Let me preface this post with the following: the next one will be much deeper. [Ed. Note — That’s what she said!] I’m talking 0% ownership. I’m talking Morgan Freeman’s deep voice in the movie Deep Impact. I’m talking real throaty [Ed. Note– Darn, shoulda saved it for that one…], but for now… Here are starters approaching 50% ownership (as of 4/28) that I’d jump on if they’re still available:
Danny Salazar – with a dominating start this past weekend, he’s back above the 50% owned mark, so I won’t expand too much here. The swinging strike rate is down to a sustainable level and the youth/homerun propensity reminds us (me) why we (I) shouldn’t get too excited. Prior to the season I pointed to Salazar’s dominating repertoire here and here. As long as he stays healthy, I think he’ll continue to be Matt Harvey Jr. According to Baseball Prospectus’ Pitchf/x Leaderboard, he’s still got a top-15 Fastball velocity, but a -2 MPH difference and 12% less swinging strikes on the fastball relative to last year will now keep me rational. He’s got the unlucky smokescreen going i.e. an elevated HR/FB ratio, LOB% and hideous BABIP. Again, as long as he stays healthy, there is still a ton to like here with the high velocity + devastating repertoire. Pluck him off waivers or buy low sooner than later.
Garret Richards – If we exclude his 4/15 start, since his 4/9 start, he’s only given up 5 hits in 21 innings with 19K’s. He’ll give up his fair share of walks which will limit his value and furnish expected ERA’s closer to 4.00, but he’s in a swinging strike class with James Shields Matt Cain,Jon Lester,Sonny Gray, Jake Peavy and has a top-30 contact rate in between Julio Teheran, Lance Lynn, with Jesse Chavez, Jason Hammel and even Justin Verlander nearby.
According to Baseball Prospectus’ Pitchf/x leaderboard, he’s also got the #2 Fastball Velocity this year after Yordano Ventura. His Sinker velocity is #1 (before Gerrit Cole) with the 10th best GB/FB ratio on the pitch (again 1 better than Gerrit Cole).
He’s also got the #1 Slider velocity with the 2nd best swing and miss rate after Max Scherzer. He’ll be 90% owned sooner than later. Pick his arse up.
Here are starters approaching less than 50% ownership that I wouldn’t hesitate swapping for anyone else in this post:
Clay Buchholz – the same trifecta of luck stats (HR/FB, LOB% and BABIP) that has killed Salazar so far this year is what made you all love Buchholz last year. However, he also showed more swing and miss in his game. This year, he actually has the best K/BB ratio of his career, but that’s more due to an elite BB-rate vs. a dominating K-rate. The fact is, he’s more of a 4.25 type of pitcher than the 6.66 is he is now or the 1.75 he was last year. I would actually stay away from Buchholz if you’re in a K/9 league, otherwise, he’s simply just serviceable. If you wanted to roster a non K/9 starter prior to the season, I would have steered you toward Kyle Lohse or Tim Hudson instead.
Not-so Big-Time Timmy-Jim Lincecum – I just dropped Tim Lincecum myself in my Razzball Commenter League. Harumph. He’ll rack up K’s for you, but he’s just too hittable. I would have kept him if his contact and swinging-strike rates weren’t at career lows (8.9% relative to his 11.0% career rate). It’s drop-time Timmy-Jim now.
I know – we’re not going deep enough yet. I’ll delve just a bit deeper now. First off, roster Jason Hammel and Dillon Gee as well. Hammels’ K-rate is back close to his 2012 level, he’s in the NL and he’s keeping the BB-rate down. The 10.7% swinging strike rate (18th best rate in baseball right now for SP’s that qualify) backs up the K-jump. Dillon Gee is closer to the 3.60ERA-1.28WHIP he put up last year, but what’s wrong with that as one of your last few starters? Just don’t expect big win totals.
Here are starters approaching 25% ownership worth making 50%:
Jenrry Mejia – #2 velocity Cutter with the #12 swinging strike rate and #11 GB/FB rate; above average Slider swinging strike rate with a top 10 GB/FB rate; gets enough grounders and misses on the Changeup as well. Oh yeah, he has a curve and (rarely uses the) sinker as well so the 54+% ground ball rate is backed up by almost every pitch. Mix in the 25% K-rate, and we would have an absolutely elite starter here if it wasn’t for the ugly BB-rate. As is, he could sustain a 3.50 ERA, but the sub 3.00 from last year is possible if he gains control. At only 24, if he can stay on the field, he is one to keep a very keen eye on. If you have googley eyes, then I’m sorry.
Nasty Nate Eovaldi – With the #3 Fastball velocity this year, he’s getting a little bit more swing and miss than last year. In conjunction with the BB-rate and big groundball jump, he’s turned into an excellent option so far this year with a sub 3.00 ERA and 30 K’s already, but I think there is some cause for concern. Primarily attending to his fastball and slider, if his velocity drops, his performance will drop-off and perhaps in a big way. Interestingly, his BABIP is somewhat high (.330) since only 11% of the balls in play hit off of him are line drives. In addition, runners have come around to score on him more than expected. With all of this said, I think he is a 3.45-1.3 type of pitcher. He’s Nasty Nate right now for a good reason, but a velocity drop makes him Nate Nasty.
Ian Kennedy – In San Diego with a K/BB rate above 4.00. Heck yeah, start him – even if it’s as a relatively consistent spot starter. Even as his B/BB drops back to a slightly below 3.00 level, he should be a 3.65ERA-1.25WHIP option with 170+ K’s.
Tyson Ross – The Slider is elite and his swinging strike rate has actually gone up from last year (11.1% to 12.1%), which is good for the 9th best rate in baseball thus far for those that qualify. He’s got the 7th best contact rate right after Felix Hernandez by the way. Yeah, pick him up.
Josh Beckett – along with Mejia, Eovaldi, Kennedy and Ross, Beckett is also in my pick-up section even with quite a bit of luck in the LOB% and BABIP departments, just expect a 3.75 ERA and not his 2.45 for the rest of the way.
Walker, Taijuan Mariner – don’t you forget about Taijuan Walker.
Changeup: Albeit a 10% usage, it was one of the more dominating Changeups in baseball from a balls in play perspective – whether you want to look at it by his ground ball to flyball ratio (GB/FB = 7.33 ratio which was the best in baseball*) or linedrive to ball in play ratio (LD/BIP = 18% which was 18th in baseball*). As or even more impressive, it had the 5th best* Whiff/Swing rate in baseball (43.36%) right after known buckling changeups from Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels and more devastating than Felix Hernandez’ and Anibal Sanchez’.
Cutter: 7th best velocity and the 4th best Whiff/Swing rate (and a GB/FB ratio beyond 2.00)…excellent.
Slider: below average velocity which is okay consider he has a 90 MPH Cutter and 94 MPH Sinker, but he still winds up 18th on the list for whiff/swing rate although when it does get hit, it gets hit 30% of the time for a line drive (+ a 1.55 GB/FB ratio).
Kluber himself is not dominating, but his pitch repertoire is impressive. He’ll get hit at times, but the K/BB will be elite all year.
Robbie Ross – His recent debacle will keep the ownership rate down but he still has a 3.00+ K/BB and a 2.5 GB/FB ratio. Along with expected ERA’s sub 4.00, he should still be owned in most formats.
Here are my overall rankings of these guys for the rest of this year – based on repertoire first, sustainability second and risk third.
2) Corey Kluber
3) Garret Richards
4) Tyson Ross
5) Robbie Ross
6) Jason Hammel
7) Nate Eovaldi
8) Ian Kennedy
9) Josh Beckett
10) Jenrry Mejia
11) Dillon Gee