Finding strikeouts late in your draft (after pick 225) is not an easy task, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible to find. While all of these pitchers may have some flaws (i.e. injury risk), I also project them all to have a K/9 of 8.00 or greater. Let’s take a look at who you can target if you find yourself in need of some Ks:
Bud Norris: Houston Astros
Norris was a popular late-round target in 2011 for those looking for strikeouts, and nothing has changed in 2012. Over 186.0 IP last season, he posted 176 K, good for an 8.52 K/9 (despite fading down the stretch with a 6.14 K/9 in September). Considering his 9.50 K/9 over his minor league career and 8.42 over 134.2 IP at Triple-A, there’s nothing unrealistic about the number. In fact, with more experience, would it be a surprise if he improved upon it?
Throw in the fact that he dramatically improved his control (3.39 BB/9) and he really could emerge as a quality option in all formats. The biggest issue is obviously going to be the wins, playing for one of the worst offensive teams in the game, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Francisco Liriano: Minnesota Twins
We’ve spoken a lot about Liriano this preseason, and rightfully so. We all know that he wasn’t very good last season (7.50 K/9, 5.09 ERA, 1.49 WHIP), but we also know the type of potential that he has. He appears to be fully healthy once again and is showing signs that he could return to dominance. Remember, he is the same pitcher who has posted K/9s of 10.71 (over 121.0 IP in 2006), 9.44 (over 191.2 IP in 2010) and 9.94 over his minor league career.
In 13.0 IP this spring he is leading the league with 18 K. Obviously you have to take the level of competition into account, but at this point he is one of my favorite late-round selections. Even if he is a fraction of what he once was, his potential is well worth it.
Erik Bedard: Pittsburgh Pirates
Can he actually stay healthy? If he does, there is no questioning the stuff that he possesses. He has a career K/9 of 8.67, including a 10.93 mark in 182.0 IP in 2007. Pitching in the NL for the first time, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him easily post a mark in the 8.50-9.00 range.
The problem with Bedard, of course, is how many innings you are actually going to get from him. In the past four years he has pitched a total of 293.1 innings, including missing all of 2010. When he is on the mound, however, consider him a good source of cheap strikeouts.
Mike Minor: Atlanta Braves
He appears primed to open the year as the Braves’ fifth starter. Given the bounty of young starters that they have, it is not a guarantee that he holds down the job all year, however. Over his minor league career he has posted a 10.03 K/9, and also has an 8.76 mark over 123.1 innings in the Major Leagues. Hopefully the Braves give him a long leash (he has struggled in the Majors with a 4.74 ERA and 1.52 WHIP), because the upside is clearly there.
Chris Sale: Chicago White Sox
We don’t have much of a track record for Sale, having worked exclusively as a relief pitcher since being drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft. However, there’s no questioning his strikeout ability with a 16.55 K/9 in the minor leagues and 10.59 K/9 over 94.1 IP in the Majors.
Obviously we can’t expect that type of number, having to learn to pitch deeper into games and not let it all loose for just a few batters. Still, even if he loses 1-2 mph on his fastball, he’s averaged 95.6 mph thus far in his career. In other words, the potential is there to post a strikeout per inning as long as he can transition to his new role smoothly.
Jonathan Sanchez: Kansas City Royals
He’s always been a big strikeout pitcher, but the results have never been there. Moving from the comfy confines of San Francisco to the American League, how can we really expect anything different?
In 708.0 IP he has posted a 4.26 ERA, only once finishing with an ERA under 4.24 (3.07 in 193.1 IP in 2010). His control has always been his biggest obstacle, with a 4.78 career BB/9 (leading to a 1.39 WHIP). However, since 2007 he has posted a K/9 under 9.00 just once (8.94 in 2008). If that’s what you are looking for, he’s fine. Just be prepared for poor numbers elsewhere.
Jarrod Parker: Oakland Athletics
He’s already been demoted to the minor leagues, but the A’s won’t need a fifth starter until the middle of April. Even if he doesn’t open the year in the rotation he’s going to get there sooner or later. Over his minor league career he has posted an 8.44 K/9, but that includes a 7.71 in 130.2 innings in 2011, his first year back after Tommy John surgery. Another year removed, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to the days of 8.50 or more.
What are your thoughts of these pitchers? Are you targeting any of them? Are there any other pitchers that you are looking at late in your draft as a source of strikeouts?
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: