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2010 Player Profile: Clayton Kershaw, "True Ace"

Clayton Kershaw put in a dominant season in 2009, and he went from being a high school senior to a starting pitcher for the Dodgers pretty darn quickly.  The 22 year old Kershaw was the Dodgers first round draft pick (7th overall ) in the 2006 MLB amateur draft.  Thanks to a hefty signing bonus, the Dodgers were able to lure Kershaw to turn professional as opposed to attending university.  Kershaw first appeared in the rookie league in 2006 and posted a FIP of 0.69 in 37 innings pitched.  In 2007 Kershaw pitched in A Ball in the Midwest League and continued to dominate, posting a FIP of 2.72 in 97.1 innings which led to a late year promotion to AA Jacksonville.  After pitching in A and AA in 2007 (which would be Kershaw's last full season in the minors) as a 20 year old, Kershaw was ranked as the 7th best prospect in baseball heading into the 2008 season.  In 2008 Kershaw would start the year in AA (he would finish it in the NLCS) where he continued to make quick work of the minor leagues.  After pitching in 61.1 innings in Jacksonville (again posting a sub 3 FIP) Kershaw was called upon to pitch in the rotation for the big league club, where at 20 years old Kershaw pitched in the rotation of a Dodger team which came from behind to win the NL West and advance all the way to NLCS.

Coming into 2009 there was no question where Kershaw would start the year. He was going to be in the rotation.  While his traditional stats didn't blow people away the prior season (4.26 ERA, 5-5 record) the fact that Kershaw was able to post a league average ERA as a 20 year old spoke volumes.  Kersahw seemed prime to be a star pitcher at some point in his career, but I doubt many expected such a quick rise to success.  In 2009, Kershaw posted a shiny 2.79 ERA in a full year of work and helped the club win a second division title; including being the starting pitcher in the division clinching game as he drew  inspiration from TBLA being in attendance.  Clayton was even tabbed as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS against St. Louis.  A brilliant year indeed.

Contract Status

Signed a one-year deal for $440,000.  Kershaw is not arbitration eligible until 2012, and is under team control through 2014.

2010 Outlook

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tRA ERA+
2008 20 107.2 4.35 8.36 4.26 4.08 3.96 4.36 98
2009 21 171.0 4.79 9.74 2.79 3.08 3.90 3.09 142

2010 Projections - Age 22 Season

Bill James 180.0 4.55 9.40 3.25 3.42
CHONE 151.0 4.65 9.48 3.58 3.61
Marcel 155.0 4.18 9.12 3.31 3.53
Baseball HQ 189.0 4.28 9.23 3.43    

Looking into the statistics for Kershaw last season, I might be inclined to predict a bit of a regression on his part.  Kershaw had the largest delta of x-FIP to ERA amongst the starters. In fact, Kershaw’s HR/FB ratio of 4.1% was the lowest in all of major league baseball (and as a result his BABIP of .274 was 11th in MLB.)  On the other hand, his K/9 noted above of 9.74 is pretty awesome (7th in major league baseball amongst starting pitchers) and Kershaw is only 22 years old.  One would figure that he's still developing and learning and the sky is still the limit for Kershaw. I don't believe that Kershaw will post a sub 3 ERA again, but I still expect a very solid season from the Dodgers Ace.

In 2010, I predict Kershaw will post an ERA of 3.10, WHIP of 1.25, FIP of 3.35 in 175 innings of work.

What are your community projections for Clayton Kershaw (ERA, WHIP, IP)?