My what a difference control makes. As Cleveland’s breakout starter Corey Kluber sliced his way through the Nationals lineup on Sunday, spoiling Stephen Strasburg‘s return from the DL, he posted his eighth start (in 11 tries) with either zero or one walk issued. Kluber’s new-found control, combined with a slight increase in his strikeout rate, has catapulted him to the discussion as a reliable fantasy commodity. Though the 27-year-old Kluber is owned in just 13% of Yahoo standard fantasy leagues, he’s been putting on an impressive show for over a month now.
Since a nightmare outing back on May 10 against the Tigers, Kluber has posted a 2.51 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and has racked up six quality starts in seven tries. He’s also stuck out 45 batters in just 43.0 innings pitched over that time while issuing just five walks, elite command and control numbers. Corey has always shown solid strikeout ability, striking out over a batter-per-inning over 777 innings of minor league work. In 2013, he’s stepped up his game and is walking just 4.6% of the batters he’s faced. In fact, Kluber is just one of three pitchers with 60+ innings pitched who has walked <5.0% of the batters he’s faced with a K% over 24. The other two? Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright.
That is certainly some elite company for a guy who has a 4.48 ERA in 132.0 major league innings pitched. Kluber’s sudden ascension to the ranks of fantasy ace actually remind us of another former Indian’s starter: Cliff Lee. In his age-29 season, Lee transitioned from a middling starter with a mediocre walk rate (3.1 BB/9 from 2002-2007) to a Cy Young award winning control artist. In that season, Lee posted a BB% below 5 for the first time of his career, and hasn’t looked back.
Limiting walks is perhaps the most important skill for a starting pitcher to enhance his chances of logging quality innings and Kluber, has displayed elite control this year. Recently, we’ve seen players like Kyle Lohse, Doug Fister and Hisashi Iwakuma seemingly emerge out of no where to produce elite level fantasy statistics and control is the common thread to success of each.
Kluber’s combination of solid strikeout ability with his now elite command has us buying the guy who has been the 11th best starting pitcher in fantasy over the past 30 days. A rough outing or two will surely come, but he is certainly a must-start in his next turn at home against the Twins. The time is now to jump on Kluber as he continues to sit on waivers in far to many leagues, the skills are there for the elite-level production to continue and at the moment, all he’ll cost you is a low cost of a waiver claim of a small chunk out of you FAAB button. Don’t hesitate, join the Kluber.