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.