By now, most gamers have noticed Trevor Cahill’s excellent start to the year for the Padres. Another member of San Diego’s rotation is pitching fairly well, too. A 4.13 ERA and 1.38 WHIP don’t result in fantasy gamers flocking to the waiver wire to add a player in most cases, but this pitcher’s underlying stats are mighty intriguing.. This groundball-inducing machine is owned in just 20% of CBS leagues, 4.0% of ESPN leagues and 3% of Yahoo! leagues. A look under the hood hints at some very real breakout potential, and at the least, deep league relevance.
Prior to the 2016 season, the rebuilding Padres acquired Rule 5 draft pick Luis Perdomo from the Rockies. Colorado selected him fourth in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft held in December of 2015. The three players selected before him were Tyler Goeddel, Jake Cave and Evan Rutckyj. That’s not a trio of household names. On this date last year, Perdomo had pitched 13.2 innings in which he allowed 15 runs — all earned — on 26 hits and six walks with only nine strikeouts. Perdomo wasn’t off to the type of start that hinted at him even remaining in The Show.
In June of last year, Kyle Glaser of Baseball America pointed out the long odds of Perdomo finding success in the majors given the history of previous Rule 5 selections. It was hardly a surprise that a pitcher who had never pitched above High-A and had pitched just 26.1 innings at that level, for that matter, was getting knocked around. Still, the Padres had little to lose keeping him on their active roster in lieu of offering him back to the Cardinals — the organization the Rockies selected Perdomo from. If they could hold him all of the 2016 season, they’d be able to utilize his minor league options and send him down for further seasoning if he needed it. Well, a funny thing happened, Perdomo made big strides last year, and he’s making more this season.
The young righty made a few starts before the All-Star break, and he held a spot in the rotation for the entire second half. In the second half, he started 13 games spanning 81.2 innings. Perdomo spun a 4.30 ERA with a 4.86 FIP, 4.06 xFIP and 4.14 SIERA. His 14.5% K% left a lot to be desired, but his 5.6% BB% was plenty stingy and his 58.9% GB% was elite. That’s a starting point, but a 6.9% SwStr% didn’t hint at more strikeouts on the horizon.
Fast forward to this year, and Perdomo’s groundball rate has skyrocketed to 69.5%, his 8.4% BB% remains better than the league average (8.9% this season) and he’s punched out 21.0% of the batters he’s faced which is just a pinch below the league average of 21.5%. The 24-year-old’s strikeout surge is supported by a 10.1% SwStr% that nearly matches the league average of 10.2%. Getting back to his batted ball profile, the elite groundball rate isn’t all there is to like.
Perdomo has allowed just a 20.7% Hard% to opposing hitters this year after coughing up a 34.0% Hard% last year. The hard-hit balls have gravitated to the Med% jumping from 49.3% in 2016 to 63.4% this season. Also, after tallying just four infield flyballs last year, he’s tallied a pair that represent a 15.4% IFFB% in 2017. The sample is admittedly miniscule, but glancing over his batted ball profile in the minors suggests last year’s 3.8% IFFB% could be the outlier, and he may possess a knack for popping hitters up. Add his gains in IFFB% and strikeout rate, and you’re looking at many more easy outs in 2017 than in 2016.
Speaking of strikeouts, let’s circle back to them. Perdomo can thank his curveball for the sizable gains in strikeout rate and SwStr%. Last year, he sported a 16.44% whiff percentage on his curve, according to Brooks Baseball. This year, it’s up to 24.02%, and he’s kicked his usage up from 20.35% to 29.88%. In 2016, 100 starting pitchers threw 200 or more curves and Perdomo checked in 25th with a 37.2% Whf/Sw, per Baseball Prospectus.
This year, 83 starting pitchers have thrown a minimum of 50 curves, and Perdomo ranks behind Cahill in fifth with a robust 52.08% Whf/Sw. To provide further perspective of how impressive a bat-missing pitch his curve is, it ranks one spot ahead of Carlos Carrasco’s in Whf/Sw. The rest of his arsenal lacks bat-missing ability, but his other offerings do a great job of coaxing worm burners at sky-high rates.
Perdomo’s profile isn’t without troublesome areas. First of all, he has a huge platoon split in the early going this season. He’s held right-handed batters to a .202 wOBA while being beaten for a .457 wOBA by left-handed batters. In the second half of last year, though, he allowed a .333 wOBA to lefties, a mark that’s much more palatable than this year’s, especially if he can continue to tie up righties. The righty also has posted high BABIP marks with a .342 BABIP thus far in his young career. He proved fairly hittable in the minors as well with a .328 BABIP in the 2014 and 2015 seasons combined (his only two years above Rookie Level ball).
The 24-year-old also struggles with stranding baserunners. In the majors, he owns a 67.5% LOB%, and in 2014 and 2015 combined, he had a 62.9% LOB% in the minors. As a starter last year, he did manage a more respectable 70.8% LOB%, but his wOBA soared from .335 with the bases empty to .391 with men on base. This year, his LOB% has dipped back below 70% to 65.7%, yet his .306 wOBA with the bases empty isn’t much better than his .310 wOBA with runners on. He’ll need to do a better job of stranding baserunners to close the gap between his ERA and the advanced metrics, but his improvement in wOBA allowed with runners on could hint at him turning a corner.
The last hurdle could be the hardest for Perdomo to clear. As a piece penned by Eno Sarris pointed out back in February, Perdomo was one of the worst pitchers the third time through the order in 2016. He’s once again getting knocked around the third time through the order this season coughing up a .401 wOBA after holding hitters to a .302 wOBA the first time through and a .255 wOBA the second time through. The topic of Eno’s linked piece was identifying pitchers who need a new pitch the most, and Perdomo would benefit a great deal from his third pitch (classified here as a changeup and classified as a splitter at Brooks Baseball) taking a step forward.
The present version of Perdomo is good enough for me to suggest rostering in 14-team mixed leagues or deeper as a matchup play. I’d avoid trotting him out against lefty-stacked lineups, though. He also is on the fringe of being a matchup based stream option in 12-team mixers if your fantasy rotation has been ravaged by injuries. The seeds are there for Perdomo to blossom into something better. Keep tabs on if he’s improving in his trouble areas over his next few starts, and don’t be afraid to scoop and speculate if he appears to be doing so.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.