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Cory Luebke: 2011 Breakout Pitcher

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Padres starting pitcher Cory Luebke proved to fantasy owners that you should never dismiss a San Diego Padres starting pitcher on draft day. He made just 3 starts in the big leagues last year, appearing in 4 games in total, covering 17.2 innings of work, going 1-1 with a 4.08 ERA, 4.44 FIP and a 3.47 xFIP.

In the minors last season, Luebke made 17 starts between AA and AAA, going 10-1 with a 2.68 ERA and a 0.982 WHIP. He struck out 88 and walked 29 in 114 innings pitched, giving up just 83 hits and 8 HRs along the way. His K/9 rate was just under 7 batters per nine and his K/BB rate was an excellent 3.03. The strikeout rate was solid, but he proved he could be hard to hit, giving up just 6.6 hits per nine innings.

He probably went undrafted in most mixed leagues this season, but I know one owner who bid one U.S. Dollar on him in the UBA NL-only keeper league and is quite happy that he did so on draft day.

More on Luebke's breakout 2011 season after the jump:

This season, Luebke made 17 starts, and appeared in a total of 46 games, going 6-10 with a 3.29 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 3.02 xFIP, 3.16 tERA and a 2.74 SIERA, with a 1.07 WHIP. As a starter, Luebke was 5-8 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.093 WHIP and an elite 9.9 K/9 and 3.83 K/BB rate. In all of his appearances, he owns a K/9 of 9.92 and a BB/9 of 2.84, and he benefitted from a .271 batting average on balls in play.

Luebke induced a 38% ground ball rate, 22% line drive rate and a 38% fly ball rate this season, so there is some cause for concern here. The 22% line drive rate is high, good enough for a top 10 ranking in this batted ball stat, so if you are an optimist, one could make an argument that he could out up better stats in 2012. But a pessimist could take the other side of that argument and say that more of those line drives could fall for hits in 2012, resulting in worse overall stats.

But one cannot overlook the fact that he induced a top 10 swinging strike rate of 10.9%, so he has the stuff to continue striking out hitters at a high rate. In his 100.2 innings as a starter this season, Luebke has struck out 111 and walked just 29 batters, but has given up 11 HRs as well. Making half of his starts at Petco Park could result in a slight drop in his HR/FB rate in 2012.

Luebke's 2011 ERA ranks in the top 30 for all starting pitchers this season, but his FIP ranks in the top 10, ahead of starters like Justin Verlander, Dan Haren and Felix Hernandez, among others, but fantasy owners have to determine whether this season is a fluke, or of he can be counted on to duplicate his 2011 breakout.

Heading into 2012 fantasy drafts, Luebke could be overlooked because he pitches for the last place Padres, but looking past his low win total, Luebke could be a Top 30 starting pitcher in 2012.