Robbie Erlin, Robbie Ross: Not Just Deep League Waiver Wire

At least not just deep leagues in the case of the first one. And they’re not just a couple of soft-tossing left-handers whose nicknames are spelled the same way, although that’s basically where the similarities end, besides the fact that both started out in Texas’ organization.

SP Robbie Erlin, San Diego Padres

Ownership: ESPN 4.9% | Yahoo! 9% | CBS 43%

At first I was quite surprised that Erlin is so widely available, except for at CBS, where the leagues tend to be a good bit deeper. But I then realized that he’s just another in a sea of many potentially appealing arms in his ownership class in games where there are plenty of flavors and only so many days on which to taste them. I figure, it’s not a bad idea to point out why he’s unlikely to be just a passing palate pleaser and is probably someone to savor.

Erlin, 23, relies heavily on what looks to be a four-seam fastball that has a touch of natural movement on it, which is my guess as to why PITCHf/x often classifies it as a two-seamer. None of his pitches jumps out as special, but all of them, particularly his curveball, are quite good. He commands them all well, and his location is borderline exemplary. If it’s a well-called game, then this southpaw will probably be successful that night.

It might have seemed to go without saying that Erlin’s control is quite good, what with his lifetime 1.8 BB/9 in 426 minor league frames. His execution and the tightness of his stuff are going to allow him to accumulate strikeouts, too – not quite at the rate that his 14 K’s in 11 1/3 innings this year imply, but certainly enough to ring up between 7.0 and 8.0 K/9, I think.

Erlin leaves it up to the hit-percentage gods. But he does little to hurt himself, and there’s a touch of deception in the way he brings the ball up off his left hip until late in his windup. He’s basically a fly-ball pitcher, but he pitches down in the zone. Besides, where else would you rather have a FB hurler than PETCO Park?

To put a cherry on the Erlin sundae, he has an obvious opportunity now that Josh Johnson is paying a visit to Dr. James Andrews. SD fears that the offseason acquisition may need his second career Tommy John surgery. This is my shocked face: :-|. The Friars have an easy excuse to give Matt Wisler more time to polish his game on the farm. Casey Kelly (rehab from TJS) is still a ways away from making an impact. And someone else could go down in the meantime.

SP Robbie Ross, Texas Rangers

Ownership: ESPN 2.8% | Yahoo! 5% | CBS 27%

Ross, 24, might not be an obvious candidate for your fantasy squad, except that he’s fashioned an ERA of 1.00 after three starts (18 innings). Well, you say, that surely can’t last. And it won’t. But the regression to his mean expected performance could be quite gradual, despite what his early-season FIP and xFIP suggest.

Those metrics penalize him for the eight walks and meager total of 13 strikeouts thus far. Ross was quite wild as he walked six in his April 9 start at the Boston Red Sox. Otherwise, his control has been very good; historically, that’s also the case. He won’t generate the same kind of strikeout percentage that Erlin will, but he shouldn’t be any worse in that department than, say, Matt Harrison has been.

A little more than a month ago, Jack Weiland touched on why we can’t readily dismiss Ross from our fantasy periphery. The development of his changeup is probably essential for him to have staying power in the rotation. He’s resorted to it only a handful of times so far, with great results, but we’d like to see more.

The framework is here for him to remain an asset in 15-team mixed leagues. It’s capped by his heavy ground-ball tendency – around 56 percent for his career, at 72 percent early in 2014. More pertinently, because he calls Globe Life Park home, he must continue to keep the ball out of the air. That lifetime 22.5 percent fly-ball rate is pretty. If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band. And if you’re gonna pitch in Texas, you gotta keep the rawhide on land.

Ross has a better chance to stick in Texas’ starting five than Tanner Scheppers does when Harrison returns to action, in my opinion. The right-hander did more than enough in spring training to convince the Rangers that he deserved a rotation spot, but he couldn’t hack it as a starter in the minors. Consistency has often eluded him. Ross also cut his MLB teeth in the bullpen, but on the other hand, he spent his entire time on the farm as a starter. And who knows: An ailment could strike Colby Lewis again or some other member of the top five in the near future.




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Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined RotoGraphs. He's played in both Tout Wars and LABR since 2010. He also writes for FanGraphs. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.


11 Responses to “Robbie Erlin, Robbie Ross: Not Just Deep League Waiver Wire”

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  1. Bill says:

    Holding Latos. Need to replace innings/stats. Erlin or Richards? K/BB counts. With Richards’ uptick in velocity this year, he’s appealing to me as well.

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  2. Oh, Beepy says:

    “If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band. And if you’re gonna pitch in Texas, you gotta keep the rawhide on land.”

    One of my favorite sentences ever written here, and I am Canadian.

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  3. Goldie Wilson says:

    This is beyond brilliant: “If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band. And if you’re gonna pitch in Texas, you gotta keep the rawhide on land.”

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  4. Ryan says:

    Erlin’s F-Strike% of 47… concerning at all? So far it looks like he’s been getting behind in counts but not giving up walks… expecting BB% to go up, or does it just mean lower expected IP?

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    • I noticed that as well. I think it’s a fluke, that was a big problem in the Boston outing. I expect that number to rise significantly, to his relief levels of the last two years, and along with it the BB% to fall. That doesn’t concern me. If it remains a problem, then surely it would. I don’t think he has the stuff to battle back consistently.

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  5. Jr Ewing says:

    I expect the Rangers to severely limit Ross’ innings this year since he’s only thrown about 60-ish innings each of the last two years. With Holland and Harrison potentially coming back during the season I would expect him to move back to the pen and curtail his innings. If he’s successful this season I would expect him to have a full rotation spot in 2015.

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  6. The Humber Games says:

    Good analysis, dropped Kershaw for Erlin and I’m never looking back

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  7. Jr Ewing says:

    … that said I think he’s a good choice to use for the next month or two, especially if you can avoid bad matchups (like Boston) at home.

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    • I agree, an IP limit might be a concern for Ross’ long-term viability in 2014, but I’m not convinced they’ll do it, at least for sure. They didn’t with C.J. Wilson. Ross has pretty fluid mechanics, isn’t a max-effort guy, so I don’t think they have to be so cautious. Having said that, it’s unquestionably possible, given that the number of arms Texas has at its disposal could eventually exceed the number of slots, and they know he’s extremely dependable out of the bullpen, too. I do agree, too, a likely scenario involves short-term success in the rotation, followed by either a change in role or some hard correction by the second half. But I think he can remain relevant, if the opportunity remains his.

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  8. randplaty says:

    Erlin is the real deal. This new changeup he developed in Spring Training looks devastating.

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