If you’re doing this right, and I think I’m doing it right, based on my results through the years, you see the same pitchers again and again when you search some of your favorite protocols for “breakout pitchers.” It doesn’t hurt that they were already good last year. Jeffrey Springs checks that box. His stats last year were 9-5/2.46/1.07/144 in 135 1/3 IP. How is that the 60-ish pitcher off the board and a guy going around 175th overall? Last year, Springs was the 37th best starter and 121st overall, so there’s value even if he simply repeats what he did last year. Last year Springs was better than Robbie Ray. Not saying he should be drafted before Ray, but it shows you just how big the discrepancy is between perceived value and actual value. There’s just so many possible starters to draft, it’s kinda silly. A guy like Chris Bassitt has been great for literally his entire career — has a 3.45 ERA in 737 1/3 IP and is going around 170th overall. The pitcher universe is deep. Gave you a sleeper post for Chris Bassitt in previous years, so won’t go back to that well, and he’s older with seemingly a lack of upside. That’s why Jeffrey Springs is the subject here. He has only 264 2/3 IP in his career, and a 3.57 ERA as he called shotgun. He’s 30, but the lack of innings feels like an opportunity for upside still. Last year, Springs had a 9.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9. Separation of 7+ between the two and another box checked. Top 20 for exit velocity, and that’s three boxes, it was time to go over Jeffrey Springs. So, what can we expect from Jeffrey Springs for 2023 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Psyche! Before we get into the Jeffrey Springs sleeper post, just wanted to announce that I’ve begun to roll out my 2023 fantasy baseball rankings on our Patreon. Lucky you (if you pay the $10/month). Also, Rudy’s begun to roll out his 2023 fantasy baseball projections. It’s version 1.0 and there’s usually about 4500 versions but just wanted to let you know. Anyway II, the Jeffrey Springs sleeper:
Jeffrey Springs’s 4-seam fastball was thrown 868 times, and had a .209 batting average against. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Yes, I’m baiting you into being wrong. Don’t fall for it. You fell for it? Damn! That fastball was only his third best pitch! Daddy needs to sit because he’s too excited. Springs’s change is where the biscuit is buttered, where the dog is mustarded and the hot dog is walked–Wait, uh…Well, you know what I mean. His changeup is gorge, which is funny (not haha funny) because it had a .229 BAA. Springs’s third best pitch, the fastball, had the 12th best BAA, tied with Max Scherzer and Luis Castillo. Not gonna list all the guys in front of him, but they’re all sorts of great too — Verlander, Strider, Nola, those sorts of names. His third best pitch is the best pitchers’ best pitches I can’t even pause for punctuation I’m woozy.
Jeffrey Springs actually throws his change 34.7% of the time, which is an insane amount of times, and is 2nd most in the league, behind only Pablo Lopez. For pitchers throwing the change that much, it worked well enough. What’s truly absurd is the results of his change from the year before — 48.2% Whiff% and .146 BAA in 209 times thrown. Clearly, absurd success is helped there because he was entirely used in relief. If you separate relief from games started even this past season, you see he had a .133 BAA on the change in relief (80 times thrown). .244 BAA in games started (665 times thrown). For what it’s Cronenworth, it was a .211 xBA in games started on the change, but I’m making a concerted effort to not use xBA, because it’s such a flawed statistic. Wanna see how flawed it is? Look at actual home runs with a sub-.100 xBA. “Damn, that ball just sailed into the seats, too bad it had a .089 xBA.” That’s me shaking my head in-season.
Okay, back to the three pitches, and how the fastball with its .209 BAA was his third best. The change was first, and the 2nd best was the slider. That had a .227 BAA and was thrown 24.8% of the time. This is a huge step forward for him. He had the slider previous years in relief, but it never worked this well. He might’ve figured out he needs to throw it faster, because that appears to be the biggest difference from one year to the next — going from 82.9 to 85.4 MPH. His fastball actually slowed a bit, not surprising since he went from relief (full effort) to starting (and conserving). That the slider’s MPH went up though really stands out for the same reason. You don’t throw harder as a starter without coaching getting you there. So, the fastball is better than it has any right to be because of command, which might give the wrong impression. He excelled at O-Swing%. He was the third best at getting hitters to swing at balls outside the zone. With balls down and out of the zone, he had a .187 BAA. That’s not surprising. Hitters don’t do well when chasing. Kevin Gausman is a master at this.
Jeffrey Springs also excelled at lack of Contact%, ranking 14th best. (This is for 130 IP min. so it includes him.) It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to know the 14 best guys at avoiding contact were some of the best pitchers. Speaking of Robbie Ray (I was doing that about 700 words ago), Springs gave up less contact than him. Finally, Springs was 13th best for Swinging Strike percentage. Some of you might remember this was how I pegged Dylan Cease as a sleeper last year. Of the 13 best Swinging Strike percentages guys, Springs is the only sleeper this year. The 12 guys above him are all top 100 overall pitchers, and, once again, tied at 13 with Springs is Robbie Ray. If you’re missing the big picture (pitcher?) here, think about a pitcher who can get guys to swing and miss like Robbie Ray, but has pinpoint command. Yeah, that’s very sexy. For 2023, I’ll give Jeffrey Springs projections of 10-6/3.08/1.05/166 in 153 IP with a chance for much more.