When a rookie hurler comes along and makes 10 starts with one win no one cares. When that same rookie has a 4.95 K/9 mark even fewer likely take note. But, when that same arm produces a 1.95 ERA then everyone is paying attention. So who is Jarred Cosart and what should we be thinking when we consider when to call out his name on draft day?
Standing 6'3" and weighing about 185 lbs, this righty from Texas was drafted in the 38th round in 2008. The numbers weren't always great, but the stuff was certainly top shelf. In 2011 Baseball America ranked him the 70th best prospect in baseball, and that number improved to 50th in 2012. The 23 year old made 18 appearances at Triple-A, including 17 starts, and posted a 7-4 record with a 3.29 ERA. It seemed like he was ready to throw a pitch or two at the big league level, and with the Astros going nowhere, they called him up to give him a shot.
As I noted, Cosart had a tremendous amount of success. He had a 1.95 ERA which was achieved by the fact that in eight of his 10 starts he allowed two or fewer earned runs. Very few pitchers have that consistent level of success, let alone while they are a rookie. So it's all champagne and confetti with Cosart then? Not quite.
In 10 starts last season, Cosart walked at least five batters on four occasions. That's not a good thing. Looking at his BB/9 mark could induce vomiting depending on what you just ate – 5.25 per nine. You just can't walk that many betters per nine innings and have long-term success. Cosart was better than that in 447.2 minor league innings at 3.6, but even that number is a half batter higher than the big league average. That's scary to me. I could overlook this measure somewhat if it was augmented by the strikeout ball. Unfortunately Cosart didn't offer that at all in 2013.
Cosart didn't have a single game with more than five strikeouts last season, and furthermore, he had only one game of five Ks. Yeah, not good again. The result was a 4.95 K/9 mark that is two an a half batters below the league average. For those of you who are forward thinking you are right... Cosart actually walked more batters last season than he struck out (35 to 33). Ugh-tastic. That's just flat out awful. It's almost impossible to be a competent major league arm with a number like that, let alone a staff leader. Cosart did flash a strikeout arm in the minors, he had 93 Ks in 93 innings at Triple-A last season, and he is the owner of a 7.8 K/9 mark during his minor league career. Where did those strikeouts go with the Astros? Will they return? They had better or things could get ugly for Cosart.
The truth is that Cosart was about as lucky as any hurler in baseball last year. He was deficient in both strikeout and walk rates yet he somehow posted a 1.95 ERA with remarkable start-to-start consistency. How?
(1) Cosart had a 85.9 percent left on base percentage. The major league leader last season was Yu Darvish at 83.9 percent. The league average is about 70 percent. There's simply no way that Cosart will be able to repeat last year's number moving forward, and with that his ERA will rise.
(2) Cosart induced groud balls at an elite rate. His 54.5 percent ground ball rate led to a 2.23 GB/FB mark. Only three hurlers who tossed 162 innings bettered that ground ball rate last season – Justin Masterson (58.0), A.J. Burnett (56.5) and Rick Porcello (55.3) – and those three were the only ones who bettered Cosart's GB/FB ratio (Doug Fister matched it at 2.23).
It's possible he will be able to hold on to the GB/FB rate, though it's obvious that expecting some pullback seems like the right call, but there is no shot at Cosart being able to replicate the 85.9 percent left on base percentage. In fact SIERA and xFIP, two measures that attempt to lead you through the fog and speak directly to what pitchers actually can control, suggest that Cosart was nowhere near the level of that 1.95 ERA last season. Moreover, he wasn't even league average. Hell, he was terrible if you look just at the skills if judged by his 5.34 SIERA and 4.68 xFIP.
Cosart get's ground balls, an I like that. However, pretty much everything else here says you should be wary about expecting Cosart to have an ERA within two runs of last season. That's right. I'm suggesting that it's quite possible that Cosart will see his ERA more than double in 2013. Given his lack of strikeout punch that means Cosart really shouldn't be drafted in mixed leagues, at least not until the reserve rounds. Those in league specific setups should also be wary of overspending on the righty from Texas.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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