Remember Gavin Floyd? Shockingly, He's Pretty Good Now

Jimmy HascupCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2010

BOSTON - AUGUST 26:  Starting pitcher Gavin Floyd #34 of the Chicago White Sox throws to first base during the sixth inning during the game against the Boston Red Sox on August 26, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by: Elsa/Getty Images)
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The 2001 Draft Class was headed by Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira, but other than that it has been chock full of flops, busts, and injured talent. While MLB’s draft is the epitome of a crapshoot, the first round of the draft should be the one that team’s take high-flight talent, which has a very real chance to make it to the majors in a few years.

When Gavin Floyd was selected almost nine years ago as an 18-year-old, the Phillies thought he had the makings of a sure-fire ace. He flew through the minors, then proceeded to take lessons from fellow first round draftees (like Dewon Brazelton) at the major league level and had trouble preventing opponents from scoring on him. Subsequently, Floyd was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2006, where he has miraculously revived a once promising career. Let’s take a look at how he fared last season:

11 Wins
193.0 Innings
4.06 ERA
1.23 WHIP
163 Strikeouts (7.60 K/9)
59 Walks (2.75 BB/9)
.292 BABIP

Not only did Floyd put up a very impressive 2009 season, he also had one the year before… but does that mean we should be believers yet?

For those who don’t recall, over the past few years Floyd not only has become a legitimate option in the Sox’s rotation, he’s also flashed no-hit stuff several times. Consequently, his average draft position has risen over the past two seasons—to 180—but is that still a bargain spot for fantasy owners? After all the 15th round seems kind of late for someone with the stuff Floyd possesses, doesn’t it? Let’s take a look.

The first question that pops up when discussing pitchers, especially ones who have had the well-documented struggles akin to Floyd’s is injuries. Luckily for Floyd, he has never had a serious or career threatening injury, though he did deal with some hip issues at the end of last season. Throughout his minor league and major league career Floyd has actually been quite the workhorse (used lightly in this day and age), compiling at least 150 innings in ever year—don’t forget trips back and forth between the majors and minors have stunted that. The past two years—his first full stints in the big leagues—he’s pitched 206.1 and 193.0 innings respectively. Piling up the innings shouldn’t really concern potential fantasy owners.

The next issue facing any hurler is how realistic his ERA and WHIP are and whether or not they are sustainable. For the past two seasons, Floyd’s BABIP has been a .268 and .292; the first one obviously playing a part in his lower year-end ERA of 3.84 in 2008. Further, his strand-rates have hovered around the 70 percent level which reveals that he’s not being overly lucky in terms of leaving runners on base, either.  To put this in perspective, his 2008 breakout season saw him finish with a 4.77 FIP, due in large part to the low BABIP and somewhat inflated walk total.

This past season, however, saw Floyd continue to make vast improvements, despite finishing with less wins (17 to 11) and a lower ERA. For someone who has always been plagued by erratic control (a career 3.3 BB/9), Floyd harnessed his stuff better, compiling just 2.8 BB/9. While not as good as his 2.4 BB/9 in his short time at the major leagues in 2007, Floyd threw over double the innings while seeing his control improve as the season transpired.

In April/March he had a SO/BB ratio of 1.63. He saw that rise in every month (except for a slight dip between July/August) to finish with one of 3.67 in August and one of 4.67 in September/October. Is it possible that Floyd is finally finding his niche in the major leagues? If he was in his mid-30s I would say it could be just an anomaly, but at age-27, Floyd is just entering his prime and it is entirely possible. Moreover, according to his expected FIP, Floyd should have had a better 2009 than 2008: 3.69 to 4.56.

Chicago’s maturing righty has never been one who was extremely difficult to make contact with, as he gives up nine hits per nine innings, so it is very important that he continue to limit the walks. In addition, it’s crucial that he suppress the home runs, which he’s done over the past three years: from 17.7 percent HR/FB in 2007 to one of 11.2 percent in 2009.

For those who are still not believers, an article on Fangraphs  points out a very favorable trend for Gavin Floyd: his decreased use of his fastball in favor of more sliders and cutters. Combining slider and cut-fastball into one for simplicity’s sake, he has seen their usage rise from 14.3 percent of his pitches in 2007 to 29% last year. His fastball usage has decreased by over 20 percent. It has also allowed him to manage lefties better: .314 AVG in 2007 to a .232 AVG in 2009.

Floyd won’t be asked to carry the load this year, with Jake Peavy ready for action. In fact, he may pose some real matchup problems for his opponents, since he’ll be a very talented third or fourth starter on the Sox.

I’m not expecting ace-like numbers, but is a top-30 pitcher by the end of this season totally out of the question? I say no and I expect Floyd to with an ERA just under four, with a WHIP and K/9 around last year’s.

Let’s hear what everyone has to say. What do you guys expect? Are you still hesitant to take the chance?