- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Ubaldo Jimenez is owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues, and while I'm not his biggest fan from a statistical standpoint, I can't really quarrel with his ownership. Jimenez was a likely regression candidate from 2010, and he's certainly been frustrating for fantasy owners, especially at Coors Field, where his numbers are atrocious. Well, he doesn't have to deal with that anymore, after the Colorado Rockies traded him to the Cleveland Indians (pending a physical), but fantasy owners should still view him in the proper frame of mind.
Good for the Indians and their fans for the intent of the deal, I suppose, though the price to acquire Jimenez is a steep one. Fantasy owners need not concern themselves with the prospects the Rockies picked up in the deal for at least another year and probably more, but the big story is a contending team's rotation that lacked star power is getting some. I just don't think Jimenez is quite the star people think.
A year ago, when he was fantasy's top pitcher in the first half of the season, Jimenez was a fantasy hero. He ended up 23rd overall on the Player Rater, fourth among starting pitchers, thanks to 19 wins, a 2.88 ERA, 1.15 and many, many strikeouts. Then again, he was 15-1 with a 2.20 at the All-Star break. In the second half of the season he was not nearly as a successful. I didn't really consider ranking the right-hander among my top 10 starting pitchers for 2011, but he made my top 20 ... barely.
Entering Saturday, Jimenez was 83rd among starting pitchers on the Rater for this season, and let's just say Saturday didn't go so well as a seemingly disinterested Jimenez allowed four runs to the awful San Diego Padres in the first inning. Command was clearly a problem. Jimenez has won only 10 of his 36 starts since last year's All-Star break with a 4.17 ERA. A big part of the problem is the home numbers, where Jimenez has a 5.55 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and far lower strikeout rate this year. Overall his average fastball velocity is down nearly 3 mph. But let's face it, until Saturday night at Petco Park, he had been terrific on the road, with a sub-1 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings. (I'm not going to destroy him for the Padres outing.)
In other words, he's still a good pitcher, valuable in fantasy, just not top 20 or particularly close for me. For statistical purposes, the neutral Progressive Field should help, but Jimenez will also be facing tougher lineups laden with designated hitters rather than automatic out pitchers. No more San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers this season.
If I'm in an AL-only league and need pitching, I'd use my top waiver spot or spend a good portion of available FAAB dollars to acquire Jimenez. I doubt any better starting pitchers will be coming over from the NL or the minor leagues. Overall Jimenez actually sports a better xFIP than he ended up with last season (3.49 entering Saturday versus 2010's 3.60), so perhaps exiting Coors Field will have a bigger impact than we think.
But I also don't view Jimenez as a Cy Young contender moving forward. Assuming Jimenez stays with the Indians in 2012, I'd view him as a durable innings eater capable of winning 15 games (but I'll take the under), with an ERA in the high-3s, a WHIP around 1.25 and perhaps 200 strikeouts. For this year he could win half his 14 or so remaining starts, I suppose, with similar peripherals, but let's also remember the team he's joining doesn't score a ton of runs. My point is simple: Own Jimenez but view him for what he likely is. Since last year's All-Star break Jimenez has been inconsistent, generally good but rarely great, just like he was in 2008 and 2009. I can't view him as the 15-1 pitcher moving forward, but more like the current one with the somewhat inflated ERA.
Regarding the prospects the Rockies got, colleague Jason Grey sends in the following:
The Rockies are hoping they basically got two solid rotation pieces in exchange for one.
I profiled Alex White in more detail earlier this year before his big league debut. He has been rehabbing from a finger injury, and the Indians had been using him as a reliever in the minors recently only with the idea he could get back to the big leagues quicker that way than getting stretched back out as a starter.
White's slider has shown enough improvement this season to give him a projectable third offering to go with his fastball/splitter combo to project him as a potential solid mid-rotation starter as early as next season.
Reportedly, the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Drew Pomeranz, is involved in the deal as well. Pomeranz is a big 6-foot-5 southpaw who can move quickly. He can dial it up to the mid-90s with a knockout curveball that can really neutralize left-handed hitters. He also projects as a mid-rotation starter, but his ceiling is potentially a little higher than that if he can repeat his delivery a little better and show more consistent overall command, especially given that he's made some progress with his changeup.
First baseman Matt McBride is just an extra piece that profiles as a 25th man on a big league roster at best.
As for other repercussions of this trade, the Rockies need another starting pitcher, but I don't think fantasy owners should be interested in Esmil Rogers, the likely replacement. The Indians will likely punt left-hander David Huff to make room in the rotation, though he's been far better than right-hander Carlos Carrasco of late. Justin Masterson is owned in 100 percent of leagues and should be, since he's currently fantasy's No. 18 starting pitcher, based on the Player Rater. Josh Tomlin is at 58.9 percent owned and while he doesn't accrue many strikeouts, his WHIP is precisely 1.00 over the past month. Carrasco comes next at 13.2 percent. The Indians needed pitching help to remain contenders, and Jimenez will provide it. Just keep expectations in check.