When the San Diego Padres dealt Mat Latos to Cincinnati, many may have thought that the fantasy appeal of Padre starting pitchers had more or less evaporated. However, when you play in that stadium, there is always the potential to find value. While the names aren’t sexy and wins may be tough to come by, there is one key name that you need to be aware of.
That would be Cory Luebke, who started as a reliever but ultimately thrived in the rotation:
111 Strikeouts (9.92 K/9)
29 Walks (2.59 BB/9)
When you have good control and a tremendous strikeout rate and play in the comfy confines of Petco Park, the other numbers are bound to fall into place. The real question, however, is whether what we saw from Luebke in the rotation was actually for real.
While he has always shown good control (2.11 BB/9 in his minor league career), he had posted a 7.54 K/9 over his minor league career. So, how can we honestly expect him to maintain his lofty rate from 2011?
There is no specific answer to that question. If he can maintain the unbelievable strikeout rate that he showed last season, the fact is that there is no reason to think that he can’t replicate last year’s numbers. The peripherals are believable, including his BABIP and 75.6% strand rate. In other words, with his control, he is going to excel once again if the strikeouts continue.
At 26 years old, maybe he simply just figured it out. Maybe he finally had the right person in his ear, and the whole thing came together for him. Is that something we can really count on, however?
So far this spring he is certainly giving us support for that claim, with 16 K over 14.0 IP, though considering his minor league track record I would anticipate the K/9 falling. It’s obvious that he has improved his play, but seeing that large of a jump is nearly impossible to imagine.
Just keep that in mind, though it doesn’t mean that the numbers are going to completely fall off a cliff either. He still has the control. He still should post a viable strikeout rate (even if it falls to around the 8.25-8.75 range). He still pitchers in a great ballpark. He also should improve on his line drive rate (22.4% in ’11).
However, with all that in mind, he’s still going to regress a little bit (most notably in the WHIP department). Here are the numbers that I am projecting for the coming year:
180.0 IP, 12 W, 3.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 172 K (8.60 K/9), 54 BB (2.70 BB/9)
He should remain a solid sleeper in all formats, but he’s not going to be quite the player he was in ’11. Just remember that before reaching for him on draft day.
Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: