We’ve been given a great crop of rookie pitchers in 2013. The hitters? Not so much. Evan Gattis, with eight home runs, is the only rookie to hit more than four home runs as of Tuesday evening. Light-hitting Pete Kozma is second in RBI with 17. Only A.J. Pollock has stolen more than four bases. Out of those three only Kozma has an OBP above .300. Seven of the 17 rookie hitters with at least 60 at-bats have OBPs under .300. The days of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Machado seem much more like 1972, not 2012.
Didi Gregorius, known more for his glove than his bat, leads all rookie hitters in Fangraphs WAR at 1.4. Gregorius has 12 extra-base hits in only 84 at-bats with a more than respectable seven walks and 13 strikeouts. He’s hitting .360/.415/.581, and every one of those numbers is much higher than what almost anyone expected of Gregorius in ’13. His current BABIP is .412; the highest BABIP he had in any minor league season was .357, which came in a seven-game sample earlier this season. So we should automatically expect Gregorius’s average to come way down in the future, especially considering he’s hitting 42 percent of balls in play in the air and only 33 percent of balls in play on the ground. Fly balls are much more likely to be turned into an out than ground balls are. For Gregorius to maintain close to what he’s done so far he’ll need to start hitting more grounders and beat some of them out for infield hits, which he already has two of. Gregorius is crushing righties to the tune of a .446/.492/.595 line with all three homers and nine total extra-base hits, but he’s equally bad against lefties (.214/.290/.321 with only three extra-base hits). His BABIP against righties is an insane .478. The highest BABIP against righties in the majors from 2010 to current day is Austin Jackson’s .379, so Gregorius’s BABIP against righties should drop at least 100 points and there goes a lot of his value.
Julio Teheran‘s 3.99 ERA and 1.35 WHIP are yawn-worthy for those of us outside of NL-only leagues, but those numbers don’t tell most of the story. After pitching only 16 innings and allowing 13 earned runs in his first three starts this season, Teheran has pitched very well in his last five starts, culminating in an 8.1-inning, one-earned run win over Minnesota Monday night. In those five starts Teheran has a 2.41 ERA over 33.2 innings. While he’s still not striking out many (only 18 in the five starts) he’s only walked two batters in that same time span. And he’s not just getting lucky in his last few starts, either. Teheran’s BABIP of .315 in those five starts is actually higher than his season total (.311). He’s also throwing more strikes and getting more whiffs from hitters. Looking at Teheran’s Brooks Baseball page the numbers show us he’s pitching more to contact so far in May, where he has a 2.53 ERA, 10 strikeouts and only one walk. He’s striking out fewer guys in May, but he’s also walking a lot fewer hitters and he’s cut his HR/9 from April’s 1.59 to May’s 0.84. It seems like he’s figured something out so I’d trust him in leagues deeper than 12 teams and in spot start duty in 12-teamers.
Jake Odorizzi didn’t pull a Tony Cingrani and dominate in his 2013 debut, but he did fairly well, pitching five innings and allowing three earned runs while striking out six and walking one. A blown safe-out call made Odorizzi’s line look worse than what it should’ve been, too. Odorizzi is filling in for the injured David Price, who suffered a strained left triceps. I didn’t watch his start, so I won’t comment on how he looked. But Odorizzi was ranked the 45th best prospect in baseball by MLB.com and appeared both in Baseball America’s top 100 list and Keith Law’s top 100 prospect list. He has the profile of a solid major-league pitcher, as well as a four-pitch repertoire. Pitching in the AL East isn’t easy, and we don’t know how long Odorizzi will stay in Tampa Bay’s rotation. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Price should only miss two or three starts, but we all know how overly optimistic managers are. So Odorizzi should make at least two more starts with the chance for several more. Don’t expect any ace-like numbers, or even Cingrani-like numbers, but he should be a decent fill-in for the Rays and a worthy pick-up for 14-team leagues and deeper.