Keepers: Slowey vs Joba vs Cueto

Even though this isn’t officially a mailbag post, the idea for this analysis came from someone with a question, who wishes to remain anonymous:

“I’m in a dynasty league, with no rules about rounds or dollar values for keepers. I have Slowey, Joba, and Cueto as potential keepers, but can only keep two of them. Which one should I trade or drop?”

Kevin Slowey only pitched through June, missing the last three months of the season after undergoing surgery on his wrist. Slowey looks poised to return by the beginning of the season, so his injury isn’t of much concern, especially in dynasty leagues. Slowey has superb control, so his WHIP should benefit from it. His high ERA in 2009 was inflated a bit by a fluky BABIP, but his home run rate will need to go down before he can be considered a top fantasy starter.

Joba Chamberlain is a hard player to project, because his role is up in the air. The Yanks are going to give him every opportunity to be a starter, and will be easing up on the “Joba Rules” next season. His strikeout rate as a starter is 8.40 per 9, while his K/9 as a reliever is 11.9. He also walks more batters as a starter, which is not a good sign of possible future success.

Johnny Cueto just finished up his second season as a starter for the Reds, lowering his ERA 40 points, and lowering his FIP 31 points. He did this by lowering his walk and home run rates, but he sacrificed strikeouts to do so. The Reds defense is good, so Cueto’s increased ground ball rate is another good sign. However, he doesn’t have much of an arsenal, and he looks to be maximizing his potential already, without much more of a ceiling to reach.

Of these three, I am keeping Slowey for sure. He is a safe bet to give you wins and a reasonable ERA and WHIP each year, with a decent strikeout total. This leaves the decision between Chamberlain and Cueto. Chamberlain still has more upside than Cueto does, so I would keep him as well. Cueto is a hard guy to cut loose, but you may be able to find a trade partner for him.

To sum it up, in a vacuum I’d rather keep Slowey and Joba over Cueto.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

8 Responses to “Keepers: Slowey vs Joba vs Cueto”

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  1. R M says:

    Cueto doesn’t have much of an arsenal? Who are you confusing him with?

    This is quoted from a David G article from a while back….

    “Johnny Cueto remains an extremely talented young pitcher. His 93 MPH fastball and mid-80’s power slider can be nearly impossible to hit at times, as evidenced by his minuscule 76.9 Contact% (9th-best in baseball, sandwiched between Cole Hamels and Johan Santana). However, he may want to utilize his changeup more often in 2009, as he threw his slider over 32% of the time (the 5th-highest rate in the big leagues) while using the change just 6.7%. When he threw it, Cueto’s change was a nasty looking pitch, with horizontal movement that was identical to his fastball and a whopping 7 inches of vertical drop compared to his heater.”

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    • Zach Sanders says:

      wFB: -8.5
      wSL: -2.2
      wCH: -1.4

      wFB: -2.3
      wSL: 0.6
      wCH: -3.4

      That would be what I am referring to. Also, I prefer a starting pitcher with more than two pitches, especially when one (slider) doesn’t move much.

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      • R M says:

        w/FB: -6.6

        w/FB: -8.9

        Guess who? Felix Hernandez. Those stats are pretty cool, but they don’t say much about the cieling of a 23 year old pitcher. Plus, Cueto throws a fastball, slider and changeup.

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      • Zach Sanders says:

        Realize he throws a change, but not enough for it to really count as part of his arsenal. And yes, those pitch numbers don’t say much about future success, but I still feel he is already closing in on his ceiling.

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      • R M says:

        Well, I guess that’s a matter of opinion. I think 8% is enough to be significant…. especially with the increase from 2008.

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  2. The A Team says:

    On the other hand, if you have Yankee fans in the league you may be able to find a lovely prize with Joba.

    In that position I’d try to move both Joba and Cueto for a better player (assuming somebody has an extra keeper slot and is looking for an upgrade.

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  3. Colin says:

    Slowey has extreme value with his K/BB and Whip. HR rate is never going down though because his stuff does not match his control and he refuses to pitch outside the strike zone, he’s always going to have a high HR rate leading to a higher than expected era, but still a top class pitcher.

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  4. Louis Rizzo says:

    They all have upsides. Slowey relies more on pinpoint control than raw “stuff” so i consider his ceiling to be that of a #3ish starter. He seems reliable enough, but until e decreases his homeruns allowed, i dont see success more than or equal to that of Cueto and Joba.

    Cuetos problem was homeruns, and considering his increase in ground balls, I think hes a reliable option, because even if hes reached his cieling, hes shown that he can make adjustments, which makes me think that he possibly could have a higher ceiling.

    Joba has probably the best stuff of these three, but he walks way too many, and he needs to learn to “pitch” rather than “throw”, reminiscent of A.J Burnett. Im also worried about him possibly breaking down because of his violent delivery, and the fact that his fastballs been slowly loseing velocity, granted this could just be conservation considering his brief move to the rotation.

    So in short: #1: Joba #2: Cueto #3: Slowey. This is ranked only in upside. If it were reliablility and predictability the order would probably be reversed. My opinion is that Joba can pull a Felix Hernandez if he is able to take a step forward, Cueto can adjust and is a good mix of reliability and upside, and Slowey is probably the safest choice.

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