Today’s news of right-handed pitcher A.J. Burnett signing with the Philadelphia Phillies will impact fantasy baseball drafts.
Burnett was outstanding in his two years in a Pirates uniform, winning 26 games, pitching to a 3.41 ERA while being an innings eater, hurling 393.1 frames over his two years in Pittsburgh. His ground-ball rate also soared to 56.7 percent in that two-year span.
However now that he has ventured cross state, should fantasy owners expect similar results?
I highly doubt it.
Covering Burnett for the past couple of years in Pittsburgh I got to see first-hand what Burnett meant to the Pirates resurgence. However I just don’t expect similar results in Philadelphia.
That doesn’t mean Burnett won’t be good and his ADP right now of 125 may be a little high but it he isn’t a total reach in that spot.
Burnett will still rack up a ton of strikeouts, which is a positive. He fanned 209 batters last year and should at least approach the 190 range this season.
However there are some things I don’t like.
I mentioned the groundball rate earlier and that is big for me. The Pirates are one of the most aggressive shifting teams in all of baseball which played right into Burnett’s strengths. While the Phillies will also employ defensive shifts, they don’t do it nearly as effective as the Pirates do. That alone could see a lot of those ground balls turned into hits.
At the bare minimum you should see Burnett’s ERA and WHIP rise a bit.
Burnett also would have been pitching on a better team in Pittsburgh. While he should win more than the 10 games he won last season, I don’t envision him among the league leaders in wins by any chance.
Finally there is the bullpen factor.
The Pirates had one of the best bullpens in all of baseball last season (2.89 ERA. third in MLB) and their entire pen will be back for 2014. The Phillies on the other hand had one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball (4.19 ERA, 27th). I don’t envision that problem getting solved in 2014 so we could see a lot of blown leads that could cost Burnett potential wins.
Then there is an additional factor is that if Burnett struggles, the Philadelphia media will eat him alive. He wouldn’t have had that problem in Pittsburgh. We saw how he didn’t handle things well in New York and I expect a similar situation in Philadelphia.
Had Burnett stayed in Pittsburgh I would be comfortable ranking him among the top 30 or 40 starting pitching options. But there is too much about his situation in Philadelphia I don’t like.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend drafting him at his current ADP. I would be more comfortable if he were on the board between 180 and 200.