Out since last June, it looks like Reds’ righty Edinson Volquez will make his triumphant return to the big leagues this Saturday against the Rockies. He’s been on the shelf because of reconstructive elbow surgery, but he also mixed a 50-game PED suspension in there as well.
Part of that great win-win trade with the Rangers and Josh Hamilton, Volquez broke out in a big way in 2008, putting together a 4.3 WAR season thanks to 196 innings of 3.60 FIP ball. Last year didn’t go as well before the elbow gave out (5.01 FIP in 49.2 IP), but Volquez is healthy now, which is a great thing for fantasy owners.
Always a high strikeout (8.51 K/9 career, 9.46 in ’08), high walk (4.62 BB/9 career, 4.27 in ’08) power arm (averaged 93.6-93.8 mph on the fastball from 2006-2009), Volquez rolled through the minors during his rehab stint, posting a 28/8 K/BB ratio in 31 IP (six starts) and showing his old velocity. The question isn’t if he’s ready to return to the show physically, but how much should we expect out of him.
The biggest issue are the walks. Command and control is typically the last thing to come back after elbow surgery, and Edinson didn’t exactly pound the strike zone before getting hurt either. I wouldn’t read anything into his 2.3 BB/9 during the rehab stint, because not only is it a tiny sample, but young players in the bush leagues will chase stuff off the plate and get themselves out. Good luck doing that against a non-Astros big league lineup. With the elbow issues last season, Volquez walked a ridiculous 5.8 batters per nine, and I would anticipate something between his ’08 and ’09 marks through the end of the season. Something right around five makes sense, but he could easily best that.
Volquez has always been tough to hit, and I wouldn’t expect that to change, nor would I expect his strikeout rate to plummet. That will help keep his WHIP in check despite the all the free passes. Conservatively assuming 8.5 K/9 with 5.0 BB/9 and 1.0 HR/9 should translate to a low- to mid-4.00’s ERA, which has lots of value when you consider that Volquez has the potential to be so much better than that. The Reds have a solid back-end of the bullpen, so leads and wins should be safe. Coming back from Tommy John surgery can be tricky, but guys with this kind of sheer stuff have a lot more room for error.
Volquez is owned in just 27% of Yahoo! leagues, and even if his return comes a little later than this Saturday, run out and grab him. Adding a starter of this caliber and this late in the season usually takes a trade, but now you (might) have a chance to pull it off without sacrificing anything more than waiver priority. That Saturday start comes against the Rox, and after that Cincinnati has dates with the Nationals, Astros, Brewers, Braves, and Pirates.