The Rays pitching could be excellent this year. Chris Archer is due for a positive correction; Jacob Faria might take the next step; I’ve always liked Jake Odorizzi; Matt Andriese is underrated; Jose De Leon is ready, willing and maybe healthy; I’ve already told you why my Brent Honeywell fantasy includes heart emojis and unicorns, in that order; I can’t wait for Jose Mujica to be promoted just so I can say, “Mujica Eff Yeah!” and Nathan Eovaldi…Well, he’ll likely still be crap. Yet, the best one of those bunch could be Blake Snell. Last year in 129 1/3 IP, his record was 5-7/4.04/1.33/119. *turns computer upside down, turns head sideways, puts Instagram filter on stats, looks at stats in mirror* Okay, any way you look at those stats their not gorge. The 4.04 ERA is particularly vexing when you look at it in different ways because it’s a palindrome. However, the 911 strikeouts is no joke. Booooooooi!!! By the way, leave it to the Rays to keep Snell trapped in the minors for six years when he’s looked ready for the last four. If Snell were on the Tigers, he would likely be in his fifth major league season, on his 2nd major league team and would’ve won a Cy Young by now. So, what can we expect from Blake Snell for 2018 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Blake Snell’s K/9 last year was 8.3 with a 4.1 BB/9. Not the most awe-inducing stats, but wait there’s more! His xFIP was 4.56 and he actually had some luck with a .277 BABIP. Geez, this is going the wrong way. Let’s try to turn this puppy around before we’re at the pound giving the last rites to a Pomeranian. Blake Snell did have a 1.83 ERA in Triple-A one year when he had some BABIP luck and a 3.29 ERA in Triple-A another year when he was unlucky, so there’s gotta be something, right? Yes, rhetorical question, that is right, it’s why we’re here for this post. In the minors, his K/9’s were regularly above 11. Now we’re talking sexy, as I say while breathing through my mouth. His walks, however, were pretty gnarly. Way over a 4 BB/9 at times, and even sniffing a 5 BB/9. Last year, his Ks came down but also his walks. It appears he tried to harness his control, and pitch more effectively. For a guy that throws 94 MPH on average, this is a good thing. Each pitch of his was more efficient in 2017 than it was in 2016. His 94 MPH fastball while dazzling isn’t even the “good night, God bless” pitch. His changeup was the 11th best in the majors, and, while his curve was ‘only’ the 35th best in the majors, is a lights out pitch too when he’s commanding it. He does not need to improve his command past a 4 BB/9 for him to be successful, but he just needs to hone his fastball’s command. Honing fastball command is like being handsome but just needing to shower. At some point, ya gotta figure, he’s gonna figure it out. Enter, the loofah. By the 2nd half last year, he appeared to have figured out he needs to shower. His 2nd half walk rate was 2.9, down from 5.9 in the 1st half and his ERA, of course followed from a 1st half 4.85 to a 2nd half ERA of 3.49. What happened? He repositioned himself on the mound. Frank Voila! Snell decided he needed to start facing towards the plate when pitching? Yeah, something like that. Supposedly, he also became more dedicated to workouts. He had the ability, and now is making it work for him. Funny, how the mid-20’s will do that to you. Netflix and chill to “maybe I get a job and chill on the weekends.” At 25 years of age and in his third major league season while primed for his first full year of innings, is about the best time to get in on him figuring it out. After 2018, he’s going to be a known top 20 starter and you’ll never get him cheap again. For 2018, I’ll give Blake Snell the projections of 13-9/3.68/1.30/185 in 183 IP with a chance for much more.