Buy High on Paul Maholm?

How real is Paul Maholm’s start? The soft-tossing left-hander has not allowed a run to score in 20.1 innings while striking out over 25% of the batters he has faced so far. With a fastball velocity of 86.9 miles per hour, it is easy to expect the strikeout rate to drop and the ERA to subsequently rise. Even with those certainties, Maholm is still a better than thought of starting pitcher. He is essentially what Mark Buehrle was when he was Maholm’s age, a starter who will rely on command and deception to get hitters out, but Maholm has seen his strikeout rate steadily climbing over the past four years, from 12.1% to 14.1% to 17.8% and this year’s 25.3% rate.

While this has certainly been a great start for the soon to be free agent, last year’s improvements across the board are what we should really be focusing on. His ERA matched the season previous and his FIP rose to 4.00, but the rising strikeout rate and dropping walk rate were positive signs. It is also worth considering that in his 11 starts in Atlanta his strikeout rate was above 20%. That makes 14 starts spanning 89 innings with a strikeout rate well above his career average and a walk rate a full percentage point lower as well.

At this point, owners of Maholm will be trying to “sell high.” I doubt they will even be asking for what he is really worth, since very few find mid 80’s lefties in their 30’s very valuable. That makes him a target worth trading for, in my opinion. While some owners may be savvy enough to have drafted him due to last year’s performance, most would be willing to part ways with him and grab whatever value they think they can find.

My suggestion is to take advantage of that, offer a position that owner needs and walk away with a starter who has been consistently improving, is in a contract year, and should rack up win totals on one of the top teams in all of baseball. Maholm won’t save your season, and if the owner is holding onto him with a kung-fu grip then do not go overboard. If not, look to add a worthwhile starter that owners will be looking to move.

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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.

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What sort of pitchers do you view him as comparable to in value?