Going Deep: Framber, I barely know her!

Andy Patton examines Astros left-hander Framber Valdez after his first MLB start, and looks at his potential value ROS.

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

On August 21, for the first time all season, the Astros needed to replace one of their starting pitchers after Lance McCullers went on the DL with a muscle strain. He was initially replaced by Brad Peacock, but it was a bullpen situation. Framber Valdez, a 24-year-old left-hander who was Houston’s No. 25 prospect according to Fangraphs, ended up making his big league debut in that game, tossing 4.1 innings of shutout ball against the Mariners. When McCullers’ rotation spot came up again, Valdez got the start against the Angels and went 5.0 innings with one earned run.

With the news that McCullers is likely going to come back as a bullpen piece, Valdez may have a rotation spot for the rest of the season. That has yet to be confirmed, but if it looks like Valdez is going to make 5-6 more starts, he will surely get looks in deeper leagues. After all, who doesn’t love prospect pitchers?

However, it’s always worth taking a closer look at what you are getting yourself into with these rookies. Here’s a look at Valdez’s arsenal, and what can be expected of him going forward.

Valdez has two fastballs, a traditional four-seamer and a sinking two-seamer. His bread and butter is his curveball, which earned a very solid 8/21 CSW in Sunday’s start, and an 11/28 in his first outing.

The pitch has a ton of movement, both horizontally and vertically. It’s a devastating weapon against left-handers, which has many predicting an eventual career as a LOOGY for the big left-hander. When he’s locating, the pitch is unhittable – see the below example to Kole Calhoun.

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The camera angle isn’t doing us any favors, but this pitch breaks across the entire zone, getting a big whiff from the red hot Calhoun. It’s easy to see why this pitch is so good against left-handers, and why it can be effective against right-handers if used effectively.

The issue with Valdez is control. He leaves this pitch up a lot, sometimes above the zone and sometimes right in the heart of the plate. Although he hasn’t been hurt in the big leagues yet, it’s pretty clear his location could use some work else he get tee’d off on.

At least three of those pitches should have been punished, especially since two of them were to Mike Trout. Valdez should be counting his blessings a little extra that one of those pitches wasn’t cascading off the rocks in left center at Angels Stadium.

Switching to his fastball, he sports a four-seamer that sits around 93-95 and a two-seamer that sits 89-92. Again, camera angles aren’t helping us out much, but you can see a slight difference in these two pitches.

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Here’s the four-seamer, just off the black to Albert Pujols.

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And here’s the two-seamer down and away for David Fletcher.

Valdez’s two-seamer has about eight inches of drop to it, although it doesn’t have as much movement laterally as a traditional two-seam fastball (in fact, Fangraphs classifies it as a sinker). His four-seamer is pretty straight, with only 6.6 inches of movement.

Valdez does have a 55-grade changeup (according to MLB Pipeline) but has yet to use it in his 9.1 innings of work. That pitch will be the biggest hinge for him becoming an established big league starter, or a LOOGY. Right now, he has limited weapons to use against right-handers. His curveball could be used in a pinch as either a backdoor curve for strike three, or a front door swing and miss. However, he hasn’t demonstrated enough control to pull that off with consistency, which will make him very susceptible to opposing right-handers.

If he comes out next start with an above-average changeup, that would give me hope that he can be a worthwhile stream down the stretch. If he sticks with his 4FB/2FB/CB combo, he will have a hard time putting together consistent outings, and won’t be anything other than a desperation stream against poor opponents.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch did not directly imply that Valdez will get starts ROS. He stated that the expanded rosters could give them an opportunity to start other players, or even go bullpenning. That, coupled with Valdez’s lack of another secondary offering, make him a very risky option going forward.

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Content Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on dynasty deep sleepers, and the weekly hitter and pitcher stash lists. Andy also co-hosts the Never Sunny in Seattle podcast on the PitcherList Podcast Network, and separately hosts the Score Zags Score Podcast.

2 responses to “Going Deep: Framber, I barely know her!”

  1. AL says:

    good article I was just looking for a little more in depth reseacrh for Framber.

    h2h points championship game –> need to find one RP and Ive narrowed it down to:
    Framber against a LAA lineup that is so so bad against LHP and is likely to get a win
    Musgrove against a hot STL lineup
    Gant against a cool PIT lineup
    Adam Ottavino with 6 games against bad LAA and SD, hoping he gets a few holds and praying he gets win in relief

    Would appreciate the feedback thanks

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