Johnny Cueto has gotten off to an unbelievable start in 2014. The Cincinnati Reds pitcher currently has a 1.31 ERA to go with a .73 WHIP (both rates are the lowest in MLB) and 60 strikeouts (second most in MLB) over 55 innings. Cueto has pitched at least seven innings in each of his starts this season, and he hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of them. He’s also tallied double-digit strikeouts in three of his starts. Cueto is currently the top pitcher in fantasy baseball according to ESPN’s player rater, so what should we expect going forward?
I’m just gonna start this off by saying, if you have the opportunity to sell high on Cueto take it without hesitating. Cueto’s a good pitcher; he does have a career 3.41 ERA and 1.22 WHIP after all, but he’s not this good. If you can sell him as a good pitcher who has taken the next step to become an elite pitcher by all means take advantage.
There are two major warning signs surrounding Cueto that scream regression. First — this one’s my personal favorite — he currently has a 100 percent left on base percentage. He’s stranded every single batter that’s reached base so far! His career left on base percentage is 76.5 percent, and I fully expect his 2014 rate to regress back into that 75-80 percent range.
Second, Cueto leads MLB with a microscopic .153 BABIP. Cueto has held hitters to a below-average BABIP throughout his career (.278 career BABIP), but .153 is absolutely absurd. The lowest BABIP in 2013 was Jose Fernandez‘s .240 and the lowest in 2012 was Jered Weaver‘s .241. Cueto’s BABIP is going to rise at least .100 points, if not more, and when it does his ERA and WHIP will rise with it.
Johnny Cueto is a very good pitcher, but he’s not one of the ten best in baseball. His skills haven’t changed; he’s simply a good pitcher who’s getting a boost from lady luck.