Fantasy Baseball: Edinson Volquez Mounting A Comeback?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers

Although it was just six short years ago, 2008 now seems like a lifetime ago. That summer, the Cubs were the best team in baseball, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were in high school and Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard finished 1-2 in the NL MVP voting. Also in 2008, Reds’ right-hander Edinson Volquez was one of the best young pitchers in the game.

That year, the Dominican hurler, just 24 at the time, ran through the National League, going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts in his first full season in the Show.

Since making that big splash in his rookie year, however, Volquez has never returned to the same level of dominance. He went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in 2009 and was suspended 50 games for a drug violation in 2010. In all, he won just 13 more games for the Reds over three seasons before being traded to the Padres.

In the past two seasons, in which he pitched for both the Padres and Dodgers, Volquez saw his ERA balloon to above 5 and his velocity drop. This offseason, he signed with the Pirates in the hopes of resurrecting his career and finally cashing in on the promise he showed in Cincinnati.

The Bucs’ rotation was already loaded, with ace Francisco Liriano, precocious, flame-throwing youngster Gerrit Cole, and established veterans Wandy Rodriquez and Charlie Morton comprising one of the game’s premier quartets, so they were able to take a flier on a project like Volquez.

The 30-year old Volquez does have to provide some quality starts, though, since top prospect Jameson Taillon, who was expected to join the team early in the year, was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery last week.

The Pirates hope that Volquez will be the latest in a line of pitchers whose careers have been jump-started under the team’s tutelage. Their most recent project was Liriano, whose career followed a path similar to Volquez’s before Pittsburgh got its hands on him and helped him return to his All-Star form.

Now that Volquez has a few starts under his belt in black and gold, we can start analyzing whether he’s worth a look in your fantasy league. The early returns on his performance have been very positive.

The jauntily-hatted Volquez has posted a 1.29 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in his first two starts, and in the latter of the two held the red-hot Brewers to just one earned run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings.

He has shown flashes of his old velocity and is throwing his curveball much more often than in the past, when he was essentially a fastball-changeup pitcher. The Pirates’ mechanical adjustments have allowed him to post a 3.3/1 K/BB ratio, which is far better than his career average of 1.78, primarily because his walks have dropped significantly in the early going this year.

Volquez Fever hasn’t swept through fantasy leagues just yet, as he’s currently owned in just 3.9 percent of ESPN leagues. This could be the perfect time to scoop him up off the waiver wire and look like a genius later if Volquez does indeed follow in Liriano’s footsteps.

If he does, 2014 could begin to look a lot like 2008; maybe it wasn’t so long ago after all.

Dylan Sinn is a freelance contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSinn or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Getty