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Can Jair Jurrjens Avoid Sophomore Slump?

In his first full season in the majors, Jair Jurrjens put up a very solid season for the Braves. He led the team in wins (13), innings (188.1) and strikeouts (139). Acquired as one of the two prospects in the Edgar Renteria deal, Jurrjens made it a slam dunk for Atlanta, despite what many Braves fans thought at the time. They sold high on Renteria, saved nearly $9 million in payroll last year alone, opened the way for a better player at the position in Yunel Escobar and got a potential #2 starting pitcher.

Jurrjens has a lot of positives, starting out with the fact that he throws a sinking fastball in the low 90s that piles up ground balls. His 1.94 GB/FB ratio was tied for sixth in the majors. Jurrjens also found himself among the leaders in HR/9, as his rate of 0.54 placed fifth, and HR/FB, where he placed 12th with a 7.1 percent mark.

After throwing 142.2, 141 and 143.1 innings in the previous three years, Jurrjens exceeded the 30-inning jump considered dangerous for pitchers under the age of 25 with his output last year. And he did fade somewhat down the stretch, as he threw just two quality starts in his final seven outings and posted a 5.84 ERA with a 1.62 WHIP in that stretch.

But there are reasons to remain optimistic about Jurrjens, too. His FIP (3.59) was actually lower than his real ERA (3.68), his BABIP was .311 and his road ERA (3.32) was nearly 0.75 points lower than his home ERA (4.05), a very unusual split for a young pitcher in a neutral park. There’s also room for improvement in his walk rate. Jurrjens allowed 2.20 BB/9 in his final two seasons in the minors and had a 3.35 rate last year with Atlanta.

Jurrjens was a top-75 pitcher last year. If you subscribe to the 30-inning theory, you’ll want to avoid him next season, since any type of drop in his rate numbers will make him not worth using. But I love the power sinker and I expect Jurrjens to improve his WHIP and remain a good bet to post a nice $5-7 dollar season.