It’s easy to forget that Jeremy Bonderman is only 27-years-old. He was placed in Detroit’s rotation and made 28 starts as a 20-year-old during their horrific 43-win season in 2003. Bonderman was allowed to develop at the big league level and quickly became a young workhorse. He would make 151 starts for the team from 2003-2007 averaging 30 starts a season. His banner year would come in 2006 (3.29 FIP in 214 innings) and this led to a four-year extension that he signed in December 2006 worth $38 million that covered his last two arbitration years and bought out his first two eligible free agent seasons.
Bonderman has been a massive disappointment since he signed that extension and injuries have decimated his past two seasons. A scary blood clot in his throwing shoulder altered his mechanics and cut short his 2008 season after 12 sub-par starts. Bonderman slowly regained his velocity this season as he struggled to fully recover from the prior surgery on the blood clot. He made 15 appearances in the minors and eight at the big league level where was relegated to relief duty down the stretch. This is the last year of his contract and he has much to play for. Bonderman is slated to be the teams fourth starter in 2010.
Health is definitely the biggest concern with Bonderman but no set backs have been report thus far this off season. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was quoted in the USA Today about Bonderman and his health earlier this off season:
“He’s healthy. His velocity was fine at the end of the year. He just took a long time to bounce back from his surgery, but that’s healed now.”
Throwing strike one will be a big key for Bonderman in 2010. His first-strike percentage took a very noticeable dip in 2008 from his career norms. The blood clot seemed to hinder his pitch velocity and his velocity will be something to keep a very close eye on in spring training.
Prior to injury Bonderman was coming into his own and portraying good command along with healthy strike out rates. He’s always been a little homer prone save for his career year in 2006 but he was still producing good FIPs. He’s always had some higher BABIPs and left on base rates but these have become career norms for Bonderman. He has a career .317 BABIP and 67.7% LOB rate which are both below average. Bonderman just isn’t as good with runners on base and it’s not proper to adjust these stats.
With Bonderman appearing free to go in 2010 he has the potential to bring back big returns to fantasy owners. Detroit’s defense was very good in 2009 according to UZR and will be an asset for him and his ERA in 2010. He would be a nifty dollar starter or late round pick. He has big upside and had developed a very solid set of controllable peripherals prior to the blood clot.
Bill James’ 2010 projection (4.22 FIP in 185 innings) sounds very realistic to me. I think the 3.06 walk rate that James is projecting is too high and I’d expect that number to sneak into the 2.80’s based off his prior form. This would help lower his FIP and make for a rosier projection.
Remember that Bonderman is only 27-years-old and he still has many years ahead of himself. He’s a snoring sleeper pick and make sure that snore wakes you up. Bonderman could be paying big dividends for your fantasy team next summer.