There are a couple of fantasy baseball deep sleepers each year that can make the difference for your team. The following 2012 profile of Cory Luebke will analyze the chances that he might be one of the next big sleepers. He was chosen by my sabermetrically-inclined method which is detailed in this introductory post.
ADP as of this posting: 136.9 (Round 12 in 12-team league)
Projected 2012 Role: SD #4 SP
2011 Production: 6-10 W/L, 3.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 154 K in 139.6 IP
My 2012 Prediction: 10-10 W/L, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 180 K
Though he was a starting pitcher all throughout his minor league career, Cory Luebke opened last season in the Padres’ bullpen but finally cracked the rotation at the end of June after dominating out of the bullpen. As a reliever, he had a 3.23 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 9.92 K/9 and 3.46 BB/9. Despite the transition from reliever back to starter, those numbers all stayed virtually the same once his workload increased (with the walk rate improving greatly even). His core numbers are phenomenal from 2011. If he has the ability to repeat that low WHIP and high strikeout rate then he will be a premier pitcher in 2012.
In the minors, Luebke’s greatest asset was his good command as he commonly had a low walk rate and a decent strikeout rate. Last year, he had a strikeout rate that seems a bit out of the blue as it was over 2 K/9 higher than his usual minor league numbers. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason for the jump in strikeouts but it may have been partly due to the element of surprise with hitters seeing a rookie pitcher for the first time. For that reason, it’s hard to fully endorse Luebke without history supporting his role as a strikeout artist. But, he still does have other positive attributes such as his spacious home park in San Diego which will help limit his run totals.
If Luebke is experiencing a metamorphosis into becoming a new pitcher that strikes out over a batter per inning then he could likely be one of the best pitchers in the league this year. However, without evidence supporting it, I’m tempering my expectations. Thus far, he has struck out 6 over 5 IP in the spring so perhaps he has turned over a new leaf. If you draft him, he’s being drafted around the range of a 3rd or 4th fantasy SP so the risk is high to go along with the potentially high reward.
Sleeper Verdict: Sleepy risk. The ceiling is high here but the price is also high. There’s not enough of a past history to completely sell me on Luebke and he won’t benefit from seeing a lot of hitters for the first time this year. I might roll the dice on him in a few leagues but I need to see more before I’m completely sold.