Chad Gaudin is not a name that should pop up in most 2009 Fantasy Drafts. The Chicago Cubs right-hander is currently earmarked as a reliever on a very deep pitching staff. The starting rotation currently featuring Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, Ted Lilly, and Sean Marshall (Who recently received a vote of confidence for the last spot).
Jason Marquis was originally slated for the spot before he was dispatched to Colorado for reliever Luis Vizcaino. The Cubs also explored the possibility of acquiring ace Jake Peavy from the Padres, but those talks fizzled. Angel Guzman is another option for the fifth spot, but he has had trouble staying healthy. Jeff Samardzija, a former minor league starter, had a nice debut in the bullpen but his control is iffy. Rich Hill, speaking of iffy control, is busy trying to scare off Steve Blass.
Gaudin, despite his history in the starting rotation, continues to get overlooked. The good news for the right-hander, though, is that the rotation includes Harden. The Canadian made 25 starts for the A’s and Cubs in 2008. The only time he’s started more than 20 games prior to that came all the way back in 2004. That means there will likely be five to 10 starts available at some point in 2009 for a deserving Cubs pitcher.
If Gaudin does get a shot at starting, you may want to pick him up for that stretch. In 2007, the right-hander made 34 starts for Oakland and missed pitching 200 innings by just two-thirds of an inning, so he’s durable despite his 5’10” stature. He also racked up 154 strikeouts during that time. The downside, though, is that he allowed 205 hits and 100 walks. His ERA was a respectable 4.42.
Although Oakland plays in a pitcher’s park, Gaudin actually allowed a lower OPS on the road: .762 versus .790. If anything, the right-hander tired in the second half while pitching the highest innings total in his career. In the first half, he allowed a line of .246/.328/.341; it rose to .290/.385/.515 in his final 16 starts.
Pitching mainly out of the pen in 2008, Gaudin still allowed a few too many hits (92 in 90 innings) but his control rate improved from 4.52 BB/9 in 2007 to 2.70 BB/9. Whether that was directly related to pitching out of the bullpen or simply a point of maturation remains to be seen.
His repertoire remained almost exactly the same from 2007 to 2008 despite the change in role. Gaudin’s fastball sat right around 90 mph on average, although he utilized his slider six percent more often as a reliever (at the expense of the fastball). His change-up was used eight percent of the time in both 2007 and 2008.
The other noticeable change between 2007 and 2008 came on first-pitch strikes. Gaudin pumped in a first-pitch strike five percent more often in 2008 than in the previous season, which could very well be a sign that he is maturing as a pitcher. Despite his six seasons in the Majors, he is still just 25 years of age.
If Gaudin can take the improvements he made in 2008 in the bullpen and apply them during an opportunity in the starting rotation, then alert Fantasy owners could receive a boost at some point during the 2009 season.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.