Is Framber Valdez a sleeper pick for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game? Read on for more.
With the collective bargaining agreement finally agreed upon, Major League Baseball prepares to commence the 2022 regular season. The Houston Astros kick off their campaign against the Los Angeles Angels in early April.
Meanwhile, the Astros undergo an abbreviated spring training schedule in Florida. While the spotlight might be brightest on returning veteran, Justin Verlander, the Astros might have an emerging All-Star in Framber Valdez. Let’s take a look at some of his 2021 accomplishments.
Valdez tied for 28th place in the majors by earning 11 wins during his ’21 campaign. While 11 victories might not sound like a lot over the course of a season, only five starters even finished with at least 15 wins. In fact, last season featured only one 20-game-winner, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Julio Urias.
The Astros lefty pitched 134.2 innings last season, good for 73rd place in the majors among all starters. While that may not scream 200-inning per year durability, it symbolizes a positive building block for Valdez—as those 134 innings represent his largest workload so far during his four years of pitching in the majors. Could Valdez quietly be aiming to achieve a 200-inning workload?
Valdez finished the year with 125 strikeouts, good for 74th place in the bigs. While that number sits well below fanning 200 or more batters in a season, the total remains impressive because the lefty averaged achieving nearly a strikeout per inning. Over the course of his last regular season campaign, Valdez fanned 8.4 batters per game.
Mathematically, to put this significantly above average ratio into perspective, if Valdez sustained striking out batters at an 8.4 per game clip over 200 innings, he would have finished last season with 186 K’s—good for a top-25 ranking among all MLB starters.
Valdez turned in a very respectable 3.14 earned run average last season—an ERA all the more impressive considering the left-handed starter contributed his largest sample size of innings to date in 2021.
This low ERA sustained over a larger number of innings speaks to Framber’s realistic chances of getting even better this year. In effect, should the southpaw remain healthy, he just might near 200 innings pitched, and be a top-15 strikeout pitcher this upcoming season.
Why else Valdez might be a sleeper pick for ’22 All-Star team
According to former Astros pitching coach, Brent Strom, center fielder Mike Trout—perhaps the best position player of the current era — praised Valdez’s arsenal as “some of the best stuff (Trout’s) seen in baseball.”
Now the 28-year-old has all but earned his roster spot in the Astros starting rotation before Spring Training even concludes, and stands to make a statement this season with his on-field performance before becoming arbitration eligible in 2023.
Valdez—who allegedly featured the highest strikeout total on curveballs in the majors last season—has something to prove. He must stay healthy and pitch with conviction, minimizing his walks per nine innings ratio, and maybe—just, maybe—come July, he will be pitching in Dodger Stadium representing the American League in the Midsummer Classic. Time will tell.