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Gil Meche and his $55 Million Slider

Gil Meche has survived and thrived despite two rotator cuff surgeries. The 1996 first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners, Meche made his Major League debut as a 20-year old in 1999. However, he did not pitch in the majors in either 2001 or 2002 due to his injured shoulder and it took several years to re-emerge as something more than a fringe player.

In 2006, Meche added a slider to his repertoire. His O-Swing% jumped from 17.1 to 22.5 percent, his GB% went from 38.9 to 43.1 percent and his K/9 went from 5.21 to 7.52 percent. It was also the final year of his contract and he parlayed his success into a five-year, $55 million contract with the Royals, which was lampooned at the time by the mainstream media and most statheads.

But Meche has been extremely effective in his first two years with Kansas City. He has thrown 426.1 innings and posted a 3.91 ERA in that span. He made the All-Star team in 2007, notched 14 wins last year, and was one of the top pitchers in the league in the second half. In his final 14 starts, Meche was 8-2 with a 3.00 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 90 innings. He had 11 QS in 14 outings and did this all with a .309 BABIP after the break.

There were two big reasons for Meche’s success last season. He notched the highest strikeout rate for any full season in the majors of his career, as he posted 7.83 K/9. Also, Meche allowed a home run on just 7.9 percent of his fly balls, which ranked 18th in the majors. He cut back on his curve and change to focus more on his fastball and slider. Meche used his slider 16.6 percent of the time last year, nearly as often as he threw his curve (17.8).

Meche was a lower-level number-three type fantasy starter in a standard 12-team mixed league last year. Barring some unforeseen improvement in his WHIP, that is probably his upside. But he is very reliable, having made 100 starts the past three seasons, he won’t kill you in any category and is a plus pitcher in strikeouts. Since many fantasy owners do not hold Meche in high regard (ADP in the 220s last year), he is someone who can provide great value in the high teens of your draft.