Setting and following lofty expectations for previously unseasoned commodities is typically a dangerous practice. Hype trains routinely derail. Just ask the guy in your league still waiting for the Chris Davis'(notes) 50-homer binge (The Noise reluctantly raises hand).
In a city known for cultivating buzz, and Rookie of the Year candidates, frenzied Dodger fans have again reached a fevered pitch. Move over Fernando and Manny, Elymania has officially arrived in Hollywood.
Acquired last December from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre(notes) deal, the unheralded prospect has blown into SoCal with the strength of the Santa Anas. Over 25.2 innings, he's surrendered a respectable 10 runs (3.51 ERA) with, get this, a 25:3 K:BB split. Amazingly, Ross Grimsley in 1971 is the only other pitcher since 1952 who has pitched at least six innings without walking a batter three times in his first four games.
For decades Maddux was Picasso with a glove. Despite a pedestrian fastball, his ability to alter speeds, generate movement and paint corners made him arguably the greatest pitcher of the 90s. Often it seemed he could hurl a gerbil into an empty beer bottle from 60 feet away.
Though not nearly as talented, Ely evokes a similar style. His mid-to-high 80s fastball is often deceptive, especially when combined with offspeed junk. Many times this young season, he's humiliated opponents mixing fastballs with changeups – his best offering (highlights here).
On the farm, the rookie's command wasn't nearly as sharp (4.02 BB/9). Still, many scouts widely believed he would develop into a control freak. Most probably never figured it would come this quickly.
Exaggeration No. 2: Not even "The Big One" could rattle Ely's confidence.
Poised on the mound, the 24-year-old believes he can dominate anyone. Despite being more of a finesse pitcher, he attacks hitters aggressively, coaxing abundant weak contact (1.16 GB/FB). From ESPN Los Angeles:
"I'm just out here doing what I have always done," Ely said. "I just have complete confidence in what I bring to the table and the fact that if I execute my pitches the way I want to, I feel like I have the advantage. That is the way you have to feel every time out. If you doubt yourself, you're going to give up hits..."
"We knew what we were getting in Ely, but we never expected to see him here this quickly," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "He knows how to pitch. This is the way he has pitched his whole life. From my first conversation with him the night we acquired him [on Dec. 17], you could tell there was a specialness about him."
As a result of his blue collar approach and intense attitude, Ely simply wins, which he's done often since his high school days in suburban Chicago. Double-digit Ws at the big league level could become routine.
Exaggeration No. 3: Ely is so fantastically attractive Alyssa Milano is contemplating divorce.
The smokin' Dodgers fanatic may not be the only one. Mixed leaguers who've suffered through horrific starts by Josh Beckett(notes), Javier Vazquez(notes) and Jake Peavy(notes) have understandably sought legal counsel. Because of his plentiful offensive support, division and pitcher friendly surroundings, there's plenty to like. After another mesmerizing start or two, Wooderson wigs (Sans 'stache, Ely bears a remarkable resemblance) might soon replace Manny dreads in leftfield. "All right" feelings will surely follow.
However, in this day and age of advanced scouting, opponents can masterfully outmaneuver even the super, let alone the marginally, talented. As with any inexperienced player, it's important to keep in mind turbulence should be expected. But if he continues to exhibit Nolasco-esque accuracy, banner back of the rotation numbers could be achieved in 12-team mixed leagues. Right now, he's slightly more rosterable than fellow NL rookie Mike Leake(notes).
Buying into hype can often lead owners down Disappointment Street. But Ely's strong peripherals, above average pedigree and ideal pitching environment make the eight-percent owned starter well worth the risk.
Fearless Forecast (rest of season): 131 IP, 7 W, 3.58 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 116 K
Quality commodity owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Corey Patterson(notes), Bal, OF (one-percent owned): It seems laughable writing anything positive about Peppermint Patterson. After all, the only accolade he's recently earned was an All-Handsome Man nomination in 2006. But Seattle's discarded trash – Patterson failed to make the team this spring – is treasure for the flightless Orioles. Baltimore's latest leadoff man has scorched since his promotion on May 12 going 8-for-26 with two homers, two RBI, eight runs and two steals. Despite a woeful .291 OBP, Patterson, at 30, still boasts NASCAR wheels. In his last season with the O's in '07, he swiped 37 bags. Owners with a need for speed should invest, but keep in mind a BA freefall is likely.
Ooh Stream Weaver...
Widely available plug n' play starter heading into the weekend.
Jason Vargas(notes), Sea
(5/20 vs. Tor, 21-percent owned): Quietly the Seattle southpaw has amassed sensational
numbers. In seven starts, he's accumulated a 2.93 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with three
wins. An increased reliance on changeups has led to a spike in K/9 and
groundball percentage. However, his 13.2 line-drive rate and .231 BABIP suggest
an ERA correction will be coming soon. However, don't expect a regression against the
free-swinging Jays. Collectively, the Canadian Birds are batting .244. Vargas'
stellar stretch of quality starts at Safeco (2.00 ERA, .163 BAA) should
Middle Relief Magic
ERA/WHIP savior, potential saves/wins vulture.
Clay Hensley(notes), Fla (three-percent owned): Playing in front of mosquito hoards instead of fans, the converted starter has pitched brilliantly in middle relief. Over 21.2 IP, he's notched an uncharacteristic 12.05 K/9 (career 6.12). Looking under the hood, his heavy change/curve use is responsible for the strikeouts jump. Hitters have nibbled at his offspeed offerings, especially outside, with minimal success. Because he misses bats and induces numerous groundball outs, spotless performances could easily continue. He's the super absorbent Band-Aid to apply to a bleeding staff.
Images courtesy of US Presswire/MLB.com