Addendum on Jeremy Hellickson Love

Carson wrote a little about Jeremy Hellickson earlier today, but I wanted to write a little more on the guy I’ve affectionately nicknamed Narwhal – in large part due to the mystique surrounding his numbers and unappreciated talent.

Hellickson has complete 35 innings and a third in Triple-A and his numbers are spectacular; 39 strikeouts, 12 walks, and a 3.45 FIP. Hellickson’s stuff has always been talked about in a conservative manner. His command has been questioned – note: his command, as in placement within the zone, not actually throwing strikes – and while his fastball goes over 90 miles per hour and seems to have decent movement, nobody really talks about him as having good or great stuff.

Which is why, through 597 pitches, a 13.9% swinging strike rate (as provided by StatCorner) seems to shatter everything we thought we knew about Hellickson. The larger the sample size amounts, the more and more it appears that Hellickson has something going on that causes bats to go missing. Whether it be deception, movement better than advertised, or Triple-A batters just swing and miss at everything.

Luckily we can test the last part by looking at some other International League starting pitchers and their whiff rate. The minimum xOuts/PA to qualify is 200 as we look at the top 10:

Clay Buchholz (13.3%)
Lucas French (11.5%)
Ben Jukich (11.2%)
Chris Tillman (11%)
Jake Arrieta (11%)
Carlos Carrasco (10.8%)
Tom Gorzelanny (10.8%)
Chris Lambert (10.6%)
Daniel McCutchen (10.4%)
Homer Bailey (10.4%)

That’s sort of like the who’s who of young pitching prospects in the IL and yet Hellickson tops all of them by a decent shake. I’m not saying he’s deserving of being proclaimed the best IL pitcher or on the same level as Buchholz or Tillman, but he’s seemingly flew under the radar despite being solid at every stop along the way.

It might be time to embrace the Narwhal.

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6 Responses to “Addendum on Jeremy Hellickson Love”

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  1. Sandy Kazmir says:

    Narwhal 5 IP, 1H, 0BB, 8K 13 swing strikes SO FAR. Studly

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  2. DKDC says:

    David Hernandez missed qualifying for your list with 171 xOuts, and his swinging strike percentage in the international league blows even Hellickson out of the water at almost 16%.

    Hernandez is similar to Hellickson in that his scouting reports have never matched up to his very impressive minor league stats. Hernandez has struggled to maintain anything close to his minor league ratios at the major league level.

    Hellickson is a nice prospect, but if scouts still don’t think he has the quality and depth of repertoire to be a front-line pitcher, I’m inclined to believe them. A nice showing in a single stat in a very small sample size doesn’t mean very much at all.

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  3. The A Team says:

    Does this not remind anyone of the JA Happ article from earlier in the day? He has a fastball that by pitch f/x standards is shit yet run values consider one of the elite fastballs in baseball. There is something to be said for deception (or something else). Clearly pitch f/x and scouts are failing to quantify something that a very small percentage of pitchers are leveraging effectively.

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  4. acerimusdux says:

    First off, take a look at pitchers with over 100 xouts (33IP), the list Hellickson actually qualifies for:

    1 15.7% Hernandez David NOR
    2 14.2% Medlen Kris GWI
    3 13.9% Hellickson Jeremy DUB
    4 13.7% Hanson Tommy GWI
    5 13.4% Snell Ian IND
    6 13.3% Buchholz Clay PAW
    7 13.1% Carrasco Carlos COL
    8 12.6% Gee Dillon BUF
    9 12.3% Sanchez Romulo SWB
    10 11.5% French Lucas TOL

    As a Vero Beach resident, where the Rays had their A+ farm team last year, I had a chance to see Hellickson several times. As a Mets fan, I also catch a lot of St. Lucie games, and saw Dillon Gee several times. They have similar stuff and ceilings.

    Now, Hellickson was a full year younger than Gee at the same level, and already had even better command/control/feel. So I can see where he does have more upside. But when he was ranked in the BA mid-season top 25 last year, that was a clear over rank.

    Now, perhaps there was a bit too much backlash, as some scouts started pointing out the flaws more, and some places even left him off their end of season top 100. When I saw him, I thought it would be the curve that had to improve for him to have a chance to be a #3. Since them, apparently it’s the change up that has made great progress this year. Either way, he has at least #4 SP stuff at this point, but with enough command and pitchability to think he can pitch up to a #3 SP.

    That’s a nice prospect. But he still ranks a bit closer to David Hernandez, and in some ways even Dillon Gee or Kris Medlin, than he does to Buchholz, Hanson, Tillman, or Arrieta.

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  5. scatterbrian says:

    Love the narwhal nickname, and not just for being way better than J-Hell….

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