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Oakland Athletics rookie Chris Bassitt: worth a fantasy investment?

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

From the Minor League Ball mailbag:

"I know he wasn't a top prospect but is there any reason to be excited about A's rookie Chris Bassitt? He's pitched pretty well so far. Worth a fantasy grab?"---Christopher from Eugene, Oregon

Not to sound too much like a politician here, but it depends on what you mean by "excited." Is Bassitt going to win a Cy Young or anchor your fantasy team pitching staff. Most likely not. That doesn't mean he has no value of course.

Bassitt was drafted in the 16th round in 2011 by the Chicago White Sox from the University of Akron. Originally drafted as a reliever, he moved into a starting role in 2012 and performed well, reaching Double-A in '13 and receiving a 30-inning major league trial with the White Sox last year, posting a 3.94 ERA over six games (five starts) with a 21/13 K/BB, 34 hits allowed, but zero homers.

He was traded off to the Athletics in the Jeff Samardzija deal and has bounced between Triple-A and the majors this year, effective at both levels. Overall, between his trial with the Sox last year and his tenure on the Oakland staff this spring, Bassitt has a career 3.45 ERA in 57 big league innings, with a 38/24 K/BB and 56 hits allowed. He's allowed just one homer in his major league career and his minor league HR totals are similarly low.

As you can see his whiff rates are pretty low, generally a caution flag. His FIP is fairly in line with his ERA at 3.67, although xFIP isn't as impressive at 5.03.

Pre-season scouting reports noted a sinking fastball between 90 and 96 MPH along with a mediocre-to-average slider and change-up. Actual PITCHf/x data discerns both two-seam sinker and four-seam fastballs topping out at 97 and averaging about 93, which is in line with the traditional reports. The rest of his arsenal parses out like this according to BrooksBaseball's analysis of the PITCHf/x data:

His curve comes in below hitting speed, has sweeping glove-side movement and is an extreme flyball pitch compared to other pitchers' curves. His slider results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' sliders, is much harder than usual and has less than expected depth. His cutter has strong cutting action. His change results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers' changeups and has slight armside fade.

Interesting points here: PITCHf/x discerns a broader arsenal than he was reputed to have when he was in the minors. Broadening his pitch assortment away from a simple fastball/slider combination was one of his key adaption tasks when he converted from the bullpen to starting a few years ago. Also note how all of his secondary pitches are fly ball pitches, quite interesting for a guy who relies a great deal on sinkers and has such low home run rates.

Personally I prefer pitchers who collect more strikeouts than Bassitt does and in my view he profiles better as a reliever. However, if he can shave a few walks off his ratios and stay healthy, Bassitt could be a decent back-end starter. Whether that fits your fantasy needs is up to you.

If he does break out, the first indicator would probably be a higher strikeout rate.