He may have been far from the main piece in the Cole Hamels trade, but the Phillies may have found a diamond in the rough when they acquired Jerad Eickhoff from the Rangers last summer.
May have is the key word, as it is currently far from certain that Eickhoff is the real deal. However, given his very late average draft position (he is going somewhere around number 100 for starting pitchers), he is someone everyone reading this should target for the back end of their fantasy rotation.
While somewhat of a crude statistic, Michael Salfino of Yahoo! Sports has found a few diamonds in the past with his (K-BB)/IP statistic. Some of those being Corey Kluber, Marco Estrada, and Jake Odorizzi, whom you would have been able to draft at significant discounts. I know because I have loosely followed this method the past few seasons, along with entirely waiting on starting pitching until after round eight of standard league drafts, and have a championship and a couple high placings to thank for it.
While certainly far from fool proof, this does give you a bit of a glimpse into which pitchers could be had at slight to large discounts. If you are deciding to wait for pitching, then you are going to have to find a few pitchers most would not bother with to give you out-sized results.
In terms of last year’s 51 inning debut for Eickhoff, he finished 32nd in this metric, ahead of Felix Hernandez, Tyson Ross, Jordan Zimmermann, and the above mentioned Odorizzi, to name a few. Eickhoff’s numbers looked so good because he finished the season with four consecutive seven inning outings, including his final two starts of the season in which he struck out 10 batters a piece.
This is essentially why I will be targeting Eickhoff as one of my last rostered pitchers in pretty much every league. I would rather gamble on someone who has performed well at the top level in two of the three most important things a pitcher is aiming for, striking batters out at a high rate and limiting walks, than on a prospect coming up through the system or a veteran ground baller with limited upside.
Where this metric has its drawbacks is calculating success for when balls are actually hit. Matt Shoemaker was a darling in terms of (K-BB)/IP last season but struggled due to giving up home runs at far too high a rate. I suspect this will also be Eickhoff’s undoing, as his ground ball rate is under 40% and the average exit velocity against his four-seamer was three miles an hour more than the MLB average.
He looks like a pitcher who will miss bats, pound the zone, but also give up homers at a high rate. This will keep him from being elite, but at the price you are paying for him that was not really the expected result to begin with. It does not help a ton that he will be pitching in a ballpark that is susceptible to the home run, nor that he has had a history of home run problems in the past – his home run rates were poor prior to his trade to the Phillies. Even so, I am willing to take a chance on a pitcher with this type of strikeout potential and size. Pete Mackanin has already named Eickhoff to his team’s starting rotation, and I recommend you do the same on draft day.
Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.