Jason Hammel has finally found a new home, as he will be suiting up for the Royals this season. What is the fantasy fallout from the deal?
The 2017 free agency class had some big names, but severely lacked when it came to frontline arms that were available. While there were plenty of arms that moved around via trades, the free agent class remained weak. Thus, Jason Hammel rose to be arguably the best arm on the market. But, after months of hardly any movement, he finally has found a new home with the Royals.
Jason Hammel may not be lauded as a top-tier pitcher, but he has proven to be an innings eater. Over the last four seasons, he has amassed 512 innings, and at least 23 starts per season. He is simply a sturdy mid-rotation arm that toes the rubber every fifth day.
The tragic death of Yordano Ventura was just another example of a young life lost too soon. While the loss is extremely saddening on a humanistic level, the Royals were forced to bring in another arm to fill that void. They will look to Hammel to continue to eat innings and show the same type of success that he did with the Cubs in 2016.
He finished last season with a 15 W/3.83 ERA/1.21 WHIP/144 K over 30 starts. He was solid for the Cubs for most of the season. Hammel was brilliant the first three months of the season especially. He posted a 0.75 ERA in April and followed that with two sub-3.46 ERA months thereafter. He served as one of the better waiver wire gems over the first half.
But, as the case has been the last three seasons, he started to slow down in the second half. He had a stellar August, 2.84 ERA over six starts, but that was sandwiched between a 5.33 ERA in July and an 8.71 ERA in September. He just seemed to be worn down again and he would even get shut down his last start because of elbow soreness.
The elbow soreness had reportedly been affecting him for weeks, which would make some sense of his ERA jumping that high after such a dominant August. But, fantasy owners could not bank on him during the second half of the season as usual. So, does Hammel have any fantasy value heading into this season?
Based on his peripherals, Hammel seems to be nothing more than a flier this spring. A major part of his value last season were the 15 W he notched with the Cubs. The Royals are not going to as good as the Cubs were in 2016 this season, so he takes a hit there. His SIERA and xFIP were both over 4.20 as well, pointing to some luck last seaon.
However, his batted ball profile was not too bad. He posted 20% LD, 42% GB, 38% FB, 19% Soft, and 33% Hard contact rates. Those are solid ratios that should lead to decent success. But, he also benefited from a career low .267 BABIP, so there is some give and take here. The Royals should sport a solid defense this season and Kauffman Stadium is more of a pitcher’s park, so there is no reason to think he could not post a sub-4.00 ERA next season.
Fantasy owners should ignore Hammel on draft day and go for more upside fliers late in the draft, but he should be a top waiver wire add if he gets off to a hot start again this season. Fantasy owners could ride him the first half again in 2017, but be mindful of his second half woes. The elbow soreness is worrisome, but he did pass his physical and the Royals would not have bothered if there was a glaring worry.
Jason Hammel is a solid, albeit unspectacular, MLB pitcher that eats innings and grinds through games. He has more value in real life than in fantasy because of the lack of stuff and lack of strikeouts. But, he has shown the ability to put together great stretches. The Royals are hoping for them, but fantasy owners can not bank on them.