I love pitchers who throw hard and get hitters to swing-and-miss. It's a good indication of just how good their pure "stuff" is. I have found that it can also be an indicator of future strikeout potential. For example, Francisco Liriano had a whiff rate of around 26 percent heading into his last start against Cleveland, yet his K/9 was in the mid-sixes. He struck out seven in five innings yesterday and more performances like that one should be on the way. The vast majority of pitchers with a whiff rate of 23 percent or better have a K/9 over eight.
Note: Sample sizes are still a bit small, but I that's what can make this concept valuable to fantasy baseball GMs, as they can buy into a pitcher way before his numbers begin to improve.
Below are a few pitchers with high whiff rates that could see higher strikeout numbers as the season moves along.
Francisco Liriano 26% Whiff rate - I still believe he can work through his command issues and his ground-ball rate is nearing 50 percent.
Jeremy Hellickson 24.5% whiff rate - One could actually endorse a sell-high on Hellickson given his 2.64 ERA and .229 BABIP. However, if he sees a spike in strikeout rate, which is currently at 6.3 K/9, his numbers could balance out should his BABIP rise significantly. I'm actually a bit surprised that he has walked 3.5 per nine innings since he showed much better command/control in the minors as well as in his limited major league work last season. That aspect of his game could also improve going forward.
Daniel Hudson 24% percent whiff rate - Hudson's command improved greatly after a shaky April, but at the expense of a few strikeouts. Given his ability to miss bats in the National League and his ability to limit home run damage, Hudson is a nice buy-low right now due to a 3.98 ERA.
Not buying into...
Chris Narveson and Chris Capuano - Both have decent whiff rates, but both are "soft tossers" that rely more on their offspeed stuff than their fastballs. There's more risk in these pitchers because if their offspeed stuff isn't spot on, they can get hit hard. Narveson has a history of allowing the long-ball and has allowed a 24.5 percent line-drive rate so far this season. Capuano also has a history of trouble with the long-ball and has allowed 10 in 66.2 innings this season.