Michael Hurcomb of CBSsports.com recently claimed Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber to not have a high fantasy ceiling, stating he “will throw together a few good starts, then a few bad ones.”
It’s hard not to argue with Hurcomb when judging the book by its cover: Kluber, owned in 60 percent of CBS leagues and less than 30 percent of ESPN leagues, sports barely-above-average ratios in his 3.69 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. But let’s dig a little deeper.
Kluber has started 16 games this season. Two are admitted duds (8 ER in 4.2 IP, 6 ER in 4.2 IP) and one start was shortened by rain. Removing these three outlier starts, Kluber’s stats are:
2.74 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.1 K/9
What’s more, he has a BAbip of .324, well above the MLB average of .296, so his WHIP should be a couple of ticks lower. That certainly looks like a pitcher I want to own. So what if he had a couple of blowups? Every pitcher blows up every now and then. Unfortunately for Kluber, his were pretty severe. But if he’s only going to blow up once every two months, that’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially in a head-to-head league but even in rotisserie leagues, too.
It’s hard to make a long-term endorsement for a pitcher with such underwhelming minor league numbers (4.42 ERA, 1.405 WHIP). It would only make sense to write him off as a one-year wonder.
However, Kluber has made significant strides in his control. He has improved his 3.6 BB/9 rate in the minors to 2.6 BB/9 in 2012 and 2.2 BB/9 this year. Prorate his current walk rate across his minor league career and it gives him a minor league WHIP of 1.25, almost identical to his current WHIP. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate this year matches his minor league rate.
Basically, Corey Kluber is the real deal. He’s better than his 3.69 ERA and 1.23 WHIP depict, and he should be owned in all leagues especially while the Indians continue to contend.
Corey Kluber’s stat to watch: his walk rate (BB/9). He’s really shored it up since the minors, but if it starts to slip, it could spell trouble for him. He has walked 10 batters in his last four starts (3.7 BB/9 — almost identical to his minor league rate) after walking only 14 batters in his first 12 starts (1.8 BB/9).