Josh James was a lad,

That K’d many a man,

He was robbed of a starter’s gig last year,

The Astros stole signs since ’17,

So Hinch was soon fired,

Dusty then hired, and the Toothpick says he’s near…

That’s just the intro, but it’s a special song near and dear to my heart. So with A.J. Hinch gone from Houston, Dusty Baker rides into town. There’s 2 things we know about Dusty Baker’s managerial style. 1) Young position players often become waterboys for extended periods of time, and 2) he is not afraid to give young pitches a long leash and give them enough rope to hang themselves or succeed. Hold that thought. Losses to the Astros rotation: Gerrit Cole signed a $324 million contract to makeover his closet so he can pitch in pinstripes this year, and Aaron Sanchez went down with a shoulder injury and then subsequently not tendered a contract in offseason (those jerks!). The rotation left behind is now Verlander, Greinke, McCullers, Urquidy… with a 3-man spring battle for the 5th spot. The competition: Josh James, Framber Valdez, and Austin Pruitt. We have ourselves a Mexican (racist?) standoff. Central American standoff? Astro standoff? Astroff?

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Pruitt has 199.2 MLB innings to the tune of a shiny 4.87 ERA and 7.47 K/9 via a 92 mph fastball; survey says? meh. Valdez showed some promise at times last year but flamed out to a 5.86 ERA and 8.66 K/9 via a 93 mph fastball (better) but saddled with a 5.60 BB/9 (barf); double meh. Enter our boy, Josh James. What does he bring to the table and what makes him a sleeper?

K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA WHIP FIP
’18 AAA 12.92 3.79 0.78 3.40 1.09 3.39
’18/19 MLB 13.77 4.48 1.39 4.06 1.22 3.85

WUT. Hello there my friend. That K-rate should be on a poster I hang above my bunk bed and stare at longingly listening to The Cure. His taste of the majors so far has produced a higher walk-rate than any stop in the minors; so there’s reasonable room for improvement there. What’s more, his HR/9 last year was absurdly high for him at 1.47 (HR/FB of 16.9%), whereas it was below 1.00 throughout the minors. James knows how to miss bats and it shows with a 16.2% SwStr (swinging-strike) rate. Let’s look at his pitches.

Fastball Change Slider Curve
2018 97.5 88.8 85.6
2019 97.4 89.2 84.6 81.9

Mmmm. He comes to the party with a 97 heater that grades as a 70. His slider and changeup are nearly unhittable logging at .156 and .170 BAA respectively. The former being his outpitch sweeping out and away from righties, and the change falling out against lefties. All that he needs to succeed is to locate his fastball better to reduce walks and keep guys from squaring it up (even though he already gets high amount of misses with it).

I know its early, and we shouldn’t get too excited about Spring Training stats. Sure he’s thrown a clean 5 innings, but what’s important is that he’s registered 5 Ks, only 1 hit, and zero walks. What makes that even more appetizing is that he’s been efficient. He’s completed those 15 outs with only 39 pitches, 3 of which were groundouts. We could be seeing Josh James graduate from a mere flamethrower into a calculating pitcher. Pitch command and efficiency will be his keys to success.

“I was just trying to be in the zone with my heater early and get strike one and try to induce soft contact,” James told Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. “I don’t want to be a guy that comes in and tries to let it eat for however many innings. I want to be able to pitch and go deep into games.” Clearly he’s been working hard at it and motivated, especially after being robbed of a chance at a rotation spot last spring due to a quad injury. Now with a retooled delivery over the offseason, he’s finding more command of his pitches. And the new skipper has taken notice: “I’m telling you, he’s focused,” Baker said. “He wants to take a job. We’re giving him every opportunity. He’s looking good, he’s looking real good,” per the Houston Chronicle.

Boys and girls, I’m all in on Josh James. I think he’s most likely to get the job out of camp. Baker loves to throw young guys that can get Ks, I’m just hoping he doesn’t break this one. Steamer has him projected for an 11.23 K/9, 4.22 BB/9, and 4.04 ERA through 18 starts. Given what I’ve seen, and Dusty Baker I think everything except for the Ks is a bit conservative. I believe he can get that walk-rate down past his AAA mark before of 3.79 to the 3.50 range and that could lead to a sub-4 ERA, maybe in the 3.75 range, especially if he can normalize his HR/9 rate with a chance for more (better?). That is a nice bargain on a winning* team where he could be carried to some cheap wins. And that’s not just a sweet song.

 
  1. Nick says:
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    OK nice one,,,
    still watching cause Uriquidy could still steal his job !

    i was High on Josh last season,,
    but here is my Dynasty team,, and i lack(ed) pitching

    SP1 Snell
    Sp2 Giolito
    SP3 Heaney
    SP4 Lamet
    RP1 Iglesias
    RP2 …. Karinchak
    P Glasow
    P Montas
    Bench Yarbrough

    i’m low at RP ,, but SAGNOF !!!
    i can get James for ” free” by dropping one P
    or maybe a hitter
    i can get Urquidy as well!!

    my utils are SS Tim Anderson and Amhed Rosario 20/20 !!
    my bench hitters are ; Encarnacion + Kris Davis 30/0
    + speculation pciks Urshela + Lourdes Gurriel

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      oops, answered below

  2. Coolwhip

    Coolwhip says:
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    Uriquidy already has the 4th spot from what understand. James is competing for the 5th spot.
    I would take the upside on James over Yarbrough or Urshela. prob Urshela first.

  3. 183414 says:
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    Playing in my 1st 10 team Best Ball at NFBC at the moment. Read Grey’s take on this format, but hoping you have some familiarity.
    If you do, I’m through 9 rounds, and as we still need 14 hitters and 9 pitchers, I have 7 hitters and 2 starters. In this points format, hitters clearly outperform starters and closers as well.
    My question is how long can I wait to draft a 1st/2nd closer, and the same for a 3d/4th/5th starter.
    Apparently, last year Conforte had 2 more many points as Bieber (612 to 610), and Muncy got as many points as deGrom (yeah I know that deGrom won only 11).
    I think I’d like to draft 2 more hitters at the 10/11 turn (have the 2nd pick, so they’re only 2 picks between mine).
    Do you have an opinion ?

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Sup Deigan,
      As far as points leagues go, I’m in similar step with where you are at. Everything i’ve seen in past performance and the skewing of points, hitters due get higher, steady pitching performers are high Ks and low whip (where you lose points for hits and walks). In my opinion you want to load up on as many high-avg high-hr bats you can and balance with a lot of middle tier pitching in bulk + upside. this gives you a solid floor and you get the best of the variables due to bestball. As far as closers go, my opinion is its smart to aim for at least 1 top tier closer on a winning team (high ks low wip) and that amounts to basically a top 30 pitcher and a top 10 pitcher on really good weeks. if you get get multiple at discount great. if your league doesnt require actual RP spots just P, i’d load up on SPs at good value. does that answer your question?

      • Coolwhip

        Coolwhip says:
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        also good middlers that get in line for wins often are great value for the price.

  4. 183414 says:
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    Thanks, bro. I’m definitely out of my element in this venue.
    I’m up in a few @ 99/102. My 1st thought is if Laureano and T.Anderson are still there, or many M.Chapman (no penalty for k’s or low b.avg.) to grab both of them.
    Resorting to my OLC skills, I see Aroldis, Woodruff, and Glasnow, and now I’m totally lost.

  5. 183414 says:
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    Leaning Aroldis if he’s still there, and T. Anderson, who scored 637 points despite missing almost 40 games. Like him a tad more than Laureano. Also love Woodruff and Montas, but Chapman does close for the Yankees. Stay around Cool, I’ll probably need you.
    I can answer any of your questions on basic root. haha

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Yeah A.Chap might be good there, a little early but dont hate it, if so i’d lay off closers after that for awhile. I grabbed my first Closer in at 11-1

  6. 183414 says:
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    I think the guy on the clock is going to take Anderson. he has no s.s. or m.i. The guy in front on me has both a s.s. and a m.i.

  7. 183414 says:
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    H.R.’s are worth 6 pts., and S.B.’s are worth 5, so Anderson would be ideal as a m.i.
    Don’t like my odds, though, getting past the guy on the clock.

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      if hits are worth points like razzslam, HRs are roughly 3x more points than steals, keep that in mind. HR = HR pts, Hit pts, run pts, rbi pts

  8. 183414 says:
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    Thanks !!!

  9. 183414 says:
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    I screwed the pooch. M. Chapman was taken, and so was Anderson, Conforto, and Laureano, so I reverted to my roto ways, and took Aroldis and Montas (Probably not the right venue, but I wanted to own somewhere).
    I’ll be taking whatever h.r. guys are next 2 picks. Well, at least I got a closer, and now have 3 good starters in Catillo, Morton, and Montas. Also Yelich, Devers, JD Martinez, Hiura, Olson, Bichette, and Cruz.

  10. Jonathan says:
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    Great read!

    In a seasonal league, 16 teams, 5×5, which side?
    Side A:
    Jonathan Villar
    José Abreu
    Ryan Yarbrough
    Sandy Alcantara
    Yonny Chirinos

    Side B:
    Danny Santana
    Khris Davis
    Blake Snell
    A.J. Puk
    Mike Soroka

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      If by seasonal you mean redraft – side A

  11. Chewy says:
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    In a 16 team H2H dynasty league that hoards pitching, would you sell Andrew Heaney for Villar?

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      depends on context, how deep is your pitching and who else you have for 2B etc to replace Villar.

  12. Dakota says:
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    In a 12 team keeper, 5×5 roto scoring. We can keep seven players, re drafted in the same round as the prior year. I’ve chosen:
    Pete Alonso 9th
    Matt Chapman 13th
    Jesus Luzardo 24th
    Walker Buehler 15th
    Chris Paddack 11th
    Jose Berrios 14th

    Torn between Ramon Laureano 19th or Didi Gregorios in the 24th. Leaning Laureano because of the depth at SS but Didi could become a top 10 SS again. What do you recommend? Thanks!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Yeah go Laureano, hes more valuable still at a discount and Didi is still easily draftable before his ADP whereas Laureano will be competitive.

  13. Luvdarooks says:
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    2 QUESTIONS:
    1-Jesus Liuzardo
    is crushing it this spring… Do you see the same type outlook As he is a high strike out low walk kind of guy… ?
    2- I have to choose between Lizardo and paddock in a six category league that includes net wins and quality starts
    Paddack?

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Luzardo does have similar upside but more hype around him so his ADP will be a lot higher.

      I’d take Paddack over him easy. biggest reason is Paddack is proven commodity now as a top pitcher, and will likely be allowed to go somewhere around 170 inn, Luzardo will be handcuffed around 120-130 i’m guessing.

  14. baby seal says:
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    Hey Coolwhip, nice post as usual.

    Trying to find where James worked on his delivery and couldn’t find too many details. From Sep 2 last year:

    “Just shortened up my arm swing a little bit just to kind of help me sync up a little bit,” James said. “The longer delivery just led to some inconsistency. Now that I’ve shortened up, I’m able to be around the (strike) zone a little bit more, leverage some stuff and leverage my offspeed and feel better.”
    https://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/baseball/news/astros-josh-james-works-on-cleaner-delivery/

    Also here — seems like he spent more time on it in the offseason and previously had trouble sticking w/ those changes in the postseason last year (as seen by his poor BB%).
    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/texas-sports-nation/astros/article/Josh-James-bringing-a-starter-s-outlook-to-15093799.php

    Have you seen any footage of him this spring? Going to search on Twitter now. Thanks for posting.

    He’s certainly been on my radar recently, and has been getting some helium, but I’m not fully bought in yet. He has reliever all over him — sort of reminds me of Dellin Betances. Big guy with high velocity and a lot of moving parts.

    I watched some footage from him last year and seeing those BB% has made me a bit skeptical. He sort of leans back when he lifts his leg and tries to generate more torque by sort of flinging himself forward. Reminds me of when I first started playing golf and always tried to “grip it and rip it.” Eventually you learn the extra 10 yards of distance is not worth the wild “spray chart,” for lack of a better term.

    Not sure I’m totally bought in yet. Team has obviously shown they like him in the pen, and I trust the Astros know what they’re doing with their pitchers. Which is obviously a bit of a double-edged sword, because in theory, they should be as good as anyone in terms of correcting his pretty terrible mechanics.

    Then you have to ask yourself, will he be able to maintain his new mechanics over ~160 IP? The price is right, so there’s not a lot to lose.

    But I’ve seen people discuss how he could start to approach the ~190 range. That is just way to rich for me. Draft price needs to start w/ a 3-handle or be close to it for 15 teams, IMO. Actually, last week his ADP in OCs was 224. Not *horrible* for 12 teams, but you have decide if you like him better than the other shots there. Value is quickly eroding…

    Cheers!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      Yes, i just grabbed him in RazzSlam yesterday after pick 300, but once he’s officially named the starter and gets closer to Opening Day his price will skyrocket. Now is definitely the time to get in on him.

      that 2nd one you posted plus:
      1) https://www.mlb.com/news/zack-greinke-spring-debut-josh-james-mechancics
      2) https://www.mlb.com/news/josh-james-has-eye-on-astros-starting-rotation
      the video there (i saw his last spring outing but couldn’t find a clip I could gif on time) you see his delivery is different, more linear instead of cross-body and squirrelly, also article mentions that pitching coach Strom is teaching him to mimic Gerrit Cole.
      3)https://www.mlb.com/astros/news/brent-strom-interview-2020-astros
      And this interview with Strom

      • baby seal says:
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        Thanks, read those links. I saw some quotes about him trying to mimic Cole…. if only it were that easy — we’d all do it!

        Perfect pick in a RazzSlam, for sure. Really, really have nothing to lose there.

        “It’s going to be from outing to outing,” he said. “I’m going to have my ups and downs, but the key is to keep working on the stuff I implemented and not shy away from it, especially if I go out and have a rough one. That could very well happen. I just have to stick to the process and what I’ve been working on, and it’ll come along.”

        Sounds like he might need some AAA…

        The bullpen clip looked a lot cleaner for sure. Thanks again for sharing.

        Other thing, and this is not something I feel as strongly about as his delivery, but what do you make of his stuff? The fastball is great, but I think that’s his only real plus pitch. The other two have good numbers against, but I think that’s mostly because they’re playing off the fastball. He’s also in relief and can really “max” everything out.

        Obviously, it’s all part of the equation. My point is that if I’m going for a guy like that, I want some plus, plus pitches like a Glasnow or Darvish (obviously way different price, just trying to think of a good comp…). Trying to compare him to guys w/ plus stuff and below average command.

        Seems like his changeup has some untapped potential to me. His slider leaves a lot to be desired, IMO. It’s neither great vertical nor horizontal movement. Really wish it had some more downward tilt. Although, I’m a Yankees fan, so I’m happy it doesn’t. :-)

        PS. That Greinke clip was so sexy. Pause mid delivery and freezes the batter for a backwards K. Guy flat out knows how to pitch. Went from off him at the beginning of draft season to totally onboard now. Just a matter of building the rotation. Those ERA stabilizers are one of the scarcer commodities out there, and no one really seems to discuss that. Really helps w/ streaming. Like taking a high AVG guy to offset your late power bats. Now I’ve really digressed!

        • Coolwhip

          Coolwhip says:
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          Here’s what Brooks says about those 3 pitches:
          “His fourseam fastball generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers, is blazing fast and results in somewhat more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ fourseamers. His slider generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ sliders, sweeps across the zone, has exceptional depth and results in more flyballs compared to other pitchers’ sliders. His change is thrown extremely hard, generates an extremely high number of swings & misses compared to other pitchers’ changeups, dives down out of the zone, results in many more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ changeups and has slight armside fade.”
          when you are a starter its all about how you use your pitches as much as the stuff… just ask your boy Greinke. So if how he pairs it with the fastball is why they perform well, then great. I have more faith in Brent Strom coaching pitchers than I do many others around the league. Then you throw in that James has Verlander and Greinke to talk to for advice… yes please. Worthy flier while he’s still a flier cost.

          • baby seal says:
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            That’s a pretty cool blurb. Never really used that before.

            Just to be clear, obviously I am a professional scout and my opinion is highly valuable! Please don’t share with anyone, sir.

            Really appreciate the info and convo. And again, don’t disagree he’s not worth the flier, just about where the cost ends up, and wanted to push back on some of my concerns to see what you said. Definitely learned a few things.

            So it seems like his BABIP was relatively high with a low LOB%. Obviously, a high K% with an increased SwStr% to boot. But, had high BB% and HH% with a low and worsening GB%, a pretty low O-Swing relative to his K%, but lowered his Z-Contact% while keeping the Zone% constant. The F-Strike% drop seems like one big reason why he faltered. Low Soft%, but the xStats were all very nice. Below avg barrel rate.

            Seems like his xwOBA got better as he threw more off-speed stuff and fewer fastballs, but the wOBA didn’t change much / had a slight uptick. BB% improved, K% improved, xSLG improved but then seems people started catching on to the change. The actual SLG consistently outperformed the xSLG. Weirdly, his F-Strike% got worse w/ these changes.

            Thanks and later!

            • Coolwhip

              Coolwhip says:
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              All good my dude. :) Appreciate the convo, pushback as much as you like! helps keep me honest and see another perspective.

              Adding to those data points: The low O-Swing prob had a lot to do with his wildness and walk-rate. Batters knew he had command issues so if it looked like it was going out of zone they let it. The low GBrate speaking to him trying to force whiffs etc, rather than his approach now zone-centered, which i’m guessing involves more of that change to induce those gbs for outs. And yeah the low F-strike% is something he’s intentionally focusing on from the interviews, which could be big if he gets that going consistently, and gets into teams heads that hes going for that. he’ll get more early swings which could lead to more quick outs – just depends on his execution.

              • baby seal says:
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                Thanks for adding on–good stuff!

                With the Verlander news, his adp might just go bananas. Let’s see…

  15. Duda Want to Build a Snowman? says:
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    This is looking even better with the Verlander injury. James is basically a lock now!

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      bingo

    • Coolwhip

      Coolwhip says:
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      *dab*

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