Drew Pomeranz was one of the biggest prospects in all of baseball back when he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2011; that year he was 60th on Keith Law’s top 100 prospect list, one spot ahead of Mike Minor and seven spots ahead of Chris Sale.
Obviously, Keith Law can’t see into the future.
Since that list has come out, Minor and Sale have blossomed into top-20 caliber starting pitchers while Pomeranz — up until very recently — became merely an afterthought. Pomeranz got a fresh start this season when the Colorado Rockies traded him to the Oakland Athletics (talk about a difference in home parks) though, and so far he has seized the opportunity.
After making nine appearances in relief, the Athletics promoted Pomeranz to the starting rotation early in May when they exiled Dan Straily to AAA. For the season, Pomeranz has a 4-1 record to go with a 0.94 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 8.48 K/9; and as a starter he’s 3-0 with an ERA of 0.00, a 0.80 WHIP and 16 strikeouts over 15 innings. Pomeranz is going to be in the Oakland A’s rotation for the foreseeable future; as a fantasy owner, should he also be in yours?
I’m buying Pomeranz moving forward.
As of now, I think Pomeranz is a pitcher who should be owned in most — if not all — fantasy leagues and unless he’s facing a very difficult matchup on the road (like this weekend’s start in Toronto) owners should be comfortable plugging him into their lineup every five days; and if a few of the trends Pomeranz is showing early on continue, he could very well be a top-50 starting pitcher entering 2015.
What are the early indicators that Pomeranz is on the rise?
1). His walk rate.
Back in 2011, ESPN’s Keith Law had this to say regarding Pomeranz, “He’s big, left-handed, throws fairly hard and has a knockout pitch in the curveball, which adds up to a valuable mid-rotation starter, but my gut feeling is that command will always be an issue.”
In this instance, Law was able to predict the future, control up to this point has indeed been a big issue for Pomeranz. In 242.2 minor league innings, Pomeranz had a BB/9 of 3.4 and in 165.1 career major league innings his BB/9 stands at 4.35.
This season though, Pomeranz has slashed his walk rate to 3.14 and if he’s able to keep it in the low-3′s all season (something I believe he’s capable of doing, especially because of indicator number three further down the page) it will be a huge sign that he’s improving as a pitcher.
2). His knuckle-curveball.
Pomeranz introduced baseball to his knuckle-curve this season and so far it has — literally — been unhittable. According to PITCHf/x data, Pomeranz has thrown the knuckle-curve 55 times this season and not a single hitter has been able to get a hit off of it. Pomeranz has recorded eight strikeouts with the knuckle curve and PITCHf/x has graded it as the 6th best knuckle-curveball this season among all pitchers with at least 20 innings.
3). He’s throwing his fastball for strikes, and it’s paying off dividends.
Coming into this season, Pomeranz had thrown 39.2 percent of his four-seam fastballs in the strike zone. This season that percentage is all the way up to 47.72 percent, and he’s benefited tremendously from it. Prior to 2014, Pomeranz had hurled 1,754 four-seamers and hitters had hit .254 against the pitch with a .142 ISO. This season, he’s chucked 300 four-seam fastballs and so far hitters are hitting just .174 against it with a 0.74 ISO.
A few bad seasons, early in his career, while pitching in the worst pitchers park in all of baseball was all it took for many people to write-off this once top-prospect.
It’s time Drew Pomeranz made his way back onto your radar. He’s still just 25 years old, he still possesses a left-arm with an incredible amount of life and potential, and he’s moved from one of the worst pitchers parks to one of the best. (I really can’t harp enough how tough it is to pitch in Colorado. To put it in perspective, the Rockies offense as a team this year is slashing .344/.391/.560 at home this year and .251/.299/.411 on the road.)
Pomeranz is still available in 46 percent of Yahoo! leagues and in 39 percent of ESPN leagues. You’re window of opportunity to add the young southpaw is closing though, his ownership has risen by 44 percent in ESPN leagues over the last seven days. Go pick up Drew Pomeranz.