Future Fantasy Royalty: Luke Hochevar

Christopher J. FarinoContributor IMay 3, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 1:  Starting pitcher Luke Hochevar #44 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the 1st inning against the Chicago White Sox on August 1, 2008 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Royals are 233 games below .500 this decade. That is an average season record of 66-96.

This year, however, they are off to a much better start and a lot of that can be attributed to their solid pitching. Everyone knows about Zack Greinke and his 5-0 record, but did you know the Royals have another pitcher with a 5-0 record hidden on their roster?

Luke Hochevar is pitching in the AAA Pacific Coast League for the Omaha Royals. The PCL is traditionally an offense heavy league, which makes Hochevar’s numbers all the more impressive. He is 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 32 innings. The former number one overall pick in 2006 is biding his time down on the farm just waiting for the Royals to send Sir Sidney Ponson back to the “Netherlands”.

Hochevar spent just over half of 2008 with the big club in Kansas City with limited success. Many people in the organization felt that he was brought up too soon and was not ready to perform on the big league level despite being 25 years old and pitching four years for the University of Tennessee.

His poor record and high ERA were to be expected from a rookie, but the low number of strikeouts was a bit surprising. After striking out 200 hitters in 207 innings in the minors, Hochevar only fanned 72 hitters in 129 innings last year. This was part of the reason that he started 2009 in the Minor Leagues. One of the things the organization wanted him to work on was using both sides of the plate with more consistency, hoping that this would lead to more strikeouts and more outs in general.

The Royals manager Trey Hillman has given the temporary vote of confidence to Ponson, so there is no telling when Hochevar will get the call. But he is definitely someone to keep on your radar in all mixed leagues.

If the Royals stay competitive I cannot see them continuing to trot out Ponson every five days while Hochevar lights up Omaha. He is available in 99% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, so if you have the room in a deep mixed league, stash him for now and he could be a solid second half starter for your squad this year.

Expect respectable ratios (ERA in the high 3’s/low 4’s, WHIP around 1.33, and a K Rate of 6.5/9), and if the Royals stay in the race, he could pick up double digit wins if he gets 20+ starts.

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