Everyone has their own method of determining their draft board and I imagine mine is rather unique. My early focus is on playing time/injuries so I can run Steamer rates against them and run the results through my Player Rater $ calculation. I then compare this against NFBC ADP and any expert drafts to get a sense for the outliers. As the preseason crawls on, I find myself digging into more and more players and determining whether they are players I want on my team based on their market value.
My tweak this year has been to analyze the outliers (guys my Player Rater is high/low on) earlier in the preseason. Projections are far from perfect and I have no problem drafting a guy above or below my $ value if I feel passionately about his value. These analyses are not terribly thorough – just scanning their FanGraphs pages for peripheral stats and reading Baseball Forecaster and Baseball Prospectus player summaries (the former of which being more helpful than the latter). I also check against Grey’s rankings so I can identify on which players we will inevitably debate.
Below are three pitchers – Julio Teheran, Mat Latos, Tyson Ross – where my Player Rater is way more pessimistic than the other sources I have reviewed. While my reasons vs Steamer’s reasons may differ, it still ends up with the same conclusion: I think these guys are being overvalued and I cannot envision a scenario where one of these three ends up on one of my teams.
- I like his Age (24), last 2 year performance, BB/9, shortstop, and stud pedigree but…
- His ERA has ‘outperformed’ his FIP for 2 straight years – by 0.49 in 2013 (3.20 vs 3.69) and 0.60 in 2014 (2.89 vs. 3.49). Since 1990, there have been 87 seasons (by 60 pitchers) where a pitcher was coming off two straight season of beating their FIP by 0.40+ and qualified for the ERA title in all three of those years. The average FIP minus ERA difference was 0.18 indicating that there was partial skill in beating one’s FIP. But 11 of those cases involve Tom Glavine (the modern day king at beating one’s FIP), Greg Maddux, and Jamie Moyer. Take those seasons out and the average goes down to 0.12. Take Teheran’s average FIP the last two years (3.59) and subtract 0.12 and you have a medicore 3.47.
- His average xFIP the last two years has been 3.74 as he has given up less HRs than the average pitcher. That could be a repeatable skill. But, based on Baseball Heat Maps’ xHR calculation (using average fly ball distance to calculate expected HRs), Teheran finished as the luckiest (2014) and 2nd luckiest (2013) pitcher in regards to HRs. Hard to bet on such luck again, hence Steamer’s 3.77 ERA (about where his xFIP has been the past two years) starts making sense.
- His average fastball velocity has gone from 92.1 in 2012, 91.5 in 2013, and 90.4 in 2014. Not a good trend.
- He threw 30% breaking pitches last year. That is greater than average and does not leave much flexiblity should his fastball effectiveness wanes.
- His K/9 went from 8.24 in 2013 to 7.57 in 2014.
- The Braves STINK – the 14 wins he reached in 2013 and 2014 looks implausible no matter how well he pitches.
- Conclusion: I think he is overpriced based on reputation, age, and surface stats. There are several comparably-priced pitchers within just the NL East that I would take over Teheran (Matt Harvey, Gio Gonzalez, Alex Wood, Zach Wheeler). He is an SP2 that will be seen as an SP3/SP4 by the All-Star Break.
- I like his Age (27), his 2010-2013 performance/durability, gradual control improvements, new home park, his league and stud pedigree but…
- His fastball velocity dropped from 92.6-92.8 in 2011-2013 to 90.7 in 2014. Maybe his various injuries (including a knee injury which kept him out until June) are responsible for some of that drop but fastball speed typically stays flat or decreases.
- His K-rate plummetted from a solid 8 K/9 in 2012/2013 to a 6.5 in 2014. Again, maybe related to his injuries but not good.
- About those injuries, he had stem cell surgery on his elbow in the offseason. Actually, in his words, “I had them dig into my hip bone and put stem cells in my right elbow“. Given he historically throws 35% breaking pitches, that sounds like Metal Machine Music to my ears. I think my 28 GS, 177 IP playing time estimate is being generous.
- His BABIP (.269) and HR/FB (7.3%) were both above average in 2014 (and, to be fair, for most of his career). Maybe there is some skill there but I imagine it will be tougher if he does not regain his dominance.
- Conclusion: The Player Rater’s 360 ranking is overkill but I think Latos will be a negative play in 10/12-team leagues – either due to injury, reduced performance, or both. I do not like him at the NFBC / LABR spots but his downside is at least partially factored into his price. Hoping Grey drafts him out of spite in our RCL.
- I like his Age (28), his home park, his league, his velocity, his home park (did i mention that?) but…
- Actually, aside from a fortunate strand rate (75%) that helped sneak his ERA under 3.00 and a 3.0+BB/9, Ross’s 2014 success seems sustainable (and I’m more bullish than Steamer) except…
- He throws two pitches: a 2-seam fastball and slider. His 2-seam fastball is great at inducing ground balls but not swings-and-misses. It is a slightly below-average pitch based on FanGraphs wFB.
- His slider was amazing last year. He had the fifth most valuable slider season (measured by wSL) in the past 5 years (and Kershaw and Darvish own 3 of the 4 superior ones). He threw his slider 41.2% of the time in 2014 which was the most by any pitcher who qualified for the ERA title since Randy Johnson in 2004 (thanks FanGraphs leaderboards!). I do not feel comfortable banking on a repeat of his 9.0 K/9 knowing that it would require him to maintain a near-unprecedented slider rate.
- Building on the above, you know who looks like a great comp – Justin Masterson. In his one premium year (2013), he dialed up the sliders (27% vs ~19% in 2012/2014, a wSL year nearly on par with Ross’s 2014) and ended up with his best K year by far. Granted, he throws a couple MPH slower than Ross and plays in a more hitter-friendly league/park but look at 2014 Masterson if you want a picture of the ‘bad’ Ross outcome. Note that Masterson never had an ADP above 200 (I think) despite similar skills.
- Conclusion: I think Steamer’s 3.67/1.27 projection feels closer to a 25th percentile vs 50th percentile outcome for Ross but I see a good chance at K mediocrity if/when he dials down the slider. I think Ian Kennedy is a safer bet than Ross and he is going about 90 picks later than Ross in NFBC ADP.