In looking for a sleeper for a starting pitcher I looked at the projected No. 4 SPs around the league, using MLB.com’s depth charts. A number of pitchers stood out a bit, but they were guys who we all know as upcoming young guns. I was looking for someone with upside still to blossom and not really fitting the definition of a sleeper, that guy who does not have much expectation to shine and thus will be drafted low, if at all. My pick for an SP sleeper is Jason Hammel of the Colorado Rockies.
Hammel is slotted behind Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge de la Rosa and Aaron Cook, and thus may be someone that opposing teams may think they can beat up on because Jason Hammel just sounds so “unspectacular.”
One thing is for sure, though, is that Hammel will not beat himself. His strikeout rate is not overly impressive as he had a K/9 rate of 6.78 in 2009, but that was up from 5.06 in 2008. He ended 2009 by striking out 26 batters in his last 26 innings, which tells me that this kid is improving. Also, Hammel simply does not walk batters. He walked just 42 guys in his 176.2 innings! I expect increased strikeouts this season to help improve his already impressive 3.17 K/BB ratio from 2009. And already this spring, Hammel has struck out 12 batters in 14 innings while walking nobody. Do you see where I’m going here?
The offensive-minded Rockies should help Hammel feel confident to win games. I believe that Hammel could get to 14 wins and come at a very low price. He very well may go undrafted in most leagues, so watch him. He will surprise many people looking for a steady back-end guy who produces. With Hammel on your team as your 5th or 6th starter you surely will not need to churn for pitching come September.
This right-hander turns 27 on April 11. This will be his fifth season, second with Colorado. During his four years in the bigs, both his ERA and WHIP have decreased each season. I believe he will better last season’s 4.33 ERA and at least match the 1.39 WHIP. If there has to be one concern, it just might be that jump in innings pitched from 78 1/3 to 176 2/3. But again, we’re talking back-end guy who could give you the value of a middle-round pick.
Jason Hammel will not jump out at anyone when the drafts drag on to the late rounds. If you want to gamble that he will make the waiver wire for a quick post-draft pick up, take a chance. But the guy who gets him at some point will have a gem. Watch him!
Joe Budrow is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Joe in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Ys Guy.
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