Do I love Ubaldo Jimenez as a pitcher? No. He is wild, he is inconsistent, and very difficult to predict on a year-by-year and start-by-start basis. However, he is looking very undervalued of late and should be a guy most people are targeting late in drafts.
In a keeper league I am in that drafted yesterday, I was able to grab Jimenez in the 16th round. In standard Yahoo drafts he is going as the 204th overall pick, or in the 17th round of 12 team leagues. To me, he is a steal at that price. I am of the “wait on pitching” line of thinking, specifically in such a low run environment, and Jimenez coming off a year with a 3.30 ERA and 194 punch outs in 182 innings is a big reason why I feel so confident about waiting on pitching until the later rounds.
All the aforementioned reasons are why Jimenez goes so late in drafts. I have never before owned Jimenez, but this game is all about value and there won’t be many guys you can find that late in the draft that can provide as much value as Jimenez offers.
Mike Salfino of Yahoo.com ranked pitchers by tiers of strikeouts minus walks and ISO against. Jimenez fell to the fourth tier, but it’s a tier that includes Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain, and Johnny Cueto to name a few – all of which are going between rounds 7 and 13 on average.
Taking a tiered approach to drafts in this format gives you the ability to pick whichever starters are there rather than targeting specific guys. I used this format in the draft and ended up with many tier two to tier four guys based on Salfino’s research. Combined with excellent relief pitchers, I know I’ll have a solid staff while I was able to build a great offense in the early rounds.
Going back to Jimenez specifically, in looking at ZiPS and Steamer we get a pretty drastic range of expectations. Steamer has him with a 4.38 ERA and ZiPS with a 3.77 mark. Tradtionally I have always found ZiPS to be my projection system of choice, but it would be unwise to utilize just one system when there are many available. Looking at only ZiPs, you get a 12-9 record with 183 punch outs in 172 innings. Would you take that in the 16th round? I certainly did and I feel it would be silly to pass up on a guy whose name has been riddled with inconsistency that late. At that round, you’re almost looking for inconsistency, and guys who can miss bats are always the types to target rather than the ground ball specialists who may get you a couple wins with a similar ERA as Ubaldo.
The final reason I am high on Ubaldo is his fundamental change in his approach last season. He has traditionally been pretty standard with how frequently he throws each pitch, but last year he turned to a more slider heavy repertoire while almost entirely eliminating his curveball. The success he had in his FIP and xFIP to back his ERA is confidence inducing. While it is a concern that he will no longer be in as friendly a park and now will be in the AL East, if he can maintain this approach I am confident the ZiPS projections will look a lot like what we get from him at season’s end. And, again, for as late as he is going in drafts that could be a huge reason for winning a league come season’s end.