For the past two years, Jorge de la Rosa has improved in all four fantasy categories for a starting pitcher. Of course, that was a relatively easy thing for him to do, given how poor he was in 2007. Still, last year de la Rosa finished in the top 20 in both Wins and Ks. Given how fantasy players love to get “the next big thing,” you might think de la Rosa would be a hot commodity in mock draft season. But you would be wrong.
Instead, the Rockies pitcher sits with an ADP of 180. Recently, Razzball unveiled its 2009 end of season fantasy player rater and de la Rosa ranked 131. The mockers are not buying that number and instead forecast that he will not repeat, much less improve upon, his fine numbers from a year ago. Part of it may be the stigma of being a pitcher in Colorado and part of it may be the poor ERA and WHIP numbers.
Either way, it looks like we may have the new Ted Lilly. For several years now, fantasy owners have undervalued Lilly, despite a very good K rate and strong Win totals. Even after posting a 3.10 ERA last year, Lilly still appears to be a bargain, with a current ADP of 149.
Last year, de la Rosa finished with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. The ERA placed 65th while the WHIP was tied for 59th out of 77 qualified pitchers. Fantasy owners do not want to pay for Wins and shy away from de la Rosa because he is poor in two of the three remaining categories.
At the All-Star break, de la Rosa had a 5.21 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. But his final 15 starts of the year, he was a different pitcher. In the second half, de la Rosa was 10-2 with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. He gave up the same number of HR in the second half in 8.1 fewer innings. The improvement appears to be all WHIP-related.
After having a 4.28 BB/9 in the first half, de la Rosa followed up with a 3.67 mark after the break. And his BABIP was .301 in the second half, after starting off the year with a .327 mark. In his final 15 games, he had 10 starts where he gave up two or fewer runs.
The turnaround actually started even earlier for de la Rosa, who started the season 0-6 with a 5.43 ERA. He went 16-3 with a 3.94 ERA over the final four months of the season, which matches up almost perfectly to when Jim Tracy took over as the team’s manager.
In July, de la Rosa credited his turnaround to his two-seam fastball and throwing more first-pitch strikes, although the numbers do not necessarily support this claim. While his F-Strike% of 55.9 was up from a year ago, it was lower than it was in 2007. And TexasLeaguers.com shows him throwing his two-seam fastball at just 2.4 percent for the year.
Either way, it is easy to read too much into second half numbers. One needs only to recall the second half of 2008 and then 2009 for Ricky Nolasco to remember this lesson. But de la Rosa does not need a 3.46 ERA or a 1.30 WHIP to be a big bargain at his current ADP.
Anecdotally, we can all remember lefties that discovered control and success later than normal, including Randy Johnson, Al Leiter and Sandy Koufax. But while there is no proof that lefties develop later than righties, it would be foolish to ignore the possibility that de la Rosa could be another late bloomer. If he can continue to throw strikes like he did in the second half, de la Rosa could wind up as one of the top pitchers in baseball.