Non-Tender Candidate: Luke Hochevar

The next strikeout Luke Hochevar records will set a new career-high for the right-hander, but that's one of few positives to take away from an otherwise disappointing season. The 29-year-old has pitched to a 5.46 ERA despite reasonable peripheral stats such as his 6.9 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 43.6 percent ground-ball rate. All of those are pretty close to the numbers Hochevar has posted to date in his career: a 5.33 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 47.9 percent ground-ball rate. Suffice it to say, that's not quite what the Royals were hoping for when they selected Hochevar first overall in the 2006 draft. Hochevar

The University of Tennessee product has spent his entire career with the Royals after refusing to sign with the Dodgers when they selected him in both 2002 and 2005. He appeared on Baseball America's list of Top 100 prospects prior to both the 2007 and 2008 seasons, but that pedigree never manifested at the Major League level.

Hochevar avoided arbitration with the Royals last winter, agreeing to a one-year deal that guaranteed him $3.51MM. At the time, he was coming off a 198-inning season in which he posted a 3.52 ERA in the season's second half. That won't be the case this upcoming offseason, but he's still on pace to rattle off roughly 180 innings. That durability will lead to another raise for Hochevar through arbitration, which could push his salary north of $5MM.

As Rany Jazayerli recently pointed out, Hochevar has the fifth-worst ERA and sixth-worst ERA+ of any starting pitcher to ever exceed 120 starts at the Major League level. Given the 752-inning sample size of subpar performance, it seems likely that even a pitching-starved organization like the Royals could move on from Hochevar and seek alternative rotation options. In the event that he's non-tendered, Hochevar would likely be in line for a one-year deal with a low base salary and some performance-based incentives from his new club.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Presswire.

35 Responses to Non-Tender Candidate: Luke Hochevar Leave a Reply

  1. ThisGuyRocks 3 years ago

    Finally. I was ready to give up on this guy a couple years ago.

  2. TLB2001 3 years ago

    Not gonna happen. Dayton and Ned have both made it abundantly clear Hochevar will be back next year. I’m not a Dayton hater, but he does seem to have a pathological fear of letting a guy go and having him turn into something (see Humber, Philip; de la Rosa, Jorge). I’d like them to non-tender and try to negotiate another contract at much lower price tag. No way Luke gets anywhere near what he’d get in arb on the open market and if someone wants to give it to him, more power to them.

    I’d offer him 1 year/$2.5 million with heavy incentives. If he walks, I won’t be crying in his beer.

    • LazerTown 3 years ago

      I’m betting he signs for more than that. His xFIP for the past 4 years has been in low 4’s, and I’m sure someone will give him a shot. Even if it is to get out of KC and into a new setting, he has value as an inning eating starter. He probably should have signed with the Dodgers. Big spacious ballparks in the NL West would have been better for his HRs that he gives up.

      • Chris 3 years ago

        Kauffman Stadium is very large and suppressess home runs as well as any ballpark in the majors: LH / RH home run park factors are 79 / 88. Dodgers Stadium? 114 / 105.

        • LazerTown 3 years ago

          But he would spend alot more time in Petco and ATT. Also would help to not worry about the DH, Getting out of a Division with Fielder, Konerko, Dunn, Mauer, Morneau, Miggy, Hafner is worse than the NL West.

    • TLB2001 3 years ago

      All his peripherals have always been good — he’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery. The talent has always been there, he’s one of those guys that may someday just all of a sudden find “it,” but I think 700+ innings is enough due diligence. Sometimes when you hit on 19 you get a 2, but that doesn’t mean you should do it again.

    • Otis26 3 years ago

      The fact that you are using Humber as an example is very amusing. He’s 5-5 with a 6.44 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. He was the blind squirrel who got a no-hitter, but otherwise he’s worse than Hochevar. De La Rosa had a nice couple of years but has blown out his shoulder and is functionally useless. Even so, his ERA after leaving the Royals was above 4. You may want to look at J.P. Howell as a better example…but you won’t find that many players who left the Royals and became superstars elsewhere. John Buck? LOL.
      If you were DM you’d be fearful of it happening too. Because Royals fans are so uninformed and whiney, it would be a PR catastrophe if someone went on and was successful.
      I can’t wait until DM has to trade some of the top prospects in the organization to land the starting pitching that the team needs (and the fans demand.) It will be very amusing to see the message boards shred him for trading good prospects. “You said X was going to be our savior!!!” I can hear it now.

      • TLB2001 3 years ago

        I didn’t say *I* think we should’ve kept Humber or de la Rosa, I said Dayton Moore does. He said as much in the discussion of why Luis Mendoza made the team coming out of spring training. Note that I’m arguing for letting Luke go if he won’t take less money.

        JP Howell isn’t the same thing though, he was 22 when we traded him and had only 72 IP. de la Rosa and Humber, like Hochevar, had displayed a long history of mediocrity despite talent. Humber was 27 before he even put on the Royal blue and Jorge was 26 with ~300 IP.

      • TLB2001 3 years ago

        Also I have been a fierce advocate for trading prospects — including Wil Myers — for an impact starting pitcher, for the record.

  3. ugotrpk3113 3 years ago

    He seems like one of those pitchers that goes to a pitcher friendly NL park and becomes a solid back of the rotation option. And for the price, he may be a bargin.

  4. Karkat 3 years ago

    Arbitration is such a joke. I wish I got 50% raises for doing kind of consistently in at least one area.

  5. Koby2 3 years ago

    If the Royals go to arbitration with him this offseason, the entire front office needs to be fired. If we could fire the owner too, that’d be great. His flashes of brilliance can’t even outshine the grime of his career.

  6. paylly 3 years ago

    Glad the Dodgers were ‘unlucky’ enough to not be selected by Luke!

  7. LordD99 3 years ago

    Failed starters often make great relievers.

  8. Chris_RG 3 years ago

    Still waiting for the obligatory “He’s not a bust! He’s only 2X years old and could turn it around next year!” comment we hear every time an ex-top prospect busts at the ML level.

    • Otis26 3 years ago

      Go to the KC Star website. The Royals have said just that. Surprised MLBTR quoted Rany instead of the organization. Several articles in the Star have pointed out the historic badness of Hochevar. Rany – as usual – was not original.

      • Chris_RG 3 years ago

        Pretty sad and mind boggling. It’s like the tune you’ve heard just about every year with Matt LaPorta, Justin Smoak, or Brian Matusz — it’s always going to be the year that they’re going to quit being enormous busts. I think of these three guys whenever I think of current ex-top prospects who have gotten plenty of chances to prove themselves and haven’t, yet people still clamor for them to receive starts in hopes that something finally clicks. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results?

      • MUCHRIS64 3 years ago

        Didn’t see this until now. BULL!! Rany has been on Hoch’s ass for quite a while. It’s the Star quoting people like Rany, NOT the other way around.

  9. That Luke Hochevar is listed as a CANDIDATE is strange; I see him as an almost certain non-tender, and I wil say that his days as a starting pitcher are probably over. He’s just a dreg.

    If Hochevar iis tendered a deal, that should be a fireable offense. He is getting older and not better, and even being on the Royals is not a satisfactory explanation for a negative WAR of -0,8. His RAR (runs above replacement) was positive the last 2 years, but is negative this year. Cut him.

  10. Tim Valencia 3 years ago


  11. You Know Who 3 years ago

    Who were the other notable pitchers taken in the first round of the 06 draft after him? Just curious…

    • johnsmith4 3 years ago

      Brad Lincoln, Brandon Morrow, Tim Lincecum, and Max Scherzer. Think Hochevar becomes a Blue Jay?

      • Guest 3 years ago

        Oh yes…to team up with another former first-round bust in Dustin McGowan. At least Hochevar can stay healthy.

    • thegrayrace 3 years ago

      Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy

      • You Know Who 3 years ago

        Makes it hurt even more

        • johnsmith4 3 years ago

          Wrong perspective IMO. A good number of top picks never make it big. Royals did it right by drafting lots of high ceiling talent.

  12. withpower 3 years ago

    Hochevar’s a weird case. His BB numbers aren’t that bad, his K numbers aren’t anything special. He’s had 3 different seasons in his career where he’s given up 23 HR [his best season, his worst season, and this current season] — which isn’t really great, but it’s not really that bad either [Javier Vasquez averaged 28 HR given up per year].

    Hochevar is just very hittable — he’s given up 797 hits in 752 IP — and his rate stats aren’t anything to write home about. Yeah, his xFIP has indicated he’s been better than his results, but when you’re a hittable pitcher who doesn’t rack up the Ks you’re always going to be walking that line.

    That said, he’s a big guy who keeps himself in good shape, has shown he can throw 180-200 IP. I can see him coming back or someone going after him to slot into the back end of a rotation.

  13. johnsmith4 3 years ago

    98th best fWAR for starting pitchers this season and 77th when you aggregate the past three seasons. Certainly good enough to make one of the 150 starting rotation spots in major league baseball. The question is, “At what price?”.

    By the way, he still has options. Many contending teams will be interested if he becomes available at a lower salary.

    Edit – I stand corrected on the options. He was on the “out of options” list in this springs article. Forgot about him signing a pro contract which places him on the 40-man out of the gate.

    • twentyfivemanroster 3 years ago

      uh, he doesn’t have any options remaining

    • Chris_RG 3 years ago

      Yeah, but when you consider that some guys may not even qualify (because I’m not sure if there’s any cutoff in the WAR totals you’re using) or have low WAR totals due to partial seasons (injuries/whatnot) 98th out of 150 doesn’t look so good when you consider it’s a full season’s worth of work.

      • johnsmith4 3 years ago

        Good point. Tried looking at it based on FIP & at least 20 IPs as a starter. Hochevar came in 146th. BUT, Vin Mazzaro came in 55th with this approach.

    • TLB2001 3 years ago

      Totally worth a roster spot and even at least the opportunity to compete for a roster spot. He was drafted #1 overall for a reason and he will go two or three starts or even four to five innings in any given start and look like a guy worthy of his hype…then he’ll give up 8 runs. Just not worth $5 mil/per. Like I said, if he wants to come back at $2.5 mil + incentives for a year and take another shot at it, fine. Anything else and we’re throwing good money after bad.

  14. Bernaldo 3 years ago

    If the Royals non-tender him, he will be in high demand by a lot of other teams. He is one of those pitchers who many baseball people believe SHOULD be a better player even though his performance to date is below expectations. Hochevar is the reclamation project that most teams covet because he shows enough, often enough, to make one think that there is a lot to work with. In fact, if he is non-tendered, I think he will be one of the most sought after free agent pitchers on the market.

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