Yesterday afternoon, it was reported that everyone’s favorite sleeper Brandon Morrow would start the season on the disabled list due to right forearm inflammation. Those loud arrrghhs you heard at that time were the collective reactions of the fantasy owners who drafted him. Sure, it was noted that the Blue Jays would backdate his DL-stint to ensure he only misses one start, but this is quite concerning. As you may or may not know, forearm tightness, or inflammation in this case, is often a precursor to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. So Morrow owners should prepare for the worst. In the meantime, former Braves prospect Jo-Jo Reyes, who was acquired along with Yunel Escobar last season, was named to the rotation as Morrow’s replacement. Does he have any potential to generate at least some AL-Only league value?
Reyes has battled a variety of ailments over the past couple of seasons and his statistical track record has been a mixed bag. The 27 year old lefty has thrown 194.0 Major League innings spread out over four seasons and he has posted an ugly strikeout and walk rate combination that has resulted in a career 4.95 xFIP. He uses four pitches (fastball, slider, curve, and changeup) in his arsenal, while, for a lefty, his fastball is thrown at solid velocity in the low 90s.
His best skill during his short career has been his ability to induce ground balls. His GB% sits at 47.5%, which is above the league average typically between 42% and 43%. A major problem for Reyes has been his control as his 4.6 BB/9 would attest. However, in 14.0 innings at Double-A and 47.1 innings at Triple-A in 2010, that was much improved, as he brought his BB/9 rates below 3.0 for the first time. Small sample size caveats apply of course, but we often see young pitchers take several years to fully develop their control, so this leap forward could be a sustainable skills gain.
Reyes has also missed bats at a much higher frequency in the minors. Unfortunately, that prowess has simply not translated to the Majors just yet. Looking back at his Triple-A season last year again, we see in addition to the improved control, his strikeout rate spiked as well. Given his relative success in the minors and apparent improvement, and even factoring in the move to the American League, it seems likely that Reyes will post a strikeout rate above his career rate of just 5.9. Assuming that happens, it is not too far of a stretch to see his skill set looking fairly similar to another groundballing lefty with below average control, C.J. Wilson. I am certainly not suggesting that Reyes will duplicate Wilson’s 3.35 ERA last year (which was lucky in itself, as his xFIP was a less impressive 4.20), but that the seeds are there for Reyes to be a pleasant surprise for both the Blue Jays and fantasy owners itching to speculate.
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