What I Expect: Yovani Gallardo
Destiny is a funny thing. It is pretty amazing how one thing can lead to another.
The 2008 Milwaukee Brewers were destined to make the playoffs. Unfortunately for Yovani Gallardo, a torn ACL was the price he had to pay for the team's success.
If the Brewers' top young pitcher had never been injured, it is quite unlikely that CC Sabathia would have ever become a member of the team. Without Sabathia, the Brewers never have won the National League Wild Card.
Gallardo has been bred to be the Brewers' ace for the past couple years and 2009 will be the year that his potential must become a reality. No player will have higher expectations with as little experience as Gallardo.
Gallardo is only 23, and has made only 21 Major League starts.
Although his numbers are impressive, his lack of experience is a huge concern for both fans and the organization. His arm strength will continue to be a question until he can remain healthy for an entire season.
No one has ever questioned Gallardo's stuff. He has all the tools to be an ace of the rotation for years to come. Since making his Major League debut, YoGa has pitched 134.3 innings, striking out 121 batters while only walking 45. His 3.35 ERA is almost a half run lower than Ben Sheets' career ERA.
Hopefully Gallardo won't suffer the same health issues that the former Brewer had.
Manager Ken Macha has made it clear that Gallardo won't be slotted in as the "ace" of the staff to start the year. Macha said there's no reason to burden Gallardo with unnecessary pressure and expectations.
Yo's number one job for 2009 will be to make it through the entire season injury free. Although 2009 is extremely important for both Gallardo and the Brewers, it is more important to have Gallardo healthy for 2010 and beyond.
If Gallardo is having any health issues, it is imperative for the Brewers to take a cautious approach and give him whatever rest he needs.
While I would love for Gallardo to pitch a full season and to make 30-plus starts, it's just not a realistic expectation at this point in his career.
I think 20-25 starts would be a good number to shoot for. Predicting wins is hard for a pitcher, but Gallardo should easily win more than 10 games if he remains healthy. His ERA should continue to stay well below 4.00, and I would not be surprised to see his strikeouts right around one per inning.
Gallardo is as talented as any pitcher that has come through the Brewers' farm system. His poise and command will always keep him in games, and once he is comfortable pitching on a regular basis, it won't be long before he establishes himself as one of the top pitchers in the league.
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