholz may be worth a look against experienced well known pitchers or against top tier teams.

Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati:
Johnny Cueto is getting much more attention but Volquez has been the more effective pitcher for Cincinnati. Volquez saw action in each of the last three seasons for Texas and he appears ready to keep a big league job this season. He has allowed just one run in two starts this season and he caught a tough break with a rain delay in his last outing as he certainly could have pitched longer and aimed for a win after five shutout innings. Playing in a hitter’s park could be a problem later in the summer for all Reds starters but Volquez may be the better wager option than Cueto with less attention on him and more experience at the major league level. Volquez had eight strikeouts in his first start this season and averaged nearly five per game in his starts with Texas last season.

Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco:
The Giants rotation features several talented young pitchers but Sanchez may be the most intriguing. Sanchez is not a rookie as he has pitched significantly in relief the past two seasons and made four starts in each of the last two years but he appears to be getting a shot to start this year, at least until Noah Lowry is healthy. Sanchez may be good enough to keep a spot in the rotation as he has posted incredible strikeout numbers. His command on the breaking pitches is not yet there but his fastball makes him a very tough match-up. Sanchez has 21 strikeouts in just 15 innings and the Giants are 2-1 in his three starts, playing as an underdog in all three games. Sanchez was charged for seven runs in his first start against Milwaukee but he actually was dominant after a tough first inning and the Giants bullpen could not help him out after he left. Keep an eye on Sanchez as the Giants are playing as an underdog on most nights and Sanchez is capable of great performances.

Wait and See/Avoid:

Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati:

After an amazing debut many jumped on Cueto and the Reds for his next two starts. The Reds lost both of those games as road favorites. Cueto only made four starts in AAA last season and although he was very impressive, he was rushed into the rotation early this season due to the injury to Matt Belisle and having Jeremy Affeldt struggle greatly this spring. Cueto has 24 strikeouts in just over 19 innings pitched so he clearly has great talent and the Reds have to be pleased with his control, having allowed just one walk in three starts. Cueto is likely to remain a solid member of the rotation but he will likely not match his incredible 1-hit debut and value has already vanished in his last two starts. Cincinnati has enjoyed a modest start to 2008, they were projected as an upstart team this year but they have disappointed before. If the Reds fall out of the race, Cueto might be a nice option against better teams with lower lines but he is not ready to be trusted as a solid favorite.

Philip Hughes, New York:
Hughes was rumored to be on the move to Minnesota much of the winter with Johan Santana trade talks but he remains with the Yankees. New York won his last five starts in 2007 but the big league results for Hughes have never been dominant and he is unlikely to ever live up to the outrageously high expectations that have been placed on him already. Hughes has never had more than six strikeouts in a game and he was hit hard in several outings last season, even against marginal lineups. Hughes pitched okay in his first start in 2008 but has been hammered in his last two starts, allowing ten runs in just five innings, with seven walks contributing to the damage. Hughes may eventually be a very good big league pitcher but from what we have seen so far he is not a candidate to be a dominant starter this season. Even if Hughes pitches well this season there will rarely be value with an unproven Yankees starter with a lot of hype.

Others to Watch:

Dana Eveland, Oakland
Ian Kennedy, New York
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta
Manny Parra, Milwaukee
Micah Owings, Arizona
Nick Blackburn, Minnesota

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