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Jake Odorizzi: 2015 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

As you've no doubt heard by now, the Tampa Bay Rays dealt Wil Myers, the centerpiece of the 2012 James Shields trade, to the San Diego Padres on December 17th. Myers was a massive disappointment in 2014. Coming off American League Rookie of the Year honors, he missed half the season with a broken wrist and mustered only a miserable .222/.294/.320 when he did play. But Myers wasn't the only top prospect the Rays got in that swap. Remember, Kansas City sent three other players to Tampa, one of whom -- Jake Odorizzi -- should be on your radar late in drafts.

Odorizzi started and finished his rookie season poorly, and as a consequence his overall surface numbers (4.13 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) aren't eye-popping. He had issues his second and third times through the batting order, particularly in the early going. His release point was inconsistent. His OPS against on the road was 345 points higher than at home. All caveats about the reliability of home/road splits aside, that's tough to ignore considering his extreme flyball tendencies and the run environments of the other AL East teams.

Those are all valid concerns, and they're what will keep Odorizzi cheap in your draft. Here's why you want him: He struck out over a batter per inning. He got his walk rate under control as the season progressed. He pitches roughly half of his games in one of the league's more pitcher-friendly parks. He has shown intermittent dominance with a changeup that generated a ton of both whiffs and grounders. And he's a former top prospect entering his age-25 season, so a bet on continued improvement isn't a wing and a prayer -- it's a solid investment, especially since it's unlikely to cost you much.

In an interview with FanGraphs, Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey pointed out that Odorizzi had also tweaked his slider into more of a cutter on occasion: "[W]e’re talking about two pretty big adjustments for a first-year guy who struggled at the beginning. At that point, most guys are just trying to keep their heads above water. He was experimenting and tinkering with new pitches."

 

In Summary

Odorizzi has some warts, but he's also got pedigree, a demonstrated ability to adjust, a guaranteed rotation spot, and room to improve. At minimum, if you're still queasy about the number of mediocre high fastballs Odorizzi throws, keep the kid in mind for streaming in favorable matchups.

 

 





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