When Nicholas Minnix wrapped up his analysis of this pitcher in a November Hot Stove report, he said:
He'll remain an injury risk, however. Reports on his velocity, mechanics and command will mean a little more than they do for other pitchers next spring.
Indeed, though they can't be no-doubt predictors of things to come, Francisco Liriano's so far pristine effort and admission that spring shoulder issues dragged him down during the 2011 season (including a notable K/9 collapse) are reminding fantasy owners of his long-lost intrigue.
Per MLB.com, Liriano threw just four sliders in his 34-pitch outing Thursday - a positive development considering his fastball use and strike-zone aggressiveness have held him back in recent seasons, and overusing his slide piece remains a critical sore spot for his long-term durability.
He avoided the zone and fell behind on the first pitch to extreme levels last year; in fact, the former percentage has been on a three-year dip since he returned from Tommy John surgery for a 2008 stint. His LOB% was also lackluster outside of some positive 2010 fortune.
Part of that explanation: Minnesota has tried to tinker with his approach and make him more contact-friendly like the rest of their staff. On the positive side, we saw Scott Baker increase his K/9 last year (even if chiefly by accident), so if Ron Gardenhire wises up and lets Liriano be Liriano, we could be getting flashbacks to his mid-aughts brilliance - the dominant version of the southpaw that can consistently strand runners in the manner that he has teased throughout his career.
Liriano induced elite grounder percentages on his way to divergent K/9s and outcomes in 2010 and 2011, so if he can blend what he has learned over the last few seasons and reincorporate his strikeout punch from two seasons ago (and beyond), that's a tantalizing late-round combo.
Mockers haven't yet jumped on board. Luckily, his most recent Average Draft Positions of 247.23 on Mock Draft Central and 209.58 on RT Sports show he will come as merely a frugal dice roll this year. His ADP could move upward with more positive reports.
In fact, I'm going to stifle now so my competitors ... yeah. Do your part in boosting his ADP, won't you?
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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