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Jason Hammel vs Jeff Niemann

Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann will always be connected. Both came up through the Rays system, are big dudes (6’6” and 6’9”), and were in the running for the fifth starter spot in Tampa last spring. The Rays decided they’d rather have Niemann, and dealt Hammel to the Rockies during the first week of April.

Both Hammel and Niemann had solid ’09 campaigns, but who is the better pick in 2010?

Niemann went 13-6 with a 3.94 ERA, striking out 6.23 batters per nine and walking 2.94 per nine. He posted a 4.53 xFIP, .304 BABIP, and 73.7% LOB%, showing that his numbers weren’t to far off from what we’d expect. Niemann is currently the 56th pitcher being taken, and the 213th player off the board overall. He is being drafted in 96.7% of leagues.

Hammel went 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA, striking out 6.78 batters per nine, and walking 2.14 per nine. He posted a 3.81 xFIP, .337 BABIP, and 69.5% LOB%, which could translate into a better line in 2010. In 384 big league innings Hammel has a career BABIP of .331, but that should drop closer to the .300 mark as his career progresses. Hammel is the 99th pitcher off the board, and the 362nd player overall. He is being drafted in a mere 2.9% of leagues.

Why is Niemann being drafted so much higher than Hammel? For one, I would venture a guess that the old stigma behind Coors Field is catching up to Hammel. His numbers are very similar to Niemann’s, although his stuff graded out lower according to our Pitch Value data.

Hammel at 362 is an infinitely better value than Niemann at 213, and I think Hammel may move up some boards as the season draws nearer. Hammel isn’t an ace, but neither is Niemann, and one is being taken in almost every league while one is hardly being picked at all. Take advantage of the value Hammel presents in deeper and NL-only leagues, and keep an eye on him as a possible waiver wire pickup in standard leagues.

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