I believe I wrote a Brandon Woodruff sleeper post last year, or maybe I just told everyone to draft him and ranked him way higher than everyone else. Either way, I win. I will be sanctioning a steel worker to fashion me a giant “I knew Brandon Woodruff was good before everyone else” trophy in the shape of a giant cup, which I will fill with Hong Kong milk tea and boba. For the clubhouse celebration, I will put on goggles, insert a giant metal boba straw into my mouth and spray myself in the face with milk tea and boba while slurping up…The Fallen Boba Soldiers. What a terrific clubhouse celebration I’m having in my kitchen that I’ve covered with a plastic tarp so Cougs doesn’t yell at me. I’ve reached the pinnacle of the fantasy baseball industry! Or I’m having a fever dream. Tomato-tomato-said-with-a-different-emphasis. Last year Brandon Woodruff went 11-3/3.62/1.14/143 in 121 2/3 IP, which was essentially a top ten starter with how great pitching was last year. Okay, I kid. Kinda. But if he didn’t miss two months with an oblique injury, we might not even be here because Woodruff would’ve been a top ten starter. Thank you, oblique! Whatever the hell it/you is/are. Not only do I not know an oblique’s pronoun, I also don’t know if it’s singular or plural. So, what can we expect from Brandon Woodruff for 2020 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Brandon Woodruff’s 143 strikeouts came with a 10.6 K/9. I love strikeout rate because it stays fairly consistent until it starts to tail off with age, and, even then, Charlie Morton would like you to look at his K/9. Woodruff’s career mark prior to last year was below 10 though (still damn good at 9.5-ish). So, wha’ happened? His velocity went up nearly a full mile per hour to 96.7 MPH, which is the seventh best velocity on a fastball in the majors. Fastball velocity is not everything, but the top ten for fastball velocity is not a shabby bunch, or shaggy bunch if you subscribed to Disney+ and can’t stop watching their dog detective movies. Imagine how much ass Don Knotts and Fred MacMurray used to get. Wow! Any hoo! Brandon Woodruff’s sinker went from a nothing to a plus-pitch that he threw 23.2% of the time. So, yes, more velocity on his fastball, but the sinker is attributing to his fastball and slider and cutter and curve’s success. You can see his strikeouts went up for a reason, so there’s no argument to not trust the better stuff. Also, his walk rate went from 3 BB/9 to 2.2 BB/9. That’s a huge difference that can also fuel success. Is it maintainable? Yes, and it’s even a better story than just yes, which is a bit of a one-note story. He elicited a top ten rate of swings in the strike zone. So, that means, he’s around the strike zone and he’s generating swings and misses. About the best recipe for success. Debatable if it’s better to get someone to swing at terrible pitches, but Woodruff is challenging hitters and defeating them. Dude should get a giant metal cup filled with boba too. Finally, Woodruff has been the apple of my eye for a while now — I’m a Standon Woodruff, if you’re a millennial — but I originally decided to write about him, not because of his sinker, better strikeouts and command or missed time due to a non-arm injury that would’ve brought him into top ten last season, but because he had the 7th best FIP last year between Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Woodruff isn’t just a sleeper; he’s an ace! Which brings me to my final point, he might actually not be a sleeper in all leagues. But, in ESPN, where they have him down around 125, that’s a sleeper, which is good enough for me. For 2020, I’ll give him the projections of 15-6/3.43/1.12/207 in 184 IP with a chance for more.