Patrick Corbin's Awesome Start Worth Acquiring?

By Nick Tom
Jennifer Hilderbrand-USA Today Sports

The Arizona Diamondbacks are a blast to watch. If you’re one of those nerds that pays way too much money for an package, I suggest catching Steve Berthiaume and crew call one of their games. I’ve always watched the Los Angeles Dodgers late-night solely because Vin Scully is a human milestone of speaking, but Berthiaume is pretty tangential and interesting.

They’re incredibly fun — young speedsters all around the OF, a shortstop whose defense is worth three tickets’ admission, the robotic hitting machine first baseman, a few solid arms…and a soulless manager.

Even if you don’t have an interest in the game, I still suggest watching a game. The Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Vin Scullies and Tampa Bay Rays all fall into that category.

One of the best things about the Dbacks is that aforementioned set of young arms. The one whose fantasy value I, with the help of reader @Capper2227, am most interested in — and the reason you’re here — is 23-year-old southpaw Patrick Corbin. What can we expect through the rest of the season?

Corbin comes with somewhat decent credentials. Baseball Prospectus ranked him Arizona’s number-eight prospect prior to 2011 and their 12th best prior to 2012. Jonathan Mayo, in his “ 2011 prospect watch”, ranked Corbin number five in the Dbacks’ system. Both parties forecasted him as a middle to back-of-the-rotation starter. He’s always had decent stuff, but nothing that’ll blow your hat off or make you press rewind.

What you like to see in that type of starter is control and a decent K/BB ratio — Corbin has just that. From Rookie ball in 2009 to Triple-A in 2012, he accrued a 2.3 BB/9 and 3.67 SO/BB. He even survived 52.1 innings in the nuclear launching pad of the PCL in 2012, with a 3.44 ERA. Good? Good. Wondrous? Not wondrous. Fantasy relevant? Yes, indeed.

Now, though, you’re like “whoooAaaAAAaaAAA who is this guy?!” 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA 1.058 WHIP? Sweet! Seven K/9? I’ll take it. Three K/BB? Oh baby. I admit, those numbers are pretty, and Corbin’s made it look pretty, too.

But some might remember Corbin’s MLB time last year: a 4.54 ERA and 1.327 WHIP in 107 innings while going 6-8. So, which guy is he?

Last year, Corbin was victimized by a crazy-high 3.1 HR% and 9.3% extra-base hit rate. Balls were flying over the wall and finding the gaps at super-high, unsustainable rates. The home runs were especially unreasonable. Part of the reason was that he was only getting first-pitch strikes in 58% of at-bats.

Now that home run rate is down to 1.1%, a rate that might be a little too low for a fly-ball pitcher whose home park is Chase Field, but one that has a better chance to remain steady than last year’s. Why the sudden change?

According to Fangraphs’ PITCHf/x, Corbin is throwing fewer four-seamers and change-ups for more two-seamers and sliders. Last year he was throwing his change 14.7% of the time despite it being his lowest-valued pitch, according to the PITCHf/x pitch values — hitters hit .328 and hit 21.4% of their homers against it. They only struck out four times and walked three times in 218 times Corbin threw it.

Now he’s throwing it on 9.3% of pitches, and the 5.4% decrease has resulted in a 4.4% increase in slider frequency, a pitch that is much more effective.  Its “pitch value” has gone down with its increase in frequency, but hitters are still only hitting the slider for a .114 clip and have struck out 29 times on 133 sliders.

In regard to the change in fastball type, Corbin’s throwing his two-seamers 12.7% more often and has decreased the frequency of his four-seamer, a pitch that yielded a .366 batting average last year, by 11.6%.

This change could be a result of Corbin’s 71% first-pitch strike rate. Miguel Montero is able to call more moving pitches because, obviously, the two don’t find themselves down in the count as much. Corbin’s not being forced to try and sneak suspect 1-0 changeups for a strike anymore and is commanding his pitches well enough for that to continue.

Fantasy World consensus still doubts Corbin’s consistency, so you might still be able to grab him at value. He’s now owned in 100% of ESPN standards so you he won’t be free, but would I trade Homer Bailey or Tony Cingrani for him? Yeah, I would. I’m buying in.

He’s, of course, not a 1.75 ERA guy, but I’d expect somewhere in the 3.0-3.30 range henceforth.

For more Fantasy Awesome Guy, follow Nick Tom on Twitter @NickTomFB


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