Thursday, April 3, 2008

Cueto Mania!

Johnny Cueto, one of the most hyped pitchers after an outstanding Spring for the Reds is continuing where he left off absolutely owning the Diamondbacks in Cincinnati this afternoon. I’m watching the game on’s Gameday, which, for the type of analysis I am currently doing, is probably the best way.

Cueto just retired the side in order in the 7th inning not registering a strikeout in an inning for the first time this game. As is, he has gone 7 innings, with 10 strikeouts, no walks, one hit and one run.

The single run and hit obviously came in the same play, which was a 1 and 2 fastball that was inside on Justin Upton. That was the 6th fastball that Cueto had thrown to Upton, 3 of which Justin swung through and 2 of which he watched for balls. I’m not sure if this was the first ever match-up between the two as they did play in the double A Southern League as well as Midwestern A ball.

Prior to this start, I was not buying into Cueto. I loved his minor league numbers as much as anyone. I clamored over the scouting reports more than anyone. His Spring started phenomenal and then he lost his control. The strikeouts and hitters inability to consistently hit him kept most people keeping an eye on him.

However, I stayed away from him on my draft sheets. In a keeper league, I penciled him in thinking I could steal him late and stash him on my bench hoping for a big April in the minors to which I could move him for a more valuable, consistent veteran. Unfortunately, Yahoo decided not to add him to their player database and thus the sweat was off my back.

As I mentioned, I was figuring to stay away from Cueto in drafts, hoping in my keeper league to take advantage of the hype and move him. The reason I was staying away from him was simple, he was about to begin his career in one of the most pitcher friendly ballparks in the majors. Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati has ranked 3rd, 1st and 7th in the majors since 2005 in terms of runs scored and 3rd, 3rd and 2nd in home runs. Essentially, there are few places where I wouldn’t prefer the kid to start his career.

Further, consider the groundball percentages of Cueto in his last five minor league stops – 54%, 39%, 47%, 36% and 34%. Those figures average out to about 42%, I suppose if they were weighted, the figure may climb closer to 45%. That isn’t climbing towards Chris Young percentages, but it isn’t great considering the ballpark he plays in.

However, all worry has been dispelled. Cueto’s stuff is among the best in baseball. If he can keep his walks under control and continues to mix up his pitches, there is no reason he won’t drastically out perform his projections.

Projections? Only PECOTA helps out there with the following line:
130 Innings Pitched, 22 starts, 4.83 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 138 Hits, 46 Walks, 21 Home Runs Allowed, 105 Strikeouts and 7 Wins.

Obviously PECOTA feels his fly ball tendencies at GAB will not jive, but after that dominating debut, I’m willing to take a chance on him in every league, using up my waiver and dropping a bench player.

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