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Thread: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

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    Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Cueto Many Home Runs

    by David Golebiewski - November 23, 2008 · Filed under Starting Pitchers

    Cincinnati Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto created quite a stir last spring. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004 for just $3,500, Cueto tore through the minors in short order before making a lasting first impression in the majors, punching out 18 batters in his first two starts. The 5-10, 185 pounder alternated between dominant and flammable the rest of the year, showcasing plenty of talent while also making apparent his need for a more refined approach.

    After signing for .001 percent of what 2004 first-round pick Homer Bailey received, Cueto got his professional career started for the rookie-level GCL Reds in 2005. In 43 innings, Cueto posted solid peripherals (7.95 K/9, 1.67 BB/9), but his ERA was an inflated 5.02 thanks to an unusually high hit rate (10.26/9). Impressed with his work, the Reds had Cueto make one start for Sarasota of the High-A Florida State League, where he would strike out six and walk two in six frames. The Dominican was still largely unknown at this point, as the 2006 Baseball America Prospect Handbook did not rank Cueto as one of Cincinnati’s top 30 prospects and did not include him in the team’s depth chart.

    In 2006, Cueto would go a long way toward making himself known to the scouting community, dominating between stops at Low-A Dayton (Midwest League) and Sarasota. In 76.1 frames at Dayton, Cueto would whiff an impressive 9.67 batters per nine innings, while allowing just 1.77 BB/9. His Nintendo-level 5.47 K/BB ratio translated to a 2.65 Fielding Independent ERA (FIP ERA). Feeling that Low-A hitters were no match for his low-90’s heat and power slider, Cincinnati promoted Cueto to Sarasota for the second half of the season. His strikeout rate declined somewhat (8.9 K/9) and he walked more batters (3.36 BB/9), but those are still dominant numbers for a 20 year-old in advanced A-Ball, and translated to a solid 3.90 FIP ERA in 61.2 IP. Upon reaching Sarasota, Cueto began generating far more flyballs than he previously had in his career. His GB% was 54% at Dayton, but fell to 39% at Sarasota. Cueto’s flyball-centric approach would continue in the coming years, but we’ll discuss that in more depth later on.

    Following the season, BA took note of Cueto’s performance in a big way, as he surged from unranked to rating as the 4th-best prospect in the Reds system. While cautioning that “Cueto’s size doesn’t lend itself to durability”, BA praised his “free and easy three-quarters delivery” that pumped fastballs reaching 96 MPH.

    Cueto’s 2007 campaign would make his breakout 2006 season look downright tame by comparison, as he sprinted though three different leagues and terrorized batters at every stop. Cueto opened the season back at Sarasota, where he posted rates of 8.27 K/9 and 2.41 BB/9. His 3.43 K/BB ratio bested his 2.65 showing at High-A in 2006, and translated to a tidy 2.86 FIP ERA in 78.1 IP. Upon being bumped up to AA Chattanooga of the Southern League, Cueto would go bonkers. In 61 frames, he posted a 2.89 FIP ERA and punched out a stunning 11.36 batters per nine innings, issuing just 1.62 BB/9. Cueto’s home run rate climbed from an extremely low 0.34/9 at Sarasota to a more reasonable 0.89/9 at AA, but his 7.00 K/BB ratio made him look like the Southern League’s version of Pedro Martinez. Promoted yet again, Cueto would throw 22 innings for AAA Louisville of the International League. In his first and only taste of the IL, Cueto posted a 21/2 K/BB ratio and a 3.02 FIP ERA.

    Now firmly entrenched on prospect lists everywhere, Cueto once again ranked as Cincinnati’s 4th-best farm product following the 2007 season. BA also rated him as the 34th-best overall prospect in the minors, commending Cueto for pitching “like a 10-year major league veteran, not a fresh-faced 21 year-old.” Noting his work with former Reds star Mario Soto, BA commented that Cueto’s changeup had come a long way under the tutelage of the three-time all-star. In addition, Cueto also featured a “93-94 MPH fastball that touches 96″ and a “tight 83-88 MPH slider.”

    Following his eye-opening, three-affiliate tour-de-force, Cueto impressed Cincinnati brass enough to win himself a rotation spot in the big leagues this past season. The 22 year-old showed the ability to miss plenty of bats, striking out 8.17 hitters per nine frames. However, his control came and went (3.52 BB/9), and he had serious trouble with the long ball, surrendering 1.5 HR/9. Cueto’s K rate was the 14th-best among all major league starters, but his home run rate was the 5th-worst in the game. Only Brandon Backe, teammate Aaron Harang, Paul Byrd and Jeff Suppan were burned by the big fly more often than Cueto.

    Cueto has established himself as an extreme flyball pitcher, having generated groundballs just 38.6% of the time in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, his home ball ballpark severely punishes such tendencies. Courtesy of the 2009 Bill James Handbook, we find that Great American Ballpark had a HR Park factor of 128 between 2006 and 2008. GABP increased home run production 28% over the past three years. Suffice it to say, that does not bode well for a guy who puts the ball in the air so often.

    Johnny Cueto remains an extremely talented young pitcher. His 93 MPH fastball and mid-80’s power slider can be nearly impossible to hit at times, as evidenced by his minuscule 76.9 Contact% (9th-best in baseball, sandwiched between Cole Hamels and Johan Santana). However, he may want to utilize his changeup more often in 2009, as he threw his slider over 32% of the time (the 5th-highest rate in the big leagues) while using the change just 6.7%. When he threw it, Cueto’s change was a nasty looking pitch, with horizontal movement that was identical to his fastball and a whopping 7 inches of vertical drop compared to his heater.

    Cueto has the tools necessary to establish himself as one of the best starters in the big leagues. However, fantasy owners might need to experience some of his growing pains first, as he learns to use his full repertoire and limit the long-ball damage.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/ind...many-home-runs
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Good stuff there by David. The Reds have got to make Cueto start using his changeup more often in 2009 and beyond. It's a great pitch, so I never understood why he didn't use it more often. He used it early in the season and made left handed hitters look foolish but then he seemed to fall in love with his fastball/slider at times. I think 2008 will prove to be a good learning experience for him. I was very impressed with his rookie season considering how awful his defense was and how little experience he has (83 innings above High-A).

    I think this kid is going to be very special. Maybe not Pedro Martinez special, but maybe a Jose Rijo or Mario Soto type of career is possible. I look for him to be around a league average starter next season but so much more in a couple years. I'm looking forward to watching him and Volquez for a long time. Hopefully Homer Bailey can put it together and form a deadly trio.
    Last edited by OnBaseMachine; 11-23-2008 at 04:19 PM.
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    the pitching coach and coaches need to get Cueto to be fluid to the plate way more often. When he starts to fall toward the 1st base side of the mound on his deliveries, he leaves his pitches up in the zone and he gets clobbered! To me if he can keep his delivery fluid he can be as good or better than Volquez.. I saw 2 games Cueto pitched and when he was on he was fluid to the plate and dominating And when he started to fall towards 1st, he walked batters or got hit hard.. His mechanics just need to be tweaked and i wish Mario Soto was the pitching coach because i bet he would see that and be right out there talking to him or in the dugout between innings..

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    The change is his newest pitch so I think as time goes by he will become more comfortable with it and use it more.

    Rem

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Cueto actually signed for $35,000, according to Wayne Krivsky. Apparently there was a typo at some point.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    I'd just like to see Cueto move away from his tendency to pitch up in the zone. High fastballs and hanging sliders are two of the most HR prone pitches. Though it seemed he also would go up when he got a bit overexcited and would start overthrowing. Perhaps a little maturity will go a long way in that regard.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    I was looking through Cueto's game log and noticed that he carried a no-hitter through five innings in three of his first 12 major league starts. That's impressive. I wonder how many other pitchers have did that?
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I'd just like to see Cueto move away from his tendency to pitch up in the zone. High fastballs and hanging sliders are two of the most HR prone pitches. Though it seemed he also would go up when he got a bit overexcited and would start overthrowing. Perhaps a little maturity will go a long way in that regard.
    Agreed although I think vs. LH's he definitely needs to work that change up a bit more.

    He had 43 BB's in 325 PA's vs. LHB for a .359 OBP% and 25 BB's (1 IBB) in 444 PA's vs. RHB's and they had only a .330 OBP even while RHB's hit him for better avg. (.275 vs. .249) and slg%. (.475 vs. .439).

    Something very odd though is that he pitched only 9 more innings on the road and gave up 18 of his HR's there and only 11 in GABP.

    So work that change up more vs. LH's at least and try not to overthrow vs. everyone. I think if they work on the former more the latter might start taking care of itself because he won't feel the need to try to overthrow as much.
    "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    I remember left handers started out something like 0-for-18 against Cueto through his first two or three starts. That's when he was mixing in his changeup more. Like remdog said, that's his newest pitch, so while it's already a great pitch he may not have been fully comfortable with it yet. That should come with experience.
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    However, he may want to utilize his changeup more often in 2009, as he threw his slider over 32% of the time (the 5th-highest rate in the big leagues) while using the change just 6.7%. When he threw it, Cueto’s change was a nasty looking pitch, with horizontal movement that was identical to his fastball and a whopping 7 inches of vertical drop compared to his heater.
    If he throws that more often that'll help the FB%, plus leaves the slider as an out pitch. I know if I'm calling that game, having that change-up to work with in the middle of the count makes it a lot easier to keep hitters off balance.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    I assume Cueto's early success had other teams scrambling to the videos to find some answers to his change-up. When adjustments were made by batters, I believe Cueto had his confidence rattled.

    He beat himself too often last year by making mistakes. Pole and hopefully Soto need to work with him to stay confident, pitch to his strengths, and recognize when to make adjustments. How he is handled this year will be very important to his future success.
    "I am your child from the future. I'm sorry I didn't tell you this earlier." - Dylan Easton

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    One other interesting note when looking at Cueto's stats:

    Against the Astros and Cardinals:

    27.1 IP, 45 H, 6 HR, 17 BB, 19 K, 9.96 ERA

    Against everyone else:

    146.2 IP, 133 H, 23 HR, 51 BB, 139 K, 3.88 ERA

    Probably more coincidence than anything. His first bad start against the Cardinals was when he was going through one of his tougher stretches of the season. His other bad start against the Cardinals was in June sandwiched in between good starts. That's the game in which he couldn't find the plate at all as he walked eight batters in five innings.
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    BobC, get a legit F.O.! Mario-Rijo's Avatar
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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine View Post
    One other interesting note when looking at Cueto's stats:

    Against the Astros and Cardinals:

    27.1 IP, 45 H, 6 HR, 17 BB, 19 K, 9.96 ERA

    Against everyone else:

    146.2 IP, 133 H, 23 HR, 51 BB, 139 K, 3.88 ERA

    Probably more coincidence than anything. His first bad start against the Cardinals was when he was going through one of his tougher stretches of the season. His other bad start against the Cardinals was in June sandwiched in between good starts. That's the game in which he couldn't find the plate at all as he walked eight batters in five innings.
    Well those 2 lineups you could say are the 2 best in the division. They are both more diverse and complete than Mil. and Chi.
    "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Quote Originally Posted by Mario-Rijo View Post
    Well those 2 lineups you could say are the 2 best in the division. They are both more diverse and complete than Mil. and Chi.
    The Cardinals lineup was tough but the Astros only scored eight more runs than the Reds. The Cubs easily had the best lineup in the division IMO. They are tough top to bottom. Cueto handled the Cubs very well except for his first start back from the injury in early September. He was also very good against a solid Milwaukee lineup that scored just 29 fewer runs than the Cardinals. He just caught the Cardinals when he was going through a rough stretch.
    I miss Adam Dunn.

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    Re: Nice piece on Johnny Cueto from fangraphs

    Quote Originally Posted by OnBaseMachine View Post
    The Cardinals lineup was tough but the Astros only scored eight more runs than the Reds. The Cubs easily had the best lineup in the division IMO. They are tough top to bottom. Cueto handled the Cubs very well except for his first start back from the injury in early September. He was also very good against a solid Milwaukee lineup that scored just 29 fewer runs than the Cardinals. He just caught the Cardinals when he was going through a rough stretch.
    Sure the Cubs were probably better 1-9 but the Cubs don't have a Pujols or Berkman and the Cubs were pretty devoid of LH offense. And the Brewers are much more prone to the K.
    "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one."

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