In desperate need of starting pitching help to shore up a rotation that stood as just Gerrit Cole and four questions marks behind him, the New York Yankees took a one-year gamble worth $11 million on two-time Cy Young-winning pitcher Corey Kluber this past weekend. Having hit between 89-91 on his 30 throws in front of up to 20 teams late last week, Kluber apparently did enough to convince the Yankees that the well is not dry from his arm despite throwing just one single inning in 2020 and enduring another injury-marred 2019 campaign.
Before delving further, let's just state the obvious right off the bat and that is the fact Kluber is no longer the 220-K fantasy baseball ace he was from 2014-18 with the Cleveland Indians. That pitcher is a thing of the past and one only has to look at how he threw at least 203 innings in all five of those campaigns to know that the arm can only take so much abuse. Add in additional playoff frames that Kluber threw for those Indian teams and they fall-off is easy to understand. Now those are long time readers of ours would know that we sounded the alarm on Kluber starting in 2018 as his average fastball velocity had been on a consistent decline and the hard hit rate was also increasing. Add in doubt that he would be able to sustain all those innings and here we are with Kluber having thrown just 36.2 innings total the last two seasons.
So what happens from here? Can Kluber be an SP 2? Can help again in fantasy baseball? Well for one thing you don't like to see a pitcher try to salvage his career while operating in the always brutal NL East. For another, Kluber coming back from a teres major strain is a huge injury for a pitcher and the fact he is only throwing 89-91 shows how much of an effect it likely will have on his stuff. With Kluber's past fastball average sitting in the 96-plus range, you have to think there will be some rough outings along the way as he not only finds his MLB footing again but tries to figure out how to throw with less potent stuff in a tough division. Add in trying to ramp things up after so few frames the last few seasons and Kluber is another injury waiting to happen.
So in terms of 2021 fantasy baseball, feel free to bring Kluber aboard as an SP 5 with upside to see if he still has anything left. Even trying him out as an SP 4 may be worth it in deeper league but anything more would be a waste of draft capital.