Corey Kluber: Buy Or Sell?
In spring 2013, a trip to the Arizona Backfields to scout top pitching prospects for the Seattle Mariners afforded a look at a group of Indians pitchers including Scott Kazmir (later signed as a free agent with the Athletics) and Corey Kluber. Kluber was an older pitcher who’d achieved mixed results across a dozen 2012 starts. Moving behind the plate for a closer look, his command of a 90 mph fastball was impressive. However, it took a few sliders for the scouts in the stands to perk up and pay attention. And while the sum of the parts was impressive (not best pitcher in the American League impressive, WOW!), watching Kluber come off the field and walk directly to his wife and young child waiting by the locker room was a highlight of the trip from a fellow father’s perspective.
But while the rise of Corey Kluber has been one of MLB’s best feel good stories, will his success result in a long and successful career for dynasty fantasy baseball league owners? As an owner of the Indians right-handers in an extremely deep league, the hope was for a resounding yes. Unfortunately, a closer look at Kluber’s pitch selection has me tempted to sell high this off-season — even though the team will lose Cliff Lee to free agency and has Mashiro Tanaka and his partially torn UCL under contract through 2018.
As Ben Flajole pointed out earlier in the week, Felix Hernandez‘s development as a pitcher is a tremendous blueprint for other pitchers to copy. When discussing the value of David Price-versus-Jon Lester, the Rays left-hander won the debate due to a fastball/change-up heavy arsenal and a better opportunity to remain healthy for years to come. But if Lester is more difficult to project long term because of heavy cutter/curveball usage (43.6%), can the same be said about Corey Kluber and his cutter/curveball combination?
Now 28, Kluber’s pitch selection is eerily similar to Lester. After yesterday’s shutout, the right-hander has thrown his cutter/curveball 43% of the time. A greater reliance on breaking stuff has caused his change-up usage to drop from a high of 16.5% in his rookie season to just 4.1% this season. If we can agree straight stuff is less stressful on the arm, then Corey Kluber is sacrificing longevity for immediate success.
What To Target For Corey Kluber?
In single season leagues, . Flags fly forever and he’ll be back in the player pool come April. But in keeper and dynasty leagues, Kluber is a chip to cash in — especially if owning a lesser team and counting for the Indians pitcher to lead a franchise turnaround. In general, the cutter is a pitcher young hurlers are forced to shelve because it is considered more of a quick fix than permanent addition to an arsenal. One contact mentioned a conversation during an organization-wide training to look for pitchers with feel who may be able to add a cutter. The rub? Teach them the pitch and reap the rewards until said players arm falls off. Then, recycle the idea and start again.
Does this mean Corey Kluber is the next Mike Fiers? No, because the Brewers shooting star turned Triple-A force was a one trick pony and Kluber has other quality pitches. However, a trade for Rick Porcello and under performing Nick Castellanos would reap rewards for years to come while the acquiring owner will be screaming, “Why!” from the rooftops when Kluber comes up lame.
31 Jul 2014 / Mike Newman /
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