Previously, we discussed how there were some left-handed pitchers to be had late in drafts that could and should offer significant upside. Today, I take the opposite approach, and, to quote the great Bob Marley, “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right” and offer you, right-handed pitchers, with the same sort of upside. Let’s not waste any time and get right to it, shall we? A reminder that all ADP will be based on NFBC rankings.

 

Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

2019 stats: MiLB

ADP: 328

That’s right, my very first pick is a rookie who has never pitched in the majors! Go big or go home, right? However, looking at his ADP, I’m not alone, am I?

Ranked as the #1 Blue Jays’ Prospect via Pipeline, Pearson comes armed with an 80 Grade fastball that tops out in triple digits, a 60-grade slider and an above-average curveball and changeup. Here’s what he did over three levels of Minor League Baseball in 2019:

That, my friends, is outstanding. Before Spring Training began, it was announced that Pearson would not have an innings cap in 2020, propelling his preparation to be stretched out even more. To summarize what Blue Jays’ President Mark Shapiro said in a radio interview a few months ago, the team wants to get the innings out of Pearson now and see if fatigue sets in. They want to see if he can handle the workload now so they can monitor and plan for future years based on what they discover now.

He demonstrated that their faith in him was well warranted with a very successful Spring Training where he struck out 11 batters in seven innings pitched. He surrendered only two hits and three walks in that time, which led to his 1.29 ERA and 0.71 WHIP.

So while he is unproven at the Major League level, he does come with massive upside. He is a cornerstone piece of the Blue Jays’ pitching staff of the future. The potential 2020 season will be unlike any other we’ve seen. With it all but official that there will be no Minor League season, prospects have nowhere to go to develop but in the Major Leagues.  We don’t know what the future holds for baseball in 2020, but a shortened season means a big reliance on pitching since games on the schedule will most likely be condensed. Go grab Pearson now. He will most likely be a fixture in 2020 and WILL be a fixture in 2021.

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Kyle Gibson, RHP, Texas Rangers

2019 stats: 13-7, 4.84 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 160.0 IP, 175 H, 56 BB, 160 SO

ADP: 453.5

Kyle Gibson is a pitcher who always seems to let me down every year because I think he can do better than he does. When I think of him, I see a middle of the rotation kind of player who generates enough strikeouts to sustain value but gets himself into trouble with the long ball and walks. However, when one digs deeper into his profile, he’s a pitcher that needs to change his style.

His fastball is his weakest pitch. In 2019, he threw it 18.2% of the time and got rocked:

With an average of 93 miles per hour, this fastball wasn’t blowing anyone away, and thus, he gave up more than half of his home runs on a pitch that he threw less than one fifth of the time all season. The promising news about this is that he threw it 5% less often than he did in 2018, where he gave up 14 home runs, so perhaps he was starting to already make a change. What he did do well, especially with his secondary pitches, was get batters to chase, which is important, as it shows his other pitches have a lot of movement.

How is this happening? He’s progressively getting better movement on his secondary pitches, specifically his curveball and his slider:

What does this all mean? What it means is his numbers in 2019 might be a bit inflated. His ERA, WHIP, and counting stats don’t totally reflect how good Gibson was and could be. He’s moving to a team, the Texas Rangers, that has helped other struggling pitchers like Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, rejuvenate their careers. Furthermore, it was revealed that he battled through ulcerative colitis in 2019, which may have caused his second-half breakdown after a solid start to the season. Finally, he’s learning how to change his approach and is thus relying more on movement than he is speed. This has resulted in his Swinging Strike rate to go up. With an ADP of almost 400, I’m betting that Gibson puts it together for a successful year in Texas, where the new ballpark should help pitchers more than before.

 

Pablo Lopez, RHP, Miami Marlins

2019 stats: 5-8, 5.09 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 111.1 IP, 111 H, 27 BB, 95 SO

ADP: 498.0

On May 10, 2019, the Miami Marlins went into New York to play the Mets, and Pablo Lopez turned in one of the worst starting performances in quite a long time. His pitching line that night: 3.0 IP, 10 ER, 10 H, 2 BB, 3 SO….which ballooned his ERA from 4.03 – 5.93. The word disastrous doesn’t begin to describe his night. A week later, he faced the same team. How did he respond?

To me, it showed a sign of maturity, composure, and an ability to study and improve. Pablo Lopez confidently remains on my list as pitchers to target later in drafts. If you eliminate that one awful start, his ERA is in the mid 4’s, his WHIP is even lower than it is, and we’re talking about a young pitcher who is up at least 100 ADP. Some other reasons I like him: his Chase contact% was better than the league average. Also, his 5.8% walk rate and his 20.3% strikeout rate all support that he has the stuff to do it. But it’s not his 94 miles per hour fastball that’s his best stuff:

And it’s that unlucky fastball (his xBA of .251 was lower than his actual BA of .277) that attributed to his xERA of 4.57 showing how unlucky he actually was. Injuries after the All-Star Break didn’t help Lopez maintain any sort of momentum. He does have good control, evidenced by a low WHIP. I’d definitely rethink this Marlins pitcher and consider him for my bench to be used in some good situations.

 

Elieser Hernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins

2019 stats: 3-5, 5.03 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 82.1 IP, 76 H, 26 BB, 85 SO

ADP: 539.0

Yes, there’s another Marlins’ pitcher here, and Elieser Hernandez has a lot of unique and eye-opening underlying stats that lead me to believe that he was better than his overall numbers indicate. A victim of the long ball, Hernandez surrendered 20 home runs in 2019, which is a lot, given the innings he pitched. That said, he’s not alone in this regard, as a record number of home runs were hit by everyone last season. Furthermore, look at his peripherals with regards to how he compares league-wide:

A ton of what he did last year is well above league average, and almost to the point of the elite. With an xwOBA of .290, Hernandez was unlucky last year as he finished with a WOBA of .340, which was one of the biggest differences in all of baseball. His xERA was actually 3.67, which is a far cry from his final ERA of just over five.

And, much like the aforementioned Lopez, Hernandez’s stats are mired due to disastrous outings. Hernandez spent two weeks in the bullpen and gave up six of his earned runs and raised his ERA up a full run in that time frame. When he returned to the role of starter, he was able to strike out more than a batter per inning in most games he pitched.

To figure out how and why, I looked at all of his pitches, and it was his slider that caught my eye:

For a pitch that he threw a third of the time, he held batters to a paltry .152 batting average and had a 37.4% Whiff percentage. Add to that his changeup, which produced a .117 batting average, and you have two pitches thrown for 47% of the time giving up next to nothing. With a fastball that averages in the low 90’s, he’ll need to pick and choose where he throws that, but he has the ability to break out once the season starts.

With the potential for a shortened, condensed season, he should get into the rotation. In my opinion, he’s better than Jose Urena and could easily replace him as their fourth or fifth starter. Keep an eye on him, as he’ll probably go undrafted in most leagues. If he gets a chance and reels off one or two solid starts in a row, consider him as someone to be added and see if the breakout happens.

 

Seth Lugo, RHP, New York Mets

2019 stats: 7-4, 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 80.0 IP, 56 H, 16 BB, 104 SO

ADP: 314.0

First off, I can’t say this enough, but Seth Lugo was arguably the second-best pitcher on the New York Mets in 2019. He dominated when he came into games and has evolved himself into one of the leagues best set up men. Plain and simple, he was awesome last season.

Take a quick minute to not only look at all of the red above but admire how amazing he was last season. He was firing on all cylinders, highlighted by a fastball that he throws almost 60% of the time with a yielded .154 batting average and a 40.2% strikeout rate.

His second pitch, the curveball, is incredibly deceptive, due to its eye-popping spin rate. Lugo, who is ranked third in all of baseball for Spin Rate, is deceptive in his delivery as his pitches look the same coming to home plate. What happens midway through each delivery is another story, confusing batters with balls being placed all over the zone at all sorts of speeds.

It was this sort of movement that helped him dominate last summer. After a rough patch to end his June in 2019, he followed up with a July to remember:

So, why am I recommending a setup man? First of all, his ratios will help you in a shortened season. Quality innings pitched will net you some much-needed strikeouts as every game is important for you. Lugo’s 28.0 K%BB% is beyond elite, which indicates the likelihood of a safe and low WHIP. On top of that, the Mets’ current closer job belongs to the unpredictable Edwin Diaz, who, by 2019 standards, was not good at all.

That said, even if Diaz returns to his 2018 form, a condensed season means a condensed schedule with plenty of back to back games, The Mets do not like using their relief arms without a day’s rest, meaning Lugo should get opportunities if Diaz needs a rest. Ultimately, what I’m saying is, if you need holds or saves, or even both, Seth Lugo should be a late-round pitcher that needs to be drafted.

 

Dustin May, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 stats: 2-3, 3.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 34.2 IP, 33 H, 5 BB, 32 SO

ADP: 318.5

As of this writing, Dustin May probably doesn’t have a spot lined up in the rotation for 2020. There are too many capable arms in the Dodgers’ rotation, May just won’t be able to get himself consistent starts. However, his skill set is too enticing to keep him off the mound and pitching for the AL West favorites.

With a shortened season, innings limits could be gone altogether and the young arms that teams have will be using thrust into innings that they may not have seen before. Dustin May, a heralded rookie, fits the bill, as the Dodgers have gone on to say that they have up to eight pitchers they could use for starts.

He came up in August of last year and struggled a bit out of the gates, though still posting respectable numbers as a starter. He moved into the bullpen in September and that’s where the differences started becoming more noticeable.

Dustin May doesn’t rely on speed to overpower his opponent. Though his four-seamer fastball tops out in the high 90’s, he only relies on that pitch a mere 10% of the time. It’s his sinker that and his cutter that really are his bread and butter. A combined 81% of his arsenal, May hides the difference of these two out of his glove well, leaving the batter to guess what is coming at them.

Pretty hard to tell the difference, as both have significantly different movement on them. His sinker is especially lethal, as it held batters to a .239 batting average last season and an 11.8% strikeout rate.

The question remains now, in 2020, what will happen? First, we know that it will be a shortened season, thus there will be fewer games with a condensed schedule. Second, with presumably no minor leagues, May needs a place to harness his craft. He’s got over thirty-four innings of major league work to build upon, so he’s no stranger to that.

Finally, the Dodgers have never shied away from expanding their rotation to more than your typical standards of five. May is a quality arm whose future is bright. Given the chance to improve his two main pitches would be a plus for him. Keep an eye on May. The minute he makes the rotation is the minute you should pick him up to see if 2020 is even better than advertised.