If I told you that a starting pitcher in this year’s player pool is owned in 72 percent of Yahoo! leagues thanks to doing his best 2008 Aaron Cook impersonation you’d likely wonder, “What the heck is going on?” What’s going on is that a blue chip prospect has glowing surface stats and owners are infatuated with the new kid on the block. That new kid on the block isn’t Donnie Wahlberg (how cool would that be though?); it’s Baltimore Orioles sinker baller Zach Britton, and he’s just about due for some regression.
Not all is bad with Britton. He’s smart and knows what butters his bread, and that is his low-to-mid-90’s sinker. He’s using that pitch 72.8 percent of the time and racking up a ton of groundballs at a 55.7 percent rate. Unfortunately, from a fantasy perspective, his great groundball rate is his lone standout quality. His strikeout rate is lackluster sitting at just 4.85 K/9, and unlikely to increase unless he begins utilizing his changeup and his slider to wipe out hitters more frequently. With as much success as he’s having inducing hitters to tomahawk the ball into the ground, he has little incentive at the moment to go away from his plus-sinker.
In addition to his underwhelming strikeout rate, his walk rate is only good, not great, at 2.91 BB/9. Britton has been solid, no doubt, but he’s also been extremely lucky in terms of BABIP which sits at just .241. As is noted above, Britton is a groundball inducing machine, and with groundballs having the second highest average of balls in play, lower than line drives, but higher than flyballs, that number is going to increase from its current mark. ZiPS projects a .326 BABIP for the rest of the season.
Britton is young, and was thought of highly by scouting publications coming into the season for good reason, but re-draft owners shouldn’t allow that to cloud their judgement. It is possible he makes adjustments and sees his strikeout rate approach his 7.60 K/9 mark of 2010 in Triple-A. However, the current version of Britton simply isn’t that exciting, and is likely to pitch closer to his 3.76 xFIP than his lights out 2.35 ERA going forward. Keeping in mind he threw just 153.1 innings last year in the minors, it is just about certain the Orioles will shut him down early, further deflating his value in re-draft formats. If you’re in need of some pitching help, look elsewhere, as there are better options available even if they are just your garden variety veteran.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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