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Sizzling Setups: Al Alburquerque

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By Brian Smith, The Fantasy Baseball King

In Sizzling Setups, I take a look at a NON-closer relief pitcher who is owned in less than 50% of all Yahoo! public leagues.

“Why?” you may ask. “We want saves!” Well, yes, so do I. But each year, about 1/3 of all closers lose their jobs, meaning there are at least 10 guys out there who may end up accumulating decent save numbers. Not only that, but it’s always wise to carry some setup men anyway. The dominant ones, that is. They’ll not only rack up some K’s for you when your other guys aren’t going, but they’ll do wonders for your ERA and WHIP ratios.

How’d I do last week?

My Sizzling Setup column last week focused on Royals setup-man and potential year-end closer, Aaron Crow. Since my post, Crow has pitched twice, and raised his season ERA all the way from 0.00 to 0.93. He’s pitched 4.0 mediocre innings, allowing 6 hits and 2 earned runs (1 HR) while walking 3 and striking out 3. He did receive one save opportunity and, unfortunately, blew it by giving up that  homer.

My projection for Crow doesn’t change in the slightest. As the season progresses, the chances that Joakim Soria gets traded will only increase, and even with the Royals glut of good, young power throwing RP’s (Tim Collins, Jeremy Jeffress), Crow stands tall. He’ll definitely be worth your WW pickup should he be available in your league still. You won’t regret it.

But on to our case specimen for this week…

Sizzling Setups: Al Alburquerque

Currently owned in 2% of all Yahoo! Public Leagues

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Could Al Alburquerque be the next Carlos Marmol? Maybe, maybe not.

The Fantasy Baseball King discusses in this week’s “Sizzling Setups.”

I doubt it would by any means be a stretch to state that most baseball fans, even fanatics like us, had no or little idea who Al Alburquerque was prior to the season. I’ll admit it myself- I hadn’t even heard his name until recently. But what’s he’s done thus far in 2011 certainly makes him deserving of broader recognition. Striking out enemy batters at a Carlos Marmolsian rate of 15.92 per 9 IP, Alburquerque has posted the following stat line:

13.0 IP, 5 H, 9 BB, 23 K, 1 HLD, 3.46 ERA, and 1.08 WHIP

Obviously, it’s his K’s that have made him a fantasy asset. His walk rate is pretty miserable at 6.23 per 9 IP, and he’s been the beneficiary of an unsustainably low .238 opposing BABIP. Still, it’s hard to ignore those K’s. But is he legitimate, or is he just getting by before an inevitable implosion?

The Fantasy Baseball King’s Sizzling Setup Synopsis

Delving further into Alburquerue’s stats reveals some useful info.

Although his minor league career wasn’t exactly distinguished, and he never appeared on any top prospect lists, he did sport a 4 year combined K-rate of 10.04, so at least we know that, while 15+ K’s per 9 may not be sustainable, he does indeed have a propensity for striking guys out. On the other hand, his career minor league walk rate is also high at 4.46 per 9 IP, so we also know that his control issues aren’t a new problem exclusive to his time at the Major League level. His minor league numbers, combined, are:

178.0 IP, 4.49 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 10.04 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 0.81 WP/9       ( WP = wild pitches )

Remind you of someone? Check out Carlos Marmol’s minor league stats:

474.0 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.23 K/9, 3.91 BB/9, 0.46 WP/9

Okay, so he’s not exactly Carlos Marmol, but we’re not expecting him to be. We’re just roving the landscape for anything that could help our fantasy teams.

Marmol had the opportunity to log almost 3 times the number of innings in the minors that Alburquerque did, and he wasn’t always the Carlos Marmol we know today. In his first shot at Rookie-ball, Marmol posted a BB-and K-rate of 5.3 and 10.7, respectively. Then, in his first go around in Double-A, 4.4. and 7.8. Triple-A? Well, given 41.0 innings at that level, Marmol grew. He lowered his walk rate to 2.6/9 and got his K-rate back up over 10/9. Marmol was 24 years old when he received the benefit of those 41 Triple-A innings. Alburquerque, only 24 years old now, received a mere 4 innings of experience above Double-A before being called up to Detroit.

Considering the way the Tigers rushed Alburquerque, I’d say he’s actually doing alright. Adding to being rushed, he spent considerable time on the DL, missing the entire 2008 season. To me, it seems that Alburquerque (man, it’s getting hard to continuously type that name lol) is a guy with a ton of talent (throws in the mid-high 90′s), and just needs to get a hold of his composure. Now, that’s not a simple task, and one that has been asked of many power arms that have come up over the years. But it’s not impossible, either that, given his workload, he could succeed at the job he’s given: come in, pitch an inning here and there, and while doing so, blow the opposition away. This very well could  be the Tigers’ plan. It worked with Marmol early in his career, and it just may work with Al* as well.

* Gave up, couldn’t type it again.

The Fantasy Baseball King’s Bold Prediction: Al Alburquerque will spend the entire season at the Major League level, and armed with his explosive arm, continue to strike batters out at a ridiculous rate. He’ll encounter control issues here and there, but fantasy assets- in addition to the aforementioned Carlos Marmol- (Kyle Farnsworth comes to mind) have been able to still help many a fantasy team despite being wild. He’ll finish the season with an ERA near 4.00, but with a K-rate exceeding 10/9 IP, meaning that as long as he accumulates 50 or so innings, he’ll continue to be a positive asset in deeper leagues.


 


 


 


 


 



 


 


 

Signed,


 


 


 

The Fantasy Baseball King

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