Mike Soroka (Braves, ESPN position rank: 9)has been excellent so far this year, to the tune of a 7-1 record with a stellar 1.38 ERA and 0.87 WHIP. Through his first 65 1/3 innings of work, he has posted 57K:17BB and opponents are batting just .169 against him. Soroka has been a top 10 SP according to ESPN’s positional Player Rater. Not bad for someone who went undrafted in most formats, with an NFBC ADP of 388. He has been elite through his first 10 starts, allowing more than 1 run just once. Soroka has only let up 1 HR so far this year, and holds a solid 6.5% walk rate. He has displayed great command with his pitches and has been excellent at generating ground balls. His 58.4% ground ball rate ranks 3rd among MLB pitchers with at least 60 IP.
So why is he a sell high? I just don’t think it is reasonable to expect him to sustain this level of production. For one, he is just not striking out batters at the same rate as other top pitchers. In fact, his 7.85 K/9 is tied for 77th best among SP with 60+ IP. While not awful, his 11.2% swinging strike rate is just 42nd among the same group. His BABIP of .219 is extremely low and is 3rd lowest among all SP with 60+ IP. It may be so low because he’s inducing a lot of ground balls, but there should definitely be some regression towards the mean coming. His HR/FB of just 2.9% is also not likely to be sustainable, and ranks the lowest in the league. The metrics suggest he has been not pitching as well as his 1.38 ERA indicates. Soroka’s xFIP is significantly higher at 3.50, as is his 3.80 SIERA. Both marks rank in the top 30 for SP, but not nearly as high as his 2nd ranked ERA. In fact, he has the 2nd biggest differential between his SIERA and ERA so far this year. It will also be interesting to see how many innings the Braves let him pitch this year. I think Soroka is a prime sell-high candidate and could yield a solid haul back.
Steamer ROS: 5-4 with a 3.92 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 3.82 FIP, 8.18 K/9, 2.57 BB/9 in 79 IP (13 GS)
Davies is a perfect 7-0 with a 2.41 ERA and 1.25 WHIP through his first 13 starts this year. His ERA ranks 8th best among SP with 70+ IP, and his 7 wins are tied for 10th most. He has only allowed 3 or more runs in 2 of his 13 starts thus far. He has stranded 82.2% of all base runners allowed, which ranks 9th best in the MLB. Like Soroka, Davies went basically undrafted (567 NFBC ADP) but has been one of the top pitchers through the first couple of months. He won’t demand nearly as high of a return as Soroka, but he is another guy that I think is at the peak of his value.
If Soroka’s punch outs seemed underwhelming, Davies makes him look like a 1999 Pedro Martinez. Through 74 2/3 IP, Davies has only struck out 48 batters. His lowly 5.79 K/9 ranks 97th among the 100 SP with 60+ IP. His 7.6% swinging strike rate and 89.9% contact rate suggest that his strikeouts are not likely to jump up anytime soon. Unlike Soroka, Davies does not generate a ton of ground balls. His 42.4% ground ball rate ranks 56th among MLB pitchers with 60+ IP. However, his 23.1% line drive rate is the 28th highest among the same group. Extremely underwhelming strike outs, mediocre ground ball rate, high line drive rate. Oh yeah, and he pitches his home games in Miller Park. What’s not to love? He does not go deep into games often, pitching 6+ innings in just 6 of his 13 outings. His 4.82 xFIP ranks 82nd among MLB starters with 60+ IP, and his 5.08 SIERA ranks 93rd out of 100. To no surprise, his SIERA – ERA of 2.67 is the biggest differential among all starters. His ERA is going to come crashing down to Earth soon, so try to sell him while you can.
Steamer ROS: 6-7 with a 5.05 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 4.90 FIP, 6.54 K/9, 2.53 BB/9 in 107 IP (18 GS)
Eflin has pitched really well so far this year, going 6-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in his first 12 starts. Through 72 innings, he has posted a 57:18 K:BB while holding opponents to a .243 average. Eflin has stranded 85.6% of his base runners, which ranks 5th best among all SP with 60+ IP. His impressive 6.0% walk rate is tied for 29th among the same group. Eflin has looked great so far on the surface, which is why I think it is the prime time to try to sell him off.
Keeping in line with the other guys appearing in this piece, Eflin is also not someone that is going to rack up a bunch of Ks. His 7.13 K/9 ranks 81st among all SP with 60+ IP, and his swinging strike rate of 9.1% ranks 79th. Eflin has allowed his fair share of homers this year, and his 1.38 HR/9 is tied for 30th highest. He has the 15th highest fly ball rate with a 41.5% mark. His 2.66 ERA is 16th best in the bigs, but the metrics suggest his performance hasn’t been an accurate representation. Eflin’s 4.84 xFIP ranks 84th out of the 100 pitchers with 60+ IP, and his 4.63 SIERA ranks 71st. He has the 6th biggest differential between his SIERA and ERA among all MLB starters. He doesn’t generate strike outs, he surrenders the long ball frequently, and metrics suggest that his ERA is bound to rise. Now represents a great time to sell, and paring him with a bat could garner a decent return.
Steamer ROS: 5-7 with a 4.84 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 4.82 FIP, 7.78 K/9, 2.59 BB/9 in 100 IP (17 GS)