*smiles through gritted teeth* Hi. *people turn around heading for the exit* Wait! Before you leave, just let me show you some Nathan Eovaldi stats from last year! *people stream out of the post, one guy throws a tomato at my head* Okay, I’m sorry! Geez, you people make like you’re the only ones who have been screwed by Nathan Eovaldi in the past. I have too. Multiple times! Hmm, what am I doing here? Nathan Eovaldi? Have I lost my mind? Don’t answer me; the “Nathan Eovaldi, 2021 Sleeper” title answers that. So, last year Eovaldi had a 9.7 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 3.32 xFIP, 3.45 SIERA, 7.43 K/BB, which was 7th best in the majors, and a 3.72 ERA with a .336 BABIP, so a tad unlucky. Can you imagine what his numbers look like if his 98-MPH smoke show had any life? Noted Red Sox enthusiast, Podcaster Ralph says it’s all about his fastball release point. It’s easy to pick up, making it more of a contact pitch. I consulted PR because he’s had the most eyes on Eovaldi, and I wanted to make sure his sexy eh-eff peripherals weren’t sending me astray like a Pall Mall. Wait, that’s ashtray. Any hoo! You get the point, release and otherwise. I look at pitchers mostly by hiding their names, then I remove the blinders and see the starter’s name, whose numbers are exciting me, and I saw Nathan Eovaldi and nearly clawed my eyes out of my skull, while screaming, “You don’t deserve to see!” So, what can we expect from Nathan Eovaldi for 2021 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Psyche! Before we get into the Nathan Eovaldi sleeper, just wanted to announce all my rankings are currently available on Patreon for the price of a Starbucks coffee, if you get one of those extra grande frappuccino jobbers. Don’t wait for the rankings to come out over the next month, and get them all now. So II, the Nathan Eovaldi sleeper:
Last year, Nathan Eovaldi’s curve and split-finger were his best pitches, as they were in past seasons, but even more so. The fewer times he can throw his fastball, the better off he (and, by extension, us) will be. What I think we’re not seeing with Eovaldi, because of the previous years of baggage, is a guy who has an ever-increasing K-rate, who has always had pinpoint command (minus a fluky 2019). He now has four straight years of an increasing K-rate, and decreasing walk rate (again, minus 2019). Maybe he’s just a guy who took forever to find his pitch mix. We’ve seen a growing number of starters with this career trajectory. What is it about age that worries us? A pitcher loses velocity. Eovaldi losing velocity might be a good thing. He’ll stop trying to overpower people. It’s not like relying on velocity to overpower anyone has worked. If anything, the less he throws that garbage pitch that clocks in at 100 MPH on occasion, the better off he is.
This past year that saw Nathan Eovaldi do the best in his career, ratio-wise, also saw him throw fewer fastballs. Get the fastball usage down to 15%, you giant dummy, it sucks! Not sure why he’s throwing his cutter, which doesn’t really work either. My guess is he feels like he needs to set up the offspeed stuff with something. Fair enough. I would love him to become Lance McCullers Jr. Jr. and throw nothing but 100 curves per game, but that’s unlikely. Think the curve’s effectiveness can be directly attributed to his locating. He had a 47.7% Zone% on the curve, up from 41.7%, and a 3.4 BB% down from 7.7%. The cutter, and its lousiness, could be its own post. Its movement went up (actually, down) considerably, and it was such a terrible pitch for him. Opponents hit .378 off the cutter, and slugged .689, which is legit funny. Eovaldi out here making hitters into Trout with his cutter. On the bright side, he threw a total of 161 cutters, and with a 50% HR/FB% (HA!) it can rightfully be assumed he just had an unlucky small sampling of bad luck on the cutter.
Let’s not forget, the real attraction here is most people need to get paid off in sex to even draft Nathan Eovaldi. No one wants him. Remember how you felt when you saw the title of this post? That’s how most people feel about drafting him. I know, everyone wants a sleeper that gets you excited immediately, but if you’re excited immediately, then that sleeper is likely going to be overdrafted. No one is overdrafting Eovaldi. No one is even drafting him in most shallower leagues. I’m here to say that we might want to put aside our past biases, and dig back in on a guy who hasn’t been a sleeper without baggage since 2012. For 2021, I’ll give Nathan Eovaldi projections 9-12/3.77/1.18/167 in 161 IP with a chance for more.