• Assessing Hellickson

    The Rays, possessing a glut of quality starting pitchers and seeking an outfielder who can be an asset at the top of the order, have been pointed at frequently around here as a logical trade partner for the Twins. The Offseason Handbook specifically calls out James Shields and Wade Davis as potential targets in Tampa's pitching corps, and there are several other names that hold appeal.

    According to reports, the Rays hurler drawing the most interest is Jeremy Hellickson. This isn't surprising. He carries plenty of value as a young right-hander with a 3.06 career ERA and the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year trophy on his shelf. On the surface, he has the makings of a long-term top-of-the-rotation fixture.

    A deeper look, however, would suggest that Hellickson has been performing over his head to some degree in his first couple big-league seasons, making him a risky proposition for a Twins team that can ill afford to whiff on a major trade.

    I'm a big proponent of K/BB ratio as an indicator of a pitcher's outlook, and although his core numbers have been excellent Hellickson has simply been underwhelming in this category, with a 1.84 ratio in his first two full seasons. His success thus far has been buoyed to a large degree by a low BABIP and a high strand rate. There's plenty of data indicating that neither of those factors can be consistently controlled by a pitcher in the long haul.

    None of this is to suggest that Hellickson isn't a good pitcher. He's very good. He was an elite prospect before joining the major-league ranks and for the most part you don't put up the kind of numbers he has as a 24/25-year-old in the AL East through sheer luck. I'm fully willing to believe that his game is tailored to produce quality numbers without big strikeout rates. His 9.8 K/9 rate in the minors even suggests that he's got some upside yet in the strikeout department despite a 6.1 mark in his first 400 MLB innings.

    But the Rays will justifiably be shopping him as a young star pitcher under team control for several years, and as such, they'll be demanding a sizable ransom. In my view, he's been performing at his ceiling and has much more room for regression than improvement going forward. I see him as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy much more than a legitimate No. 1 or 2.

    That's certainly not a guy the Twins should be shying away from adding, but at what cost? Terry Ryan and Co. would be much better off identifying a talented pitcher with strong peripherals who has been underperforming and can be acquired at a discount, as opposed to Hellickson who embodies the flip side of that coin.
    This article was originally published in blog: Assessing Hellickson started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Good analysis, I'm glad to hear someone who isn't drooling over Hellickson. He looks to be a very useful pitcher, but I don't trust that K/9 rate to improve enough to be a consistant front of the rotation arm.

      The fact that the Rays have suddenly pushed him into the front of the trade line in front of more expensive arms like Sheilds, Price and Davis who are closer to free agency/arbitration tells me that the Rays also see he has a good chance of regression.

      It seems similar to when the Rays pushed to move the seemingly higher upside Delmon Young over the cheaper and closer to free agency/arbitration outfielders Carl Crawford and BJ Upton.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Interesting take. I hadn't heard this side of things, although I don't read much about ball outside the Twins. Hellickson, as far I had always known, was very clearly a potential #1.

      The fact that the Rays have suddenly pushed him into the front of the trade line in front of more expensive arms like Sheilds, Price and Davis who are closer to free agency/arbitration tells me that the Rays also see he has a good chance of regression.
      I think this is also pretty interesting. After all, the Rays aren't known for making dumb trades, are they?
    1. Steve J's Avatar
      Steve J -
      Not interested. He profiles long term as a good #3 starter, the kind of pitcher to look to draft, develop, and let go when their salary gets over about 7M in arbitation.
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      Good analysis, but if I'm the Twins, I'm still interested (if the trade price is right).
      Though not a #1, he is a HUGE upgrade over anything they have right now
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Interesting take. I hadn't heard this side of things, although I don't read much about ball outside the Twins. Hellickson, as far I had always known, was very clearly a potential #1.

      The fact that the Rays have suddenly pushed him into the front of the trade line in front of more expensive arms like Sheilds, Price and Davis who are closer to free agency/arbitration tells me that the Rays also see he has a good chance of regression.
      I think this is also pretty interesting. After all, the Rays aren't known for making dumb trades, are they?
      Sam Fuld, Archer and Guyer were a good return for Garza
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Quote Originally Posted by sorney View Post
      Good analysis, but if I'm the Twins, I'm still interested (if the trade price is right).
      Though not a #1, he is a HUGE upgrade over anything they have right now
      We need at least 3 quality starters next year, he would be one of those. We can't be thinking if it isn't Verlander we don't want him because #1 starters are few and very expensive. 3 Hellickson type guys would go a long way to improving this team, imo.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Interesting take. I hadn't heard this side of things, although I don't read much about ball outside the Twins. Hellickson, as far I had always known, was very clearly a potential #1.
      The numbers said he was a #1 but the scouting reports differed. IIRC one of the knocks was that he made too many mistakes up in the zone that would get hit hard in the majors. There were also some durability concerns.

      The initial look at the sabr stats aren't very good, but one encouraging thing if you look further into the sabermetrics is that he had a solid swinging strike rate so the K rate could go up some. I certainly don't believe that he's a 3.00 ERA pitcher but he could be a really good #3. I prefer Shields but 4 yrs of Hellickson would also be a good start to rebuilding the rotation.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      Add one more point to analysis - he's not a long term solution, he's a Boris client looking to cash in.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottyB View Post
      Add one more point to analysis - he's not a long term solution, he's a Boris client looking to cash in.
      I think this is an overanalyzed point. he has absolutely no choice for 4 yrs. At best you sign an extension and buy out an extra year or two but after that most players go the FA route or sign for 80-90% of what they would have gotten on the open market.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      with tampa looking to add a catcher , 3b,(yes they have longoria), 1b of(cf) and a dh why not trade ham and span for shields and hellickson? then offer up a couple of marginal prospects for vernon wells and 38 million , wells is a better fielder then ham and does have some pop we would be giving up 12 million in payroll and adding about 17 million,still leaving enough to add another starter, some pen help and posibly a middle infielder
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I doubt Tampa wants to trade 2 pitchers.

      Wells is terrible even if someone else is paying.
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by sorney View Post
      Good analysis, but if I'm the Twins, I'm still interested (if the trade price is right).
      Though not a #1, he is a HUGE upgrade over anything they have right now
      We need at least 3 quality starters next year, he would be one of those. We can't be thinking if it isn't Verlander we don't want him because #1 starters are few and very expensive. 3 Hellickson type guys would go a long way to improving this team, imo.

      Agreed...that was the point I was trying to make (although I probably should have been a little more straight forward)
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      The only reason why anyone is drooling is because the Twins don't have any starting pitchers.
      I'd take him if he wasn't too expensive. But we can't be cheap, now, can we?
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      I was very weary of him coming into this season as he led his rookie year in BABIP & I thought he'd drop significantly.....he didnt.
      Worried a little that he hasnt had a 200IP yr yet also as well as the numbers showing he's not much of an improvement in terms of Ks.
      All said tho, he'd immediately be the teams ace & combined with Kyle Gibson, would be a solid couple youngsters to rebuild with
    1. jianfu's Avatar
      jianfu -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      I was very weary of him coming into this season as he led his rookie year in BABIP & I thought he'd drop significantly.....he didnt.
      Worried a little that he hasnt had a 200IP yr yet also as well as the numbers showing he's not much of an improvement in terms of Ks.
      All said tho, he'd immediately be the teams ace & combined with Kyle Gibson, would be a solid couple youngsters to rebuild with
      I agree. THere are concerns, but the Twins could do much worse.

      Hellickson was a strikeout pitcher in the minors, so maybe there's a chance he'll trend upward.

      That said, given the questionable peripherals, I'm not sure I want to see the Twins try to match wits with the Rays on this particular player.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      Your Hellickson assestment is a complete and utter head scratcher on many levels. But on the "flip side" they could always, and likely will, identify and aquire another Sam Deduno
    1. Dilligaf69's Avatar
      Dilligaf69 -
      I also am suprised to hear this...the Twins should consider him but not for top talent. Span and a mid level prospect might be all I'm willing to do.
    1. Dilligaf69's Avatar
      Dilligaf69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      with tampa looking to add a catcher , 3b,(yes they have longoria), 1b of(cf) and a dh why not trade ham and span for shields and hellickson? then offer up a couple of marginal prospects for vernon wells and 38 million , wells is a better fielder then ham and does have some pop we would be giving up 12 million in payroll and adding about 17 million,still leaving enough to add another starter, some pen help and posibly a middle infielder

      HAHAHA! ...Twins do that deal in a second, problem is this is'nt a video game. Vernon Wells???? really! short of the worst long term contract maybe ever by a baseball team it's a good deal. Maybe football is your sport buddy!
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