Johnny Cueto
Johnny Cueto
33-Year-Old PitcherSP
San Francisco Giants
60-Day IL
Injury Elbow
Est. Return 9/1/2019
2019 Fantasy Outlook
Cueto probably won't appear in the majors during the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in early August. It marked a disheartening end to an already disappointing nine-start season. In addition to the elbow issues, he also spent time on the disabled list with an ankle injury early in the season. The 3.23 ERA hid sizable dips in velocity -- he lost close to two ticks -- and strikeout rate (from 21% to 17.8%), both of which can probably be attributed in part to the elbow issues, though he was trending downward in both departments well before 2018. Twelve months is on the short end for TJS recoveries nowadays, and the Giants aren't expected to be competitive, so they figure to bring him along slowly with an eye toward 2020. The only course for pursuing Cueto is to stash him in keeper and dynasty leagues at a discount. Read Past Outlooks
RANKSFrom Preseason
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$Signed a six-year, $130 million contract with Giants in December of 2015. Contract includes player options in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Throws from 45 feet
PSan Francisco Giants
February 19, 2019
Cueto threw from 45 feet Monday, his first time throwing since undergoing Tommy John surgery in August, Maria I. Guardado of reports.
Tommy John surgery carries a recovery time of at least one year, leaving Cueto with an outside chance at best to return in some capacity late in the season. He seems to be making the expected progress so far, but the right-hander is still a long ways off.
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2017
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BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2017vs Left .274 447 88 33 111 25 3 16
Since 2017vs Right .260 415 86 33 95 17 2 14
2019vs Left 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019vs Right 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018vs Left .237 104 17 5 23 2 0 5
2018vs Right .240 110 21 8 23 5 0 3
2017vs Left .286 343 71 28 88 23 3 11
2017vs Right .268 305 65 25 72 12 2 11
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2017
ERA on Road
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ERA on Road
ERA on Road
Since 2017Home 4.76 1.58 98.1 4 5 0 6.6 3.5 1.3
Since 2017Away 3.62 1.15 102.0 7 5 0 9.0 2.5 1.4
2019Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019Away 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018Home 5.19 1.69 26.0 2 2 0 4.5 3.1 1.7
2018Away 1.33 0.56 27.0 1 0 0 8.3 1.3 1.0
2017Home 4.60 1.53 72.1 2 3 0 7.3 3.6 1.1
2017Away 4.44 1.36 75.0 6 5 0 9.2 2.9 1.6
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Cueto had a season to forget in 2017. The two-time All-Star struggled while pitching with a blister for decent chunk of the first half and had developed three blisters on his throwing hand by the time he landed on the disabled list in July. Cueto then suffered a flexor strain while rehabbing, with that setback costing him an additional month. He wasn't much better upon his return, but Cueto faced the Rockies twice as well as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in September. The right-hander turns 32 in February, has nearly 1,800 major-league innings on his arm and just experienced a big uptick in walks (8.2 percent) and homers (1.34 HR/9). The blisters probably hurt his performance, but there's no guarantee those issues will go away. He will be back in San Francisco after choosing not to opt out this winter.
The Giants' big offseason acquisition turned out to be a smashing success in Year 1 of the six-year deal. Cueto turned in ace-like numbers with a 2.79 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 4.4 K/BB ratio while earning early Cy Young contender mentions after starting the season 13-1. His strengths lie in his pinpoint control and ability to hit both sides of the plate with all three of his fastballs. While his crafty pitching style and excellent command could offset an eventual drop in velocity, the 30-year-old was still dialing up his four-seam and two-seam fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s, similar to his prime years in Cincinnati. There is no reason to think that Cueto can't repeat his success with the Giants in 2017, making him a safe high-end pitcher to invest in.
From 2011-14, Cueto logged a 2.48 ERA over 677 innings, good for second out of 172 pitchers who logged at least 300 IP in that time (Clayton Kershaw was first). After 19 starts in 2015, he was keeping the trend alive with a 2.62 ERA in 131 innings, but then he was traded to Kansas City. Was it just small sample variance that yielded a .343 BABIP and 1.1 HR/9 with the Royals? His velocity was the same and his walk rate was actually a tick better. He allowed 10 home runs with the Royals, including seven against Baltimore in two starts. Look at his breakdown as a Royal: first four starts - 1.80 ERA, one home run allowed, next five starts - 9.57 ERA, eight homers allowed, and final four starts - 3.24 ERA, one homer allowed. Cueto wisely decided to jump back to the NL, signing with San Francisco on a six-year deal. Once considered an injury risk, Cueto is one of 18 starters to log 32-plus starts in three of the last four seasons.
2014 was a big year for Cueto -- he proved both that his previous successes were not a fluke and that he could stay healthy through the course of a full season even with his unique delivery. Cueto didn't merely maintain his improved performance from 2011 and 2012, he reached a whole new level, striking out 25.2% of the hitters he faced, compared to 19.1% in 2012. The Reds had the easiest decision of the offseason when they exercised their $10 million option on him for 2015, but now they have a much more difficult decision. Cueto will be a free agent after 2015, and most of their best prospects are pitchers. Can they sign Cueto to a long-term deal, or will they be forced to deal him for a much-needed bat?
Cueto presents one of the tougher draft decisions for 2014. When healthy, he pitched like an ace once again. Alas, "when healthy" is the operative phrase, as Cueto had multiple trips to the DL, all related to the same injury that knocked him out of his playoff start against the Giants in 2012. He modified his delivery to adjust for those oblique/back/shoulder injuries on his last return from the DL, with two good regular season starts before he was shelled in the Wild Card playoff game against the Pirates. How much will that start carry over into 2014, and will Cueto be able to stay on the mound? This is a big contract season for Cueto to boot, giving him all the more incentive to stay out there. He'll be one of the bigger boom-or-bust starting pitchers in redraft leagues.
For two years running Cueto has performed beyond what his ERA estimators suggest he should, posting sub-3.00 ERAs despite a strikeout rate that peaked at 7.1 K/9 in 2012. How does Cueto do it? He cut his walk rate to a stingy 2.0 BB/9, he suppressed homers (0.6 HR/9) despite pitching in a homer-friendly park, and he completely shut down the opposing team's running game (allowing just one stolen base against him each of the last two seasons). The only red flag is the oblique injury Cueto suffered in the playoffs - this after a season in which he and every other Reds starter made 30-plus starts. Cueto is the rare player that could bring you a profit while others warn of regression.
Cueto's brilliant 2011 season was book-ended by injuries, limiting him to 156 innings. In between, however, he was the Reds' stopper, falling just a few innings short of qualifying for the ERA title (and, as it turns out, falling just behind Clayton Kershaw anyhow). Once again, he traded strikeouts and walks for more balls in play, which can be a dangerous combination in the Great American Ball Park. But it's worth noting that he has not lost any velocity from his average fastball dating back to his rookie season - so this is more of a conscious change than a concession to lessened abilities. Because Cueto hasn't topped 200 innings in a season and because of his drop in strikeouts, you shouldn't pay full freight on him, but if he can remain healthy he'll still turn a profit on your purchase.
A quick look at Cueto's numbers show that he has made an effort to become more pitch efficient at the cost of a few extra strikeouts. He lowered his walk rate and his home run rate two years in a row, and the tradeoff has been worth it. Cueto lowered his ERA below 4.00 and threw more innings than he was in his previous two seasons. Look for more of the same in 2011.
Cueto's strikeout rated dropped significantly (8.17 K/9IP down to 6.93) in 2009, though some of that was at the behest of the Reds, who wanted him to be more pitch-efficient than in his rookie season. We're not convinced, however, that's the sole reason for the drop. Cueto's velocity on his fastball declined over the summer before he needed a brief DL trip to rest his shoulder. This came after he pitched in winter ball and in the WBC last spring. This year, the Reds prevented him from playing winter ball, citing an "extreme fatigue" clause in his contract. There's a lot of talent with Cueto, but also a lot of reasons for concern.
Like teammate Jay Bruce, Cueto might be viewed as a small disappointment because he debuted with such a splash. Look at his season in context - he's a 22-year-old rookie with hardly any experience in the upper levels of the minors. We'll take 158 strikeouts in 174 innings anytime. Health-permitting, Cueto will have his share of good seasons. The next step for him will be to learn how to be pitch-efficient. Far too often he had to leave short of six full innings pitched after racking up a high pitch-count.
Like Jay Bruce, Cueto built off a great 2006 campaign with an even better 2007, tearing through three levels of the minors. He improved as he went up the ladder, including four sizzling starts at Triple-A Louisville. At this point in time, he might even be more refined than teammate Homer Bailey. Depending on what other moves the offseason brings, the Reds might be tempted to insert Cueto immediately into the starting rotation, especially if he has a good spring. They might instead want to have him begin in Louisville to develop a little more and refrain from starting his service time clock, or have him work out of the bullpen at the major league level, using the "Earl Weaver" method of breaking in prospect pitchers.
A graduate of the Reds' Dominican Academy, Cueto really took off in 2006, breezing through low-A Dayton before holding his own in 12 starts at high-A Sarasota as a 20-year old. He might need a little more time to master the Florida State League, but it's at least encouraging to see he sustained his high strikeout rate upon being promoted. He may not have the star upside of Homer Bailey, but Cueto could be a building block for the Reds' future.
More Fantasy News
Nearing return to throwing
PSan Francisco Giants
February 14, 2019
Cueto (elbow) will begin playing catch next week, Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic reports.
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Shifts to 60-day injured list
PSan Francisco Giants
February 13, 2019
Cueto (elbow) was placed on the 60-day injured list Wednesday.
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Moves to 60-day disabled list
PSan Francisco Giants
August 10, 2018
Cueto (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list Friday, Kerry Crowley of The San Jose Mercury News reports.
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To undergo Tommy John surgery Thursday
PSan Francisco Giants
August 1, 2018
Cueto (elbow) will require Tommy John surgery, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area reports.
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Likely to require Tommy John surgery
PSan Francisco Giants
July 30, 2018
Manager Bruce Bochy stated there's a "strong possibility" that Cueto (elbow) will need Tommy John surgery, Kerry Crowley of The San Jose Mercury News reports.
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