The Cubs have reportedly acquired Matt Garza from the Rays for a package of players. While Garza's fantasy impact will be affected, the player who will probably see the greatest benefit for himself as well as fantasy owners is 24-year-old Jeremy Hellickson.Hellickson was widely considered the most major league ready pitching prospect at the start of the 2010 season. However, due to the depth of the Rays' rotation, he spent the majority of the season, 117.2 innings, at triple-A, where he was hell on opposing batters. During those 117.2 innings, Hellickson posted a 2.45 ERA and 2.73 FIP, with 9.71 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9. He had nothing left to prove in the minors.
Upon his call to the big leagues, Hellickson continued his dominance throwing 36.1 innings, but only getting four starts. Due to the small sample size of innings and only four starts at the big league level, we can't take Hellickson's 2010 major league stats as is. However, his minor league track record is so consistent that any regression in walk rate should be minimal. His strikeout rate will be the hardest to project, but it looks like a safe bet that he can post a K/9 somewhere between 7.5 and 8.5 over a full season.
While Hellickson does have swing-and-miss stuff, his game is more centered around elite command of the strike-zone. He'll paint the corners with all three pitches (fastball, curve and change) and because of that, get hitters to chase when he does go outside the strike-zone (31.1 percent chase rate in a small 36.1 innings sample size). If Hellickson had any issues in his major league debut, it was allowing five home runs and a 49.5 percent fly-ball rate in limited work. He was never a big-time ground ball pitcher in the minors, so this is worth noting.
Keeper league owners will take an even greater interest in Hellickson's new found rotation spot. However, there is at least some risk in his long-term value, having to do mostly with his mechanics.
Much was made about Stephen Strasburg's mechanics last season, specifically the "inverted W" (or as I like to call it, the "M"). Many people claim that this type of arm action, which causes the throwing arm to arrive late to the drive zone, causes excess stress on the elbow. Strasburg only fueled those assessments when his season ended due to Tommy John Surgery. Hellcikson features a similar arm action. Below is a side-by-side look at Jeremy Hellickson, Stephen Strasburg and Matt Garza at the point in their mechanics where their front foot touches the ground. Garza is the only one of the three who's arm gets to the drive zone when his front foot touches down.
It is important to point out that it has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that this mechanical "flaw" does indeed increase the injury risk in a young pitcher. Still, it is worth noting should intriguing trade offers start flooding your inbox.
It will be interesting to monitor the ADP of Hellickson over the next couple of months. According to Mock Draft Central, Hellickson is nothing more than a late round pick as of now. I highly doubt that will remain the case in March. Still, given his lack of a major league track record, Hellickson could prove to be a pitcher that can provide terrific value and be selected in round 15 or later. We'll have to wait and see on that front for now.
Matt Garza is currently going almost 150 picks before Hellickson in mock drafts. Even if round value didn't matter, I'd rather have Hellickson than Garza in 2011.