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Fantasy baseball writers and analysts play in a lot of leagues. Take it from any mind on this site, it’s very hard to say no to leagues with great competition. After multiple years of keeping my ‘portfolio’ compact, this was the year my theoretical box started it’s adventure down a slippery slope.

In deciding after draft season to seriously focus on about five of my 11 leagues of which I found most near and dear to my heart… and wallet… I noticed one player I had stumbled onto more shares of than I ever envisioned (minus James Paxton).

Gerrit Cole.

You can imagine after his first two starts, which produced eight earned runs over 11 innings, I wasn’t too happy with my investments. So what did I do? In what I will defend as a ‘diversification of assets’ and not a panic move, I traded Cole for Dylan Bundy, in a swap with CBS Sport’s fantasy guru Chris Towers. It was a small sample of two starts for Cole, and an even smaller sample of one start from Bundy. But this is a points league where SP/RPs matter, and my pitching depth is second to none, making the gamble for some elite youth still questionable to, but not to me. Since I already went over why I love Bundy so much after the emergence of his slider, let’s discuss the swirling emotions around a particular right arm in Pittsburgh.

Cole throws gas. Among qualified pitchers this season, Fangraphs’ places Cole third in average fastball velocity. Behind only Noah Syndergaard (97.8mph) and Luis Severino (96.7mph), Cole’s 96.5 four seam fastball is a pitch that aesthetically looks unhittable, yet through his first three starts, hasn’t been the dominant pitch we generally associate with that level of velocity (currently a -3.2 pitch value on Fangraphs). When you compare the strikeout upside of other pitchers with four seam fastballs averaging 95mph+ in 2017, Cole’s early swinging strike rate of 7.6% may suggest a deviation from the conventional strikeout upside we’d expect to follow with that velocity; Stephen Strasburg (11.15 K/9 in 2016) and Jon Gray (9.91 K/9 in 2016) both with 95+ four seam velocities come to mind.

It’s early in the season, and his swinging strike rate may not be the most stable statistic yet, but there is merit in realizing his approach towards hitters this early in the year and the results he has gotten.

As seen in the table below (via BrooksBaseball), Cole’s usage hasn’t followed too much of a trend. Two mediocre starts seemed to lead him towards reliance on a two seam fastball/sinker for his tough matchup in Wrigley, mixed with even usage of his off speed. After one start of heavy four seam reliance (at BOS), and another where he moved away from his fastball after it got hit hard (vs ATL), we have a very blurry picture of which pitches Cole trusts moving forward. Two things are certain, his fastball is hard and his slider is a really good pitch when used (7.6 pitch value via Fangraphs in 2015). Whether both those points are a consistent theme that leads him to some post-hype success in 2017 remains to be seen.

Gerrit Cole, % Pitch Usage 2017

One of the reasons I didn’t offload every share was first because I’m not that crazy, and second because his slider returned six total swinging strikes against the Braves after generating a goose egg returned in Fenway. Five more swinging strikes came from the slider in Chicago, as Cole seems to be developing a rhythm, but questions still linger about where his repertoire is leading him peripherally.

What do we make of these three starts? Well as you can tell from my trade above, offloading a share for an upside arm makes me think Cole’s upside may be limited overall. While I acknowledge that he is a control pitcher with good fastball velocity, that hasn’t translated to rampant success in the last two years after struggling through some injuries. Even though it could be a “feel” issue this early in the season, his lack of trust in his slider early makes me wonder how far off the 2015 flashes of greatness are. My mistake in drafting him may have been the expectation that this ‘2015 Gerrit Cole’ profile is precisely that. Further off than I initially thought. It may be a long road to find out my fate, and it’s one I’m willing to ride with slightly less exposure.

Grey had him pegged preseason for a 3.45 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and 188 Ks over 193 innings. While I agree that the WHIP will stay lower than most, I don’t really see the path to a 3.5 ERA at the moment. That’s where the upside is with Cole, in the 2015 arm we all loved. I’m hoping for something more in the 3.65 ERA area with 175 Ks over 195 innings, as I’m conservative with the fact that his last outing in Chicago will extrapolate out to the rest of the season.

What about the other arms Cole was drafted around?

Venturing back to ADP-land, where I doubt many of us have traveled since the thick of draft season, Cole was the 24th SP off the board, sandwiched by Jose Quintana (23rd) and Julio Teheran (25th).

With Quintana doing his best April Corey Kluber impression, I’m retrospectively taking Cole over Quintana at the moment. Even if it seems the consistency in the White Sox’s southpaw is second to none, something is off with Quintana this year. Just about everything is trending in the opposite direction you want it to, and after a blow up in Minnesota, the Astros don’t look like they’re missing out much on the piece many thought they needed to make late October run.

Julio Teheran brings with him a compelling case to fit squarely above Cole in rankings, but I think it’s a bit closer of a call than you would think. The sub 1.00 ERA is great, but the Teheran’s control is a little bit off at the moment and his strikeouts are down slightly. You can look at this two ways, with both having the qualification of small sample size. First is to think that Teheran is having this success with an 84% strand rate and some wonky peripherals, therefore if this is his early season ‘dry-spell’ with swinging strikes and control, we’re in for a stellar 2017 if the results are still this good. Second is to think that these slightly off peripherals are a better indicator of his actual skill, meaning we may see some early Teheran success followed by a classic model for a sell high candidate. Cole and Teheran may be closer in value than many think moving forward. In the ‘do no harm’ philosophy of trading, if I was offered this trade on either end, I may actually sit tight and observe a few more starts. Hooray for indecisiveness!

Cole gets the struggling Cardinals on Wednesday. I’ll be watching closely, as he should be able to take advantage of a team that can’t seem to find its way, in literally any aspect of the game. Most interesting will be which version of Cole we get from a pitch usage standpoint.

 

 

Follow Lance on Twitter if you prefer to chat baseball at any given point in your day, he’s always open for questions and comments. 

 
  1. Chris says:
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    Hello Lance,

    Would you offer Daniel Norris for Gerrit Cole?
    And if the Cole owner says no, maybe offer Aaron Nola?

    Thoughts?

    Thanks!

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Chris:
      Sure, I would do both to get Cole!

      Thanks for the read.

  2. FrankGrimes says:
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    He might throw gas but he pitches like a bitch.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @FrankGrimes:
      Interesting hahaha

      Care to explain? I mean, he throws very hard.

  3. Sport says:
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    I ended up trading Cole in my keeper league a couple years ago. Got a good return but there was always something about his stuff I liked. Would like to get back into him at some point again.

    Where do you value Joc Peterson? Did you write about him a couple of months ago? And, would you trade Dansby for him in a dynasty league (I already have Story)?

    Thanks for your write ups.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Sport:
      If you got a nice return for Cole I commend you, because you don’t have to put up with the current question marks haha

      I did write a column on Joc during the offseason, I’m still a big fan honestly, but he’s not doing his best to escape the platoon. I want to wait a bit and see how the next 3-4 weeks play out before jumping to trade any of my shares.

      The reality is that he’s very young, and has undeniable power. Issue? Dave Roberts says he trusts him v lefties, but that isn’t coming to reality.

      Currently I’d say he’s still the same guy that I ranked around 150 preseason, but the jury is still out for that return this season.

      Dynasty for Dansby? I’m gonna stick with Joc. Swanson is appealing, but unless a pts league, I’m gonna take the power upside. I just think Swanson is a name value player, who will always be a bit overvalued. I like him, but for the right price.

      Hope I’m right about Joc adjusting and getting consistent playing time in the future.

      • Sport says:
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        @Lance:
        Great feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to answer.

        • Lance

          Lance says:
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          @Sport:
          Anytime man.

          If you ever need a deeper explanation of something you can’t get from other writers, hit me up on here or twitter, always active and willing to expand a little more on topics.

          @LanceBrozdow

  4. Antonio Bastardo's Love Child says:
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    Great Article! Curious to get your thoughts on Severino who you mention also throws cheese…you buying the hot start? I cut Lance Lynn to pick him up…thoughts?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Antonio Bastardo’s Love Child:
      Severino looks good. I like his Ks right now a lot. Currently submitting a bid for him in an NFBC and really hope I nab em.

      I’d go Severino over Lynn, sure. Lynn post TJ, bit more worry. Severino more upside and Ks regardless.

  5. marimon says:
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    Just made a trade, please tell me I didn’t give up too much

    Gave away my Khris Davis & David Price for Kluber

    My pitching is weak AF, and have Rodon, Richards, and Finnegan on DL

    • marimon says:
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      @marimon: I think I can afford to lose Davis’ power (Realmuto, Rizzo, Odor, K. Seager, Lindor, Freeman, Donaldson, Kinsler, Haniger, Donaldson, Desmond, Moncada, Tomas)

      • Lance

        Lance says:
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        @marimon:
        You can afford to los the power, agreed.

        (See above comments)

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @marimon:
      Hmm, this hinges so much on what the hell happens with Price. With that big of a pitching issue, I don’t think I mind this too much. But it will be a steal by the other owner if Price is any bit a top 24 arm, cause K Davis’ pop is legit.

      You’ll win if Price goes down.

      All in all – it’s a calculated gamble you had to make if pitching is too thin.

  6. luvpho says:
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    I’ve been offered Broxton for my D. Norris. Broxton will be my lone bench bat and I can replace Norris no problem.

    Make the trade?

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @luvpho:
      Assuming Keon and not Jonathan (lol).

      I’d take the Keon side if you can replace Norris no prob.

      Can’t say I’m all in on a Broxton, but he had some nice ABs in Toronto that looked like what everybody invested in. Speed will be there, yet to see if discipline has improved enough to stick.

      Hoping you’re in a roto league though, if talking points, Keon value a bit lower with the K issues for me.

  7. Johnc says:
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    Seeking quality start and avoid a blowup in a H2H league this weeek that requires 40 pitched innings. I do not like what is on the wire this week so looking to lock down QS, ERA, WHIP, HRs, fewest losses as opposed to wins, k’s etc. Need Kershaw, Verlander, Quintana, Gausmanand Taillon to perform well. Best on the wire is Severino v WSox, Walker v Dodgers or McCarthy v DBacks. Please rank

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Johnc:
      All pretty close this week.

      I think McCarthy is a 2 start guy, so I’m going to assume you just need the first start.

      Severino, McCarthy, Walker.

  8. Voodoo Jim says:
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    Thanks for the article Lance! As a Cole owner in a keeper points league, I appreciate the stuff about your trade for Bundy. I totally get the SP,RP thing. That’s a good trade for both parties.

    I’m holding on to hope that Cole can finally put it together. Looking at the pitch percentages from each game, it seems like he almost has too much in his arsenal and is overthinking it. I watched the Boston game, and he totally lost it emotionally after a bad call and then a bunt single against the shift. You could tell from his body language that he looked in the dug out and gave a dirty look to the coach who called the shift… after that… 5 ERs. He plays with a lot of emotion, but he’s gotta learn to reel it in.

    • Lance

      Lance says:
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      @Voodoo Jim:
      Yes! I actually remember seeing that highlight with them beating the shift on that Leon bunt (If I’m remembering correctly, then Benintendi popped that 3 run HR).

      Very weird indeed, I don’t even know if it’s a matter of having too much of an arsenal, but even more so when to use certain aspects of it and adjusting if the game plan is off (example being ATL hammering his fastball early). The emotion aspect is hard to not notice at the moment, I think you’re spot on with that.

      Should be interesting to see how he progresses. Not sure if the Ks are ever going to creep over into ace+ territory, but he should be a valuable commodity. The interesting question would be him or Taillon rest of season. I actually think I’d lean Taillon.

      • Voodoo Jim says:
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        @Lance: That’s a great question! I think I’m with you! I might need to throw out some trades if Cole has a good outing against the Cards this week.

        Thanks again man

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