Some serious red flags abounded all over the Chicago Cubs starting pitching staff entering into the 2017 season given the massive workloads that were accumulated the year prior when the team won the World Series. Included in that grouping was former consensus top-five ace Jake Arrieta who in 2015 engineered one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory (1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 236 K). Unfortunately, Arrieta has been on a steady decline since and his past as an injury-prone hurler is becoming a topic of conversation again. The best place to start with Arrieta concerns a leaking velocity which is a potentially big problem for any pitcher. In Arrieta's case, he has now lost velocity on the fastball for three straight seasons; going from 94.9 in 2015 all the way down to 92.6 a year ago. That is a big drop and is a prime reason Arrieta's K/9 has moved from above the 9.00 mark to the mid-8.00 range. Also likely related to the velocity drop is the fact Arrieta is giving up home runs at a rate never seen before in his career (1.23 in 2017) and we all know how much of a potential negative that is for any starter. Signing on with the Philadelphia Phillies and their launching pad of a ballpark can only exacerbate that issue. Finally, we have the injuries and last season was a bad one on that front as Arrieta hit the DL on two occasions (the first for shoulder trouble and the second for a hand ailment). Remember that the Baltimore Orioles gave up on Arrieta due to his rampant injury problems and the fact this is becoming an issue again is a bad omen moving forward. So while Arrieta did finish strong in 2017 (ultimately posting a solid 3.53 ERA), he is a shell of the ace pitcher who put himself on a pedestal just a few years ago. You get the overwhelming feeling when evaluating Arrieta that more trouble is on the horizon and so avoiding an investment here looks like a good idea.
2018 PROJECTION: 14-8 3.54 ERA 1.17 WHIP 175 K