@MattWi77iams 2021 Player Breakdowns Index

Matt Williams has been diving through interesting players for 2021 Fantasy Baseball drafts this offseason and is giving extended thoughts through Twitter threads. The projection portion of these threads is subject to change due to roster moves and other circumstances. However, the research and overlook is still valuable information.

This is an alphabetical index of those threads to make it a little easier to find the player you are looking for. This list will be updated as Matt creates new threads throughout the offseason.

Below are links to each player, click on your choice for the full thread, and hit Matt up on Twitter (@MattWi77iams) with any questions.

 

 

Be sure to subscribe to the Turn Two Podcast (@TurnTwoPodcast) hosted by Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams)

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GPS Pitch Location Report: Corbin Burnes

We are reaching somewhat of a breaking point in fantasy leagues. Owners are scrambling to make those last major moves to ensure victory or they are taking chances with their roster looking to chase down the top spot. As I have done all season I am once again taking a look at the state of pitching with the help of ERA estimator Stuff-ERA. The model has helped guide many of my pitching decisions this season and has been a big part of my success For the first time since the initial run of this article, we have a new leader. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out who has unseated Shane Bieber.

Corbin Burnes

Quite frankly, the Brewers have been a massive disappointment. Their offense has struggled much of the season and their starting rotation has been overall dreadful. However, there has been one massive bright spot for the team and that is the emergence of Corbin Burnes. Burnes who once won the teams Minor League Pitcher of the Year award has had an uneven start to his MLB career. He has looked at times like a future ace but has yet to put it all together at the Big League Level. However, 2020 has been a different story. Burnes has been electric all year posting an ERA of 1.99 across his six starts. This includes an absolute dismantling of the Tigers yesterday. He allowed one hit and struck out 11 in seven innings. As many pitchers I have discussed have proven, a breakout like this usually comes with a pitch mix change.

As you can clearly see from the chart above Burnes changed his mix drastically. He has almost completely abandoned the fastball and replaced it with two pitches, a sinker, and a cutter. The interesting thing about this is that while the fastball was hit extremely hard in the past, 0.460 xwoba; the two new pitches are world beaters, 0.420 for the sinker, and 0.342 for the cutter. However, looking it over Burnes has been locating the two pitches exceptionally well. Among all pitchers with at least 300 Fastballs (Sinkers, Cutters, 4 and 2 Seams) thrown this season, Burnes has the 4th lowest location-based xwoba. The chart below shows how he’s been avoiding the danger zones extremely well with the pitch.

What you can see is that Burnes has expertly located his fastballs missing the heart of the zone frequently. He’s been attacking the bottom of the zone extremely well as well as locating the cutter to the corners. Compare the above chart to Kevin Gausman, the pitcher with the highest location-based xwoba on fastballs.

As you can see many of Gausman’s fastballs are being located near the heart of the zone. The change seems to be impacting Burnes positively overall as his secondary pitches have all seen improvements in xwoba from 2019. Stuff-ERA is a huge fan as he is fourth-best in baseball according to the metric (minimum 600 pitches thrown). If Burnes can continue to locate his sinker and cutter extremely well, he should continue to get great results from his entire arsenal and he may be the Brewer starter who we consider among the ace tier in 2021, not Brandon Woodruff. I am fully buying into the Burnes breakout and am kicking myself for not drafting more of him this offseason.

Stuff ERA Leaders

 

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 600 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Jacob deGrom 2.1927
Zac Gallen 2.2087
Shane Bieber 2.3325
Corbin Burnes 2.7647
Lucas Giolito 2.7650
Kenta Maeda 2.8052
Yu Darvish 2.8081
Aaron Nola 2.8913
Dylan Bundy 2.9131
Clayton Kershaw 3.0197
Dinelson Lamet 3.0696
Walker Buehler 3.0814
Andrew Heaney 3.1160
Adam Wainwright 3.1294
Zach Davies 3.1720
Max Fried 3.2685
Jose Berrios 3.3244
Dallas Keuchel 3.3876
Lance Lynn 3.3936
Zack Wheeler 3.4029
Brad Keller 3.4123
Tyler Mahle 3.4245
Trevor Bauer 3.4336
Max Scherzer 3.4898
Ryan Yarbrough 3.5140
Spencer Turnbull 3.5537
Marco Gonzales 3.5840
Dakota Hudson 3.6210
Jesus Luzardo 3.6743
Tyler Glasnow 3.6864
Zack Greinke 3.6974
Sonny Gray 3.7004
Masahiro Tanaka 3.7022
Framber Valdez 3.7069
Kevin Gausman 3.7102
Dustin May 3.7184
Pablo Lopez 3.7237
Antonio Senzatela 3.7300
David Peterson 3.7467
Frankie Montas 3.7505
Carlos Carrasco 3.7517
Kolby Allard 3.7621
Yusei Kikuchi 3.7630
Brandon Woodruff 3.8064
Alex Cobb 3.8207
Julio Urias 3.8898
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.8918
Cristian Javier 3.9161
Taijuan Walker 3.9202
Blake Snell 3.9227
German Marquez 3.9228
J.A. Happ 3.9439
Justus Sheffield 3.9592
Martin Perez 3.9773
Justin Dunn 3.9955
Mike Minor 4.0090
Chad Kuhl 4.0863
Kyle Hendricks 4.0994
Hyun Jin Ryu 4.1089
Gerrit Cole 4.1518
Brady Singer 4.1546
Dylan Cease 4.1649
Josh Lindblom 4.1805
Aaron Civale 4.2135
Chris Bassitt 4.2562
Logan Webb 4.2594
Griffin Canning 4.3253
Randy Dobnak 4.3315
Ryan Castellani 4.3680
Garrett Richards 4.3979
Johnny Cueto 4.4290
Tyler Anderson 4.4339
Luis Castillo 4.4348
Trevor Richards 4.4686
Alec Mills 4.4720
Elieser Hernandez 4.4893
Zach Eflin 4.5236
Danny Duffy 4.5687
Jon Gray 4.5691
Kris Bubic 4.6062
Kyle Freeland 4.6086
Mike Fiers 4.6259
Kyle Gibson 4.6400
Alex Young 4.6448
Jordan Montgomery 4.6558
Patrick Corbin 4.6679
Mike Clevinger 4.7079
Erick Fedde 4.7112
Chris Paddack 4.7287
John Means 4.7524
Matthew Boyd 4.7528
Ryan Weber 4.8360
Robbie Ray 4.9321
Asher Wojciechowski 5.0405
Luke Weaver 5.0837
Tanner Roark 5.1162
Adrian Houser 5.1193
Brett Anderson 5.1354
Rick Porcello 5.1496
Jordan Lyles 5.2228

The Danger Zone: Sudden IP Increases

From Chris Sale to Rick Porcello, and two other Boston teammates mentioned below, many starters who pitch deep into the playoffs appear to have trouble maintaining their workload the following year. Our early research shows that this increase is emphasized even more if the pitcher had a 20 inning increase, or 15 percent increase, in the year they pitched deep into the playoffs. We will fully flesh out the underlying research in the offseason, but here’s a taste of what we’ve identified as the “danger zone.”

 

Historical Context: 2018

 

That Red Sox championship seems forever ago, but a key part of their playoff run was the rotation. As we have seen the last couple of postseasons, teams are leaning on their top-tier starters more than ever. As a result, these players potentially run a higher risk for injury the following year. Take these two pitchers:

 

Player 2017 Total iP 2018 Playoff IP 2018 Total IP 2019 Total IP 2018-19 Inning Diff  2018-19 Inning Diff %
David Price 74.2 26 202 107.1 -94.9 -47%
Nathan Eovaldi 0 22.1 133.1 67.2 -65.9 -50%

 

After not pitching a whole lot in 2017, these pitchers had drastic increases in their innings in 2018, only to get injured the following year. We know what happened with Eovaldi. He had surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow for the second time in April 2019, came back in July, and posted a 5.99 ERA in 67 and 2/3 innings. One of the main drivers in his decline was his cutter. Let’s take a look at his spin rates and velocity on the pitch over the last three years:

 

Year Cutter Spin Rate Cutter Velocity
2018 2389 RPM 92.7 MPH
2019 2345 RPM 93.2 MPH
2020 2268 RPM 90.9 MPH

 

No doubt that some, or all, of his poor performance has been caused by this injury. While he maintained his spin rate and velocity in 2019, he couldn’t handle the workload of his high-stress 2018. We also know that Eovaldi is an injury-prone pitcher, but we should have known better to think he could be a top-50 starting pitcher heading into 2019. Now, he’s lost his velocity and spin rate, and I am going to be out on him for however long he lasts in the league.

Taking a quick look at David Price, he went on the IL with left elbow tendonitis in May 2019, and back on and off the IL after that with a cyst on his left wrist. I am certainly not an injury expert, but WebMD says that a cyst on the wrist can form from the following:

“One theory suggests that trauma causes the tissue of the joint to break down, forming small cysts that then join into a larger, more obvious mass. The most likely theory involves a flaw in the joint capsule or tendon sheath that allows the joint tissue to bulge out.”

Considering the innings jump that Price saw and the elbow tendonitis he had before, it’s not a surprise to see that he had tissue breaking down in his left arm, causing the cyst. Alex Cora was also quoted as saying that the cyst caused him to adjust his offspeed grips, which caused him to struggle. He threw the change the same amount in 2019 as he did in years’ past, but just look at the results!

 

Year xwOBA on Changeups
2017 .269
2018 .318
2019 .342

 

Clearly, the cyst impacted his ability to throw the changeup. With Price sitting out the 2020 season, he might actually be a buy low heading into 2021. But still, the lefty will turn 35 shortly and would have to be significantly discounted to take a flyer on him.

 

2019 Worries

 

Despite 2020 being the oddest year of our lifetimes, the 2019 World Series should still be relatively fresh in our minds. Here’s the complete list of pitchers that pitched at least five innings in the playoffs and had over a ten percent increase in total innings from 2018. Any jumps over 30 percent are shaded in red to better separate the biggest jumps.

 

Player 2019 Playoff IP 2019 Total IP 2018 Total IP IP Diff IP % Diff
Stephen Strasburg 36.1 245.1 130 115.1 89%
Gerrit Cole 36.2 248.3 213.1 35.2 17%
Justin Verlander 35.1 258.1 231.1 27 12%
Zack Greinke 25 233.2 207.2 26 13%
Patrick Corbin 23.1 225.1 200 25.1 13%
Anibal Sanchez 18 184 136.2 47.8 35%
Jack Flaherty 17 213.1 182.2 30.9 17%
Adam Wainwright 16.2 187.4 40.1 147.3 367%
Masahiro Tanaka 16 198 161 37 23%
Sean Doolittle 10.1 70.1 45 25.1 56%
Charlie Morton 10 204.2 169.1 35.1 21%
Roberto Osuna 10 75 44 31 70%
Jose Urquidy 10 154 57.1 96.9 170%
Hyun-Jin Ryu 5 187.2 101.1 86.1 85%

 

Of the 14 pitchers on this list, five are currently on the non-COVID Injured List: Strasburg, Verlander, Doolittle, Morton, and Osuna. That’s over 35 percent of the list!  Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of the names on this list. We will ignore Cardinals for now, since they are only 12 games into their season.

 

Charlie Morton

 

2019 Playoff IP 2019 Total IP 2018 Total IP IP Diff IP % Diff
10 204.2 169.1 35.1 21%

 

Charlie Morton’s story is pretty straightforward – just look at the below table.

 

Year FB Velocity
2018 96.1 MPH
2019 94.7 MPH
2020 92.7 MPH

 

Big arrow down here. Morton’s 36-years old, and the velocity decline was expected – but the severity of the decline is even more dramatic than expected. In fact, every pitch has suffered a 1-2 MPH drop over the last two years. Given that he is on the IL with shoulder inflammation, we have potentially seen the last of Morton as a fantasy ace. Unfortunately, selling him low may be the best option at this point.

 

Anibal Sanchez

 

2019 Playoff IP 2019 Total IP 2018 Total IP IP Diff IP % Diff
18 184 136.2 47.8 35%

 

While he is not one of the players currently on the IL, Sanchez had a hamstring issue in 2018, causing him to miss six weeks, which makes up most of this IP difference from 2018 to 2019. He also had a hamstring issue with the other leg in 2019, but was still able to pitch 35% more innings. Again, this looks like a velocity issue.

 

Year 4-Seamer Splitter Cutter Sinker
2019 90.2 MPH 84.3 MPH 87.6 MPH 90.4 MPH
2020 88.8 MPH 80.7 MPH 86.7 MPH 88.9 MPH

 

Sanchez’s velocity decreased on all of his pitches, which has resulted in his strikeout rate dropping 3.8 percentage points from 2019-2020 in the early going. His barrel rate has doubled, and his hard-hit rate is up five percentage points. Sanchez was valuable due to being an innings-eater with decent ratios, but he’s not pitching deep into games nor posting good ratios, so he is droppable in all formats. As Matt Williams said on a recent podcast – no thank you.

 

Patrick Corbin

 

2019 Playoff IP 2019 Total IP 2018 Total IP IP Diff IP % Diff
23.1 225.1 200 25.1 13%

 

Corbin has not been as sharp in the early going as he has been the past couple years. A lot of it appears to be a velocity issue (surprise, surprise), but also spin rate.

 

Year Sinker Velocity Spin Rate
2019 91.8 MPH 2195 RPM
2020 89.6 MPH 2087 RPM

 

His slider is also interestingly slower, has less spin, and not getting as many whiffs. His slider not being as dominant as in years’ past is a clear driver of his ERA going up, along with a lower strikeout rate.

 

Year Slider Velocity Spin Rate Whiff Rate
2019 78.7 MPH 2398 RPM 52%
2020 81.7 mPH 2235 RPM 45.9%

 

Corbin’s lesser stuff has dropped his strikeout rate from 28.5% in 2019 to 22.9% in 2020. A part of that lower stuff could potentially be from pitching so many more innings in 2019. Small sample aside, Corbin may not be the top-15 pitcher we were expecting in 2020. However, with a full offseason of rest and a guaranteed lower amount of innings in 2020, he may start going lower in 2021 drafts, allowing him to be grabbed at a nice value.

 

Stephen Strasburg

 

2019 Playoff IP 2019 Total IP 2018 Total IP IP Diff IP % Diff
36.1 245.1 130 115.1 89%

 

Strasburg is the poster boy of this exercise. We know that he has been injured throughout his career (he’s the same age as Clayton Kershaw, which is simply nuts). We should have seen an 89% increase in innings from the year before as a warning in big red flashing lights. Given that he had extra time to rest during the long layoff, we overestimated his ability to stay healthy.

He is now on the IL with a nerve issue in his right hand. Similar to the other Nationals’ pitchers on this list, his velocity was down a couple of ticks in the limited time that he has pitched. You can’t trade him at his low point in redraft leagues, but I would look to unload him after he comes back and has a good outing in dynasty leagues. A 90% increase in innings does not bode well for his future.

 

Roberto Osuna

 

2019 Playoff IP 2019 Total IP 2018 Total IP IP Diff IP % Diff
10 75 44 31 70%

 

For a reliever, Osuna pitching 31 more innings is astronomical. We know that he didn’t pitch a lot in 2018 due to his suspension, so it’s a bit of a surprise as to why the analytically-minded Astros let Osuna run up his pitch count. The Astros won the West by 10 games, so they could have relaxed him a bit down the stretch. Based on this substantial increase, Osuna’s fastball decreasing 2.5 MPH from 2019 and his subsequent Tommy John surgery shouldn’t be a massive surprise. Osuna won’t make a fantasy impact until 2022, but these are the types of analytics to pay the utmost attention to in offseason draft prep.

GPS Location Report: Jose Berrios

Welcome to Week 2 of the GPS Location Report. This is my weekly dive into pitcher location and pitch usage to determine why a given pitcher is succeeding or struggling. Last week I dove into Dylan Bundy and determined that he was using his breaking balls to start at-bats and it was leading to a ton of success. He continued that success again on Tuesday making me look like a genius.

As my Twitter feed and my Tyler Alexander recommendation shows, I am not a genius. I will make mistakes and I will suggest things that end up being wrong but that is all part of the fun. Today, instead of looking at a pitcher who is having a career-best season, I’ll be diving into Jose Berrios who is having one of the worst years of his career.

 

Jose Berrios

 

Berrios has looked like a budding ace in the past few seasons. While he has always had stretches of true dominance mixed with struggles, but he had been a mid-3s ERA pitcher each of the last three seasons. However, the start of his 2020 has been brutal. This season he has posted an ERA just below 6. His hard-hit rate is rising and his K rate has dropped significantly.

The first thing I like to look at when I see massive changes in a performance like this is pitch mix. For Berrios, the main difference this season is a drop in sinker rate being offset but an increase in change-up rate. Overall, this would seem like a positive trend as his sinker has been historically hit harder than his change. So far in 2020, his change-up has been getting crushed. This could be a part of the issues he has been having but the change is still the pitch he uses least often.

The big difference in what I am seeing so far is that his fastball is getting torched. So far he has allowed a wOBA of 0.571 and an xwOBA of 0.522 according to Statcast. The average Exit Velocity on his Fastball is 96 MPH. Plain and simple, the pitch is just getting destroyed. This led me to consider that his ability to locate the fastball has regressed. Below I have included the location chart for his fastballs on top of expected wOBA.

 

 

Quite simply as you can see, his fastball location has been brutal. Especially early in the count, he has been leaving his fastball over the heart of the plate. However, the issues do not appear to be limited to solely the first pitch of at-bats. Many of his fastballs are being left over the heart of the plate. This seems to support the destruction currently being done on his fastball.

I decided to query the expected data and compared Berrios’s fastballs to all other pitchers. Among the 80 pitchers who have thrown at least 150 Fastballs, Berrios ranks 18th in location-based expected woba on the fastball. This may not seem terrible, but it also includes his sinker which has been fairly successful in 2020 so far. However, the issue is that while his fastball has a high expected woba, it also has an extremely low expected Whiff rate. Among the same sample of pitchers, his xWhiff is 11th lowest. The critical thing to note here is that among the ten pitchers ahead of him, Berrios has the highest expected woba. So based on where he is locating his fastball, he is not expected to generate many whiffs, and when contact is made the expected woba is extremely high. This is an extremely dangerous proposition for a pitcher and this could explain why he has been struggling so much to begin the season. When Berrios next takes the mound keep a close eye on his fastball location.

 

Stuff ERA Leaders

 

All stats are updated as of Sunday, August 16th. 

 

Stuff-ERA Leaders
Min 200 Pitches
Pitcher Stuff-ERA
Shane Bieber 2.2581
Dylan Bundy 2.6548
Aaron Nola 2.7192
Yu Darvish 2.8812
Frankie Montas 3.0125
Freddy Peralta 3.0912
Lance Lynn 3.1188
Dinelson Lamet 3.1337
Jacob deGrom 3.1364
Corbin Burnes 3.2242
Zac Gallen 3.2927
Carlos Carrasco 3.3862
Max Scherzer 3.3909
Max Fried 3.4068
Austin Brice 3.4263
Zach Plesac 3.4367
Trevor Bauer 3.4393
Alex Cobb 3.4531
Ryan Yarbrough 3.4996
Brandon Bielak 3.5175
Gerrit Cole 3.5185
Kyle Hendricks 3.5357
Sonny Gray 3.5477
Josh Lindblom 3.5556
Kenta Maeda 3.5621
Julio Urias 3.6049
Touki Toussaint 3.6147
Tyler Chatwood 3.6340
Lance McCullers Jr. 3.6445
Walker Buehler 3.6472
Luis Castillo 3.6693
Jalen Beeks 3.6725
Pablo Lopez 3.6782
Kevin Gausman 3.6887
Chad Kuhl 3.6960
Cal Quantrill 3.7003
Spencer Turnbull 3.7265
Brady Singer 3.7356
Zach Davies 3.7418
Phillips Valdez 3.7421
Yusei Kikuchi 3.7550
Jesus Luzardo 3.7587
Clayton Kershaw 3.7604
Alec Mills 3.7625
Zack Greinke 3.7820
German Marquez 3.7862
Griffin Canning 3.7876
Dallas Keuchel 3.8043
Andrew Heaney 3.8197
Yohan Ramirez 3.8297
Chris Bassitt 3.8359
Randy Dobnak 3.8383
Tanner Roark 3.8438
Tommy Milone 3.8441
Kyle Wright 3.8621
David Peterson 3.8848
Merrill Kelly 3.8854
Wade LeBlanc 3.8855
Brandon Woodruff 3.8927
Trevor Williams 3.8955
Justus Sheffield 3.8999
Garrett Richards 3.9008
Zack Wheeler 3.9138
Mike Clevinger 3.9296
Robbie Ray 3.9336
Hyun Jin Ryu 3.9375
Adrian Houser 3.9455
Tyler Anderson 3.9459
Colten Brewer 3.9507
Cristian Javier 3.9842
Lucas Giolito 3.9846
Antonio Senzatela 3.9976
Dustin May 4.0020
Elieser Hernandez 4.0049
Jose Berrios 4.0356
Patrick Corbin 4.0367
Jon Gray 4.0417
Framber Valdez 4.0420
Asher Wojciechowski 4.0508
Patrick Sandoval 4.0536
Joe Musgrove 4.0544
Alex Young 4.0745
Josh James 4.0830
Tyler Glasnow 4.1022
Matt Shoemaker 4.1052
Nick Margevicius 4.1261
Trevor Richards 4.1330
Martin Perez 4.1683
Kyle Gibson 4.1691
Logan Webb 4.1727
Danny Duffy 4.1926
Taijuan Walker 4.1954
Dylan Cease 4.2116
Tyler Alexander 4.2188
Kyle Freeland 4.2282
Kolby Allard 4.2344
Mike Minor 4.2405
Erick Fedde 4.2410
Ivan Nova 4.2592
Marco Gonzales 4.2599

Streaming for the Future (Week 3 Targets)

Two-start pitchers with good matchups are usually owned or will cost a decent penny in this shortened season. The focus of this weekly series to find really available pitchers and hitters who can be rostered a week early to beat the rush.

Week three is not going to be a good week to add streamable pitchers, for the simple reason, most are already owned. The two-start arms are comprised mostly of #2 and #3 starters. To focus the discussion on available players, I’m just going to list players available in less than half of CBS leagues. I’m trying to dig past the obvious choices. With that caveat out of the way, there are a few guys to gamble on.

 

Pitchers (using CBS ownership)

 

Green Light: Grab These Pitchers

 

Josh Lindblom (MIL) at CHW, vs CIN (29%)

Lindblom should already be owned by some team in every league with his single start at Pittsburgh. I’m guessing the low ownership rate is based on him being an unknown quantity. Last season in the KBO, he earned the league MVP award (20 Wins, 2.50 ERA and 189 strikeouts over ​194 innings). Owners should roll him out this week and keep him around for the two-start week coming up.

 

Justus Sheffield (SEA) vs OAK, vs COL (27%)

Like Lindblom, Sheffield has a nice single start (vs LAA) before the two start week. It’s tough to buy in since he really struggled last season. While the strikeouts were decent (9.3 K/9), he allowed too many walks (4.5 BB/9) and got hit around (1.3 HR/9 and .371 BABIP).

Despite the suspect major league results, there is some upside. Sheffield has some pedigree as top-100 prospect (#27 in 2019 by Baseball America). Also, he is working on a new two-seam fastball.

Unlike Lindblom, I may not blindly start Sheffield at the Angels (Andriese), but if he does break out, this week will be the last chance to get him relatively free.

 

Brady Singer (KCR) at CHC, vs MIN (13%)

I’m not sure how much trust to put into Singer, but it might already be too late for some cheap bids. He struck out seven Cleveland hitters in five innings of work allowing only two runs. And he gets to start versus Detroit (Nova) next week. The bidding will be intense and I could see him go in the 20% to 50% range. Some desperate owners may take a chance on him.

 

Yellow Light: Maybe, if you are desperate

 

Justin Dunn (SEA) vs LAA, vs COL (6%)

Dunn’s matchups aren’t the worst but he struggled in a small MLB stint after being a borderline prospect while traversing the minors. His potential owners get to see him face the Angels (Sandoval), so the high minor league strikeout rate (10.8 K/9 in AAA last) may become obvious. With Dunn, fantasy owners are hoping on a spectrum of unknowns.

 

Kevin Gausman (SFG) at COL, at LAA (19%)

This option is decent and I’d recommend him if it weren’t for the word “at”. I just don’t think a fantasy team can take a chance with Gausman in Colorado. The win would be in play because the Rockies offense stinks. I guess maybe. Ratios be damned.

 

Daniel Mengden (OAK) at SEA, vs HOU (2%)

First, these two starts may not happen because Oakland’s staff is still getting set. While the Seattle start seems workable, Houston has seen Mengden enough to be used to his funky delivery. In nine games against Houston, Mengden has a 6.21 ERA and 1.67 WHIP. If I had to make the decision, I like the two-starts more than the choices after him but a disaster most likely will happen.

 

Red Light: No thanks

 

Steven Brault (PIT) at MIN, vs DET (1%) and/or Chad Kuhl (PIT) at MIN, vs DET (1%)

It’s tough to know what Pittsburgh is going to do next week with this spot, let alone in two weeks. The current scuttlebutt is that the pair are going to piggyback the start. If that happens, the second starter is worth a dart throw for a chance at the win. Pass on both this week, but re-evaluate after the situation clears up.

 

Framber Valdez (HOU) at AZ, at OAK (15%)

Just because a pitcher plays for Houston, it doesn’t make him good. Valdez’s issue is too many walks. In over 100 major league innings, he has a 5.70 BB/9. As a starter, he has a 5.25 ERA with matching ERA estimators. He has to get the walks under control. There is always a chance, but he’s already 26 so the breakout should have already occurred. Pass.

 

Carlos Rodon (CWS) at MIL, vs CLE (11%)

What a tough draw for a two-start week. I don’t see myself using any resources on him this week for those matchups. I can’t do it.

Danny Duffy (KCR) at CHC, vs MIN (16%)

Duffy got the Opening Day nod for the Royals so potential owners at least got a look before bidding and didn’t see much. It wasn’t pretty. He only struck out two batters over four innings. Additionally, his fastball velocity was down over 1 mph. I just don’t see any upside here.

 

Ivan Nova (DET) vs StL, vs PIT (3%)

The rotation is in flux with Daniel Norris off the COVID IL but is not yet stretched out. It’s possible that Dario Agrazal gets the first start for the week in question. Everyone involved has limited talent so owners should just stay away.

 

Tommy Milone (BAL) vs NYY, at WAS (3%)

There is a good chance Milone doesn’t make it to this start based on his lack of talent and/or John Means comes off the IL.

 

Hitters

Note: I rarely add hitters two weeks in advance to stream, but if I’m making a decision for the next week, the streamable week is a nice tie-breaker.

 

Twins (2 at PIT, 2 vs PIT, 3 at KC)

Load up on them, but most already are. The only option may be Marwin Gonzalez (7%) if Byron Buxton stays hurt.

 

Giants (4 at COL, 3 at LAD)

Who cares about those three at the Dodgers. Four on the road at Colorado makes any Giant with talent a must-target.

Wilmer Flores (3%), Hunter Pence (9%), Mauricio Dubon (13%), and Darin Ruf (0%) would be my choices based on lineup position and talent. For a long shot, Jaylin Davis (2%) is a member of my Voit-Muncy All-Stars and has the potential to be a deep sleeper. And he’s already got a home run on the season.

 

Rockies (4 vs SFG, 3 at SEA)

Most of the Rockies are already owned. The only option — and I feel dirty for saying it —is Matt Kemp (4%). The Rockies seem invested in DHing him every day. Rockies going to Rocky.

 

Tigers (2 vs StL, 2 at Stl, 3 at PIT)

Besides Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals starters are rather pathetic. The problem is that so are the Tigers. The three options I prefer are Nicko Goodrum (19%, batting leadoff), Jonathan Schoop (14%, batting 2nd), and C.J. Cron (31%, batting 4th). All three could be a decent bench bat this upcoming week and then streamed the next week.

 

Cubs (2 vs KC, 2 at KC, 3 vs StL)

It’s time to continue picking on the St. Louis and Kansas City pitching staffs. Jason Heyward (12%), Ian Happ (40%), and Victor Caratini (11%) are available options. While Happ is the most owned, he may struggle to accumulate counting stats batting 9th. While not a sexy pick, Jason Heyward is a nice safe play for a team needing outfield help. The wildcard is Caratini. He doesn’t need to produce much from the catcher position to be valuable.

Hyun-Jin Ryu: Anchoring Bias

Hyun-Jin Ryu experienced a career season in 2019 and not because of his production (2.32 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.0 K/9). He was better in 2018 (1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.7 K/9). The 182 IP was his highest total since he threw 192 in 2013. He entered the offseason as one of the top free agents and eventually signed with the Blue Jays. While his fantasy value should have taken a decent-sized hit, the drop took months. The same scenario is playing out with all the NL pitchers while incorporating the same DH penalty. Fantasy owners should be able to take advantage of the slow-moving crowd who have anchored their old evaluations.

Before going any further, I’m going to save some people some time. If a person doesn’t believe in the quality of Masterball and Steamer projections, they need to stop reading and go on with their day. No evidence (i.e. math) is going to convince them otherwise. For the rest, continue on.

 

ADP

 

While Ryu is a sample of just one, changes in his NFBC ADP (average draft position) show his perceived value slowly changed over the course of the offseason. To illustrate this change, I will use the NFBC’s draft champions information because it was available before Ryu signed with the Blue Jays on December 27th. Before the trade, Steamer projected Ryu for a (3.74 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9). After the trade, the projection worsened (4.27 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9). Part of the adjustment can be attributed to changing parks, but most of it was from the addition of the DH.

Time Frame: NFBC ADP
Before signing: 107
Dec (after signing) and Jan: 130
Feb: 139
Mar: 141
Apr: 151

While some January leagues may have drafted Ryu before the signing, the news should have sunk in by the February drafts. While there was some initial change, the gap continued to widen into April. In all, he dropped 44 spots or about three to four rounds depending on the league size.

 

Projections

 

Moving onto the current projections and draft valuations, AL and NL pitchers should be on the move compared to each other. To see if an adjustment is occurring, I collected the overall ADP from March and compared it to the ADP since June 1st. I took five presumed healthy starters, then and now, from each league who were being drafted closest to pick 107 in the earlier drafts and compared them to their current ADP (ignored Shohei Ohtani, James Paxton, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jesus Luzardo, and Zack Wheeler).

 

 

Note: In the latest drafts, closers are getting pushed up for a couple of reasons. First, fantasy owners know that they won’t be able to grind out Saves during the season so they are prioritizing them now. Second, closers are likely to accumulate a higher percentage of the innings making them more valuable. The move up by closers means that the average starter ADP should be heading down.

The new valuations are beginning to barely creep in. Ryu immediately dropped 23 spots and eventually 44 spots while the NL pitchers have only dropped four so far. It took a while for the market to find Ryu’s price and the current correct seems to be even slower at making the adjustment.

Here is another way to look at the same dataset. The pitcher’s rank (i.e. order being drafted) is compared to my projected based pitcher rankings. While I know more goes into the public valuation (ADP) than just the projected stats, a pitcher’s final contribution comes from the stats they produce. A projection has to be a valuation starting point.

 

 

All starters are seeing their value drop, especially in this range where closers are being drafted. The AL starters have about 3 more spots to drop to groove in with their projected values. It’s about another 31 spots for NL pitchers.

For the three people still reading, what does that mean? Draft all the AL pitchers you can. Sit down with the updated projections and find some matched pitching pairs and draft all AL pitchers at a discount before the market corrects itself, if it even can in a couple of weeks.

Here are a couple of examples of how waiting on starting pitching can pay off by matching up a couple of starters.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Assuming a 12-team league, a fantasy player can have Walker Buehler in the 2nd round and Clayton Kershaw in the 4th. Or a player can wait and draft Charlie Morton in the 5th and Zack Greinke in the 6th for the same projected production. Owners will start catching onto this market inefficiency but if the slow crawl in Ryu’s ADP is any indication, it’s a huge advantage to exploit. For those fantasy managers who somewhat believe in projections, the price mismatch is a sizable edge. Many owners are going to be anchored to the rankings they read or heard about for months. And …