Remember that Scott Kazmir kid? You know, the baby-faced lightning-armed lefty who was drafted in the first round and ended up being the youngest Opening Day starter since Doc Gooden? Yeah, that kid led the American League in strikeouts the year after that. Man, he was awesome.
Or maybe you remember his crappy doppelganger who shredded his elbow, lost all of the zip on his fastball and started walking almost as many guys as he struck out. I definitely remember that guy. Last time I saw him, in 2011, he pitched 17 professional innings, taking five losses to go along with a 17.90 ERA and a 1.643 OPS against. That dude stunk.
About a year ago I heard that Scott Kazmir had signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians and I treated the news with the same reaction as the annual “Mark Prior got a minor league deal” news: I shrugged, said “good for him,” and went about my day. Against all odds he actually pitched well enough to make the team. However, he was torched by the lowly Houston Astros in his first start — a typical Kazmirian line of 3.1 IP, 8 H (2 HR), 6 ER, 3 BB and 4 K.
Why am I taking you on this stroll down a litter-strewn and rat infested memory lane? I’m hoping that, after having been reminded of the times that Kazmir clogged up their DL spot and ravaged their WHIP, all of my fantasy competitors will have stopped reading by now. I want Scott Kazmir 3.0 on all of my teams, and I want him on the cheap.
Kazmir’s fastball velocity is the highest it’s been in a decade and he’s now mixing in 2-seamers for the first time in his career. He credits his improved off-speed stuff (slider, change, occasional curve) for his success, and who are we to argue? His walk rate (2.7 BB/9) is the lowest it’s ever been and opposing batters are hacking at his offerings outside of the zone at the highest rate of his career (30.8%).
And he’s still getting better.
Kazmir quietly put up a dominant second half, posting a 3.38 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 10.25 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9. Over that span his strikeout rate ranked behind only Yu Darvish, Ubaldo Jimenez and Cliff Lee.
So long as his good health continues and his ERA (4.04) leans a little more towards his FIP (3.51 in 2013) he could easily pitch 200 innings with a 14 W/200 K/3.50 ERA/1.28 WHIP stat line. Kazmir is currently the 81st pitcher off the board with an ADP of 278 on MockDraftCentral.com — selected after the likes of Zach McAllister, Tim Hudson, Brett Oberholtzer, and Wade Miley.
Drafting Michael Wacha or Zack Wheeler a hundred spots earlier than Kazmir seems like buying those $20 scratch-offs — sure you might hit, but it has to be a pretty sizable payout for you to turn a profit. If you really want to draft a former first round pick with some chance for upside, the Oakland Athletics‘ Scott Kazmir is just the guy for you.