Monday, June 6, 2011

Dilema Owning Young Arms

If you were fortunate enough to scoop up Michael Pineda off waivers early in the season you may have a tough decision brewing come the start of August. He is one of the reasons why Seattle is still in contention in the American League West Division. The problem is the 22 year old could be shut down later in the year by his tem due to his excessive innings pitched. The youngster has never pitched over 139 innings in his brief career and has only pitched 404 innings in his entire minor league career. During those 5 years of service in the minors that averages out to only 80 innings a year in 84 games including his 71 starts.
We have all seen what over use of a young arm can do and the damage it can cause. The cumulative effect on the shoulder is devastating. With enough pitches the shoulder breaks down and the young pitcher loses velocity or even worse injures himself. While most feel Pineda’s mechanics are sound he is young and has not built up enough innings in that shoulder to be able to take the wear of a 200 inning season. To date he has pitched 70 innings this year in 11 starts. Now that we are 1/3 the way through the season that projects out to just under 200 innings for the young phenom. Some may say it’s not the number of pitches but the way you pitch which causes problems. Conversely, other still stick to the mantra of the growing number of pitches thrown to be the cause of breakdowns.
The pros for Pineda are his big muscular frame which could withstand the physical toll he puts out every 5 days. The cons once again are his young age and lack of extended use on his arm and shoulder.

So what does this have to do with his Fantasy value? For keeper or dynasty leagues it has no real effect over the next few years, you can stash him with a smile. In leagues where he may only be owned for this year, it means everything. If you own him and are in contention in your league you have tough decisions approaching with every game he pitches. Once Seattle falls out of contention in the West, Seattle has no reason to keep pushing him out there for his starts. You should monitor his innings pitched and whether Seattle starts to pull him after 5 innings, despite if they are winning or losing. This will be the first sign of the M’s shutting him down. My advice for leagues that cannot keep him for next year is to trade him once he reaches 150 innings. That should come in late July. Ride the wave while it’s there but it will soon take a backseat to common sense for the M’s long term investments.

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