What is up people! It’s Monday afternoon for most of you, and that case of the Mondays has you thinking about the next worst thing in your life. No, not the death of your dog, Peaches. Yes, that’s it! The state of your fantasy baseball pitching roster! It’s beer thirty somewhere, so crack a cold one, and let’s explore the exploding world of starting pitching in the third installment of the Top 100 Starting Pitchers series!
August 10-16, 2020
Now, I think it’s wise to take a pre-emptive stance to say that, yes, Razzball is indeed a fantasy baseball site. We all get a bit nipply when we watch those sexy heaters from Dustin May and the worship-worthy, knee-dropping curveballs from Adrian Houser. But, we’re in the business of helping your fantasy team, and there’s a never-before-seen crisis facing starting pitching in 2020. As Jay Jaffe notes over at FanGraphs, starting pitchers are facing about 10% fewer batters this year, which has the associated effect of the average starting pitcher completing 4.75 IP before giving way to the expanded bullpens. Hopefully you can see the trajectory of this line of thought: a starting pitcher cannot get a win if they leave before 5IP. So, the starting pitchers who are out there churning innings and wins are rapidly becoming more valuable in fantasy baseball, regardless of how GIF-worthy their pitches are. If wins are part of your league–and especially if quality starts are part of your league–you need to be looking at starters who are throwing a lot of innings, and who play for good teams. This sentiment extends to all those prospects who are being called up to MLB this week: will they pitch enough to be eligible for a win?
So, as we leave the world of small sample size and enter the world of trends, you’ll find yourself surrounded by pitchers that were in the “Draft 2 of these guys” tier of my Top 100 list and who justify Grey’s yearly monocle-grabbing treatise: “Draft pitchers late.” We are 25% of the way through the season, and here are the biggest SP values in the Top 20 of the player rater now: Dylan Bundy, Zach Plesac, German Marquez, Frankie Montas, Anthony DeSclafani, Marco Gonzales, and Chris Bassit were all in the 40-100 range of my pre-season list. They’re joined by Randy Dobnak, Alec Mills, and Merrill Kelly, who were basically rostered only in the deepest of leagues. So, math majors know that 10/20 of the current Top 20 pitchers who were picked up in the last rounds or off the waiver wire. Perhaps most stroking to my ego, I urged people to stay off of the “consensus” top pitchers and aim for Shane Bieber, and those who did that have received the top pitcher in MLB through the first quarter of the season. You’re welcome [bowing motion].
News and Notes
Mike Soroka — You probably know by now that Soroka tore his achilles tendon this week, and he’s done for the year. If you’re in a dynasty, he’s a great target.
Justin Verlander — Verlander is not progressing in trying to solve a forearm issue. I asked you to drop him in redraft, and this is definitely the point where you need to cut him if he’s still occupying an IL slot. My suspicion is that he’ll return next year to close out his career on his own terms, so he’s worth a dynasty league stash if an owner has dropped him or will part with him for cheap.
Josh James — In the pre-season, Grey and Coolwhip were all over Josh James, and with good reason. Mostly pitching in relief in 2019, James had an un-Belieber-ble 14.5K/9, but that isn’t translating into starting success in 2020. In two appearances over 7IP, James’ velocity was down nearly 2MPH to 95, and his command was absolutely wild, to the tune of 14BB/9. James’ ERA and FIP were above 10, and–AND–James was the one who was lucky with a .230BABIP. Astros manager Dusty Baker sent James to the back of the bullpen, where James will undoubtedly have his arm preserved. But, with Roberto Osuna out, there’s a chance that 14.5K/9 James becomes a significant part of the Astros’ pen. If you’re a James owner in a deep league, you might want to hold on tight for a week just to see how the bullpen situation unfolds. Otherwise, cut James in redraft and consider him a candidate for holding in dynasty leagues.
Zach Plesac — Has been so, so, so good this year that he just had to go out and party. He was banished from being around the team on Sunday and will be required to quarantine for a few days before the team decides what to do next. The Cleveland Spiders learned from the Marlins and Cardinals that going to the club just isn’t a great idea right now. Plesac might miss a start, but he should be owned in all leagues anyway.
Brandon Woodruff — How is this guy not in the top 15? Because Alec Mills has somehow allowed 5 hits all year. Woodruff has excelled this year, and is 24th in IP right now. Michael Simione notes that Woodruff has been using his changeup more, and batters are whiffing at it nearly 30% of the time. Here’s an excellent opportunity to chase Woodruff before more owners catch on to his greatness. That said, the Brewers haven’t been the pinnacle of offensive production this year.
Matt Boyd — More like Matt Blech, amirite? OK, Boyd had been a cheap source of IP and Ks for a few years, which made him a prime candidate to grab in 2020. With 11k/9 and even racking up 9W on an awful Tigers team in 2019, Boyd seemed like he could be a late round ace in 2020. Instead, he’s lost control of his slider–a pitch he throws 32% of the time–and its value has plummeted from 9 runs saved/year to -2 runs saved/year. What’s interesting about Boyd in 2020 is that batters aren’t hitting him harder, they’re just hitting more squarely and driving the ball throughout the park. Almost no batters are making soft contact, and he’s seen a huge increase in line drive hits allowed. The last straw, though, is that he’s lost the swinging strikes and his K/9 has dropped from 11 to 7. That’s enough signals to point to something being wrong, so it’s time to move on from Boyd if he’s on your roster. He’s turning 30 this year, which means he’s not the most intriguing dynasty stash.
Yusei Kikuchi — Who’s got the 9th best FIP, a top 30 K/9, and a hasn’t given up a homer yet this year despite facing Houston and Colorado? You say Yusei! Kikuchi-san has really turned it around this year. He hasn’t notched a win yet thanks to the less-than-stellar Mariners hitters, and he’s been fantastically unlucky. If he’s on the wire in your league, grab him and be patient for the positive regression to happen.
Alec Mills — We can’t let another week go by without addressing the elephant in the room: Alec Mills is a top 20 SP on the player rater. He’s been incredibly lucky and he pitches on a Cubs team that has been smacking the ball around. Mills can barely strike anybody out–4.85K/9!–and his SIERA is four times higher than his actual ERA. In layman terms, he’s been incredibly lucky and you shouldn’t be rostering him. If you have him, trade him for whatever you can get. If somebody tries to pawn him on you, run away.
Touki Toussaint — The 24-year old just passed from prospect to everyday status this year, and he’s been throwing fire. With a 13.5K/9 and a 3.27 FIP, he’s seen some unlucky games so far that have pitted him with a ERA above 6. His park adjusted ERA is 2.54, and he has Acuna, Swanson, and Freeman providing runs. Go get him in redrafts, and because he just lost his rookie status in dynasty, you may find some inattentive owners who are just looking at the 6.00 ERA and want to trade him for a prospect. Take advantage of them.
Jordan Yamamoto — Yamamoto was puzzlingly sent to the “alternate site” to begin the MLB season, despite being one of the top rotation candidates for the Marlins. Yamamoto has three plus pitches, is only 24, and had a K/9 above 9 last year despite making the jump from AA straight to the majors. Now that the Marlins have 17 players on the IL and are literally pitching minor leaguers–and somehow winning–Yamamoto is back in the rotation for now. Yamamoto didn’t look good at all in his first start, and the Marlins are not hitting well, so I wouldn’t consider him more than a dart throw in deep leagues for now.
Madison Bumgarner — There’s something wrong with MadBum and the coaches believe the solution is to just keep marching him out there and let him get shelled. He’s lost 3MPH on his fastball–it’s down to 88MPH!–and everything we know about his storied career ratios means nothing in 2020. That’s a quick descent to dart throw territory.
Robbie Ray — Ray’s lost control of the ball. He’s throwing as hard as ever, but he’s walking batters a ton, and when batters make contact, they’re shelling him. There’s nothing in the peripherals saying that he’s unlucky. He was always going to give up walks and hits, and unfortunately, that’s all he’s doing right now. Dart throw.
Luke Weaver — There must be some sort of contagious vertigo going around the Diamondbacks because the usually control-focused Weaver has nearly as many BB/9 as his wild teammate Robbie Ray. Same thing as above: velocity is there, but there’s no control. Dart throw.
Lance McCullers — McCullers was famous in Summer Training for his projections being .10 WHIP away from being nearly identical to Bieber. But, McCullers also hadn’t pitched since 2018. And, he’s lost velocity, and his curveball–a pitch he throws 30% of the time–is getting parked. Until he gets his stuff together, he’s a dart throw.
|4||Max Scherzer||5||Hamstring injury, will make next start|
|13||Jack Flaherty||5||Cardinals on hiatus|
|16||Mike Clevinger||7||First start next week|
|19||Clayton Kershaw||15||Return from IL|
|29||Stephen Strasburg||16||Up to 6IP|
|44||Rich Hill||55||IL return|