Jarrod Parker and Jered Weaver share many similar traits and not just superficial ones like their first name or the division they share. Both have career ERAs well under their FIP or xFIP marks despite some fly ball tendencies and strikeout rates below 20%. Weaver is the brand name here, but he turned 31 last fall and features some troubling indicators. Parker is only 25. He had a rough start to 2013 but largely straightened himself out once some neck pain subsided. ESPN ranks Weaver as the 32nd starting pitcher, 104th player overall. Parker is 44/165. Mock Draft Central is seriously inflating Weaver’s value at 12/65 while Parker resides among the dregs at 56/222. Weaver was taken with the first pick in the fourteenth round of FantasyGameday’s mock while Parker is still on the board in Round 17.
Weaver rebounded from his broken elbow to post another strong surface stat line (3.27 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 11 wins in 24 starts) but all the skills that decreased from his peak in 2010 continued to do so. His fastball, while not quite in Jaime Moyer territory, was one of the slowest among starting pitchers at 86.5 mph. He never worked with a blazing heater, but that was over 1 mph off his 2012 mark. His pitch value per 100 dropped from 1.25 to 0.46. Fangraphs also illustrates how batters are squaring Weaver up with greater frequency. He allowed over 20% line drives once in his first six years but has done so in each of the last two. His first strike rate also dropped to its lowest since 2006.
According to Pitch f/x Jarrod Parker mixed his two-seam fastball in far more liberally in 2013. It was his best offering by pitch values and consistently outperformed his four-seam fastball in whiff rate. Home runs plagued Parker through the first two months of 2013, but upon treating the neck strain he kept his HR/FB at 8.0% or less for three straight months before it jumped again in September. Where Weaver’s first strike rate is dropping, Parker increased his 5.1% to 60.4% (just over league average). His xFIP was a mere 0.10 above Weaver’s and signs point to improvement.
Neither pitcher seems ready to post elite strikeout numbers so they must be drafted with a plan to account for that deficit. There is only a marginal difference in present skill, with all signs pointing to a “drop off a cliff” season in Weaver’s near future. It is better strategy to draft the cheaper and safer option.