One of the biggest stories of the week revolved around the Cleveland rotation. It wasn’t good news either, as Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger have been optioned following an incident in which they broke team protocol. They decided to frolic about Chicago, then returned to the team without telling them that they were potentially exposed to COVID-19. It’s a very deserved demotion, particularly for Plesac, who decided to post an “apology” video in which he took no accountability for his actions. Considering teammate Carlos Carrasco is a high-risk player – he missed most of 2019 with Leukemia – Plesac and Clevinger’s actions are simply unconscionable. I left them on the list because I doubt they’re gone long, but it’s anyone’s guess how many turns they miss in that rotation. On a separate note, keep an eye on Carrasco’s velocity, which dipped in his last start.
Stepping into the rotation is Adam Plutko. I always think about the Price Is Right game Plinko when I see his name, so I’m predisposed to like him. I prefer the Cliffhanger game though, personally. I’d watch people play that game all day rather than the Sly Stallone film of the same name. Anyway, I left Plutko off the list, but he could be just as valuable as some of the guys on the back end. It’s hard to get too excited due to his low strikeout ceiling (5.27 K/9 through 13.2 IP) but his strong command makes him worthy of a deep league stream here and there.
The Starting Pitcher Barometer
- Pablo Lopez, MIA (+36) – The Marlins are back baby, and Pablo Lopez is going to pull a Clockwork Orange and open your eyes to his brilliance. Through three starts (16 IP) Lopez has a 19:4 K:BB ratio to go along with a 2.25 ERA (3.08 SIERA). The 24-year old righty doesn’t have a good fastball, but he has been deploying a terrific changeup 30.6% of the time, up from 22% a year ago. The change has generated a 47.7% whiff rate, an 80% GB% (!!!), and a .192 xwOBA. More changeups and fewer curveballs are just what the doctor ordered, as his curve had a .342 xwOBA last year. He has also started tossing a new cutter at 90 MPH, which he is throwing over 10% of the time. It’s not an excellent pitch by the numbers, but it will help keep hitters off his fastball. He won’t be able to keep up this elite pace overall, but he is very much an all-formats streaming option.
- Madison Bumgarner, ARZ (-44) – Living up to his name at long last, Madison is now bumming around somewhere beyond the Top 100. As I previously mentioned, his velocity is way down this year. He has fallen from a 92 MPH fastball to below 88 through 2020. He isn’t missing bats, with an 8.1% SwStr% which has cratered from an 11.6% mark last year. The spin rate on his curveball is down from 2,645 RPM to 2,479, and the whiff rate on that pitch alone has fallen from 33.2% to just 18.2%. He’s giving up home runs like he’s trying to be Oprah, with a 3.63 HR/9. Unless he can make some huge strides very quickly, I can’t imagine continuing to roster him outside of very deep leagues.
- Nate Pearson, TOR (-27) – Oh Nate, you disappoint me. For once, I’m not even talking to myself! I’m talking about Nate Pearson, who is off to a rough start for the Buffalo
WingsJays. Control was considered an issue at the time he was drafted. He never struggled with it throughout the minors, however, so those concerns had been essentially put to rest as far as I was concerned. Through his first three starts (12.1 IP), sadly, he has an 11:9 K:BB ratio and a particularly heinous 5.11 ERA (5.90 SIERA). His electric slider is getting a bunch of whiffs, but his fastball has been, well, erratic to say the least, as the below graphic illustrates. Batters are spitting on his erratic pitches as well, with a mere 24.8% reach rate. It’s looking like a bumpy ride with Pearson for 2020, so he drops into the nether regions of the Streaming Zone this week, where it smells like cheese for some reason.
- Kevin Gausman, SF (SP57) – I’ve been a sucker for Gausman since he debuted in *pulls up player page* 2013!! It seems like a lifetime ago. After many botched years with the Orioles, I decided he wouldn’t live up to my expectations without a change of scenery. Then he moved on in 2018 and it was more of the same. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 158 times, shame on…BABIP? I have to blame something else besides myself. Gausman had his splitter working well in his last start against the A’s. He racked up 11 K’s, netting a 42% CSW on the splitter and 31% overall. He has picked up a tick of velocity and has done a good job of keeping fastballs somewhat high and splitters low. He’ll be volatile, but the strikeout upside along with a rotation spot locked down makes him a nice streamer.
- Elieser Hernandez, MIA (SP59) – Just call him Ahhnold because Elieser was an Eraser against the Braves on Sunday. He shut them out over five innings with just three hits, no walks, and nine K’s. He had a terrific 38% CSW overall. His slider in particular is an obscene offering. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he is essentially a two-pitch starter, only deploying a show-me changeup once every fortnight or so. Also, his fastball isn’t great. His lack of a third pitch will make it problematic for him to turn a lineup over a third time. It also led to a pronounced platoon split against lefties in 2019, allowing a .372 wOBA. He’ll be good for strikeouts as a streamer, but the blow-up potential is real.
- Brad Keller, KC (SP60) – The less intriguing Keller on the mound (hat tip to Mitch as the more intriguing Keller) makes his debut on the list. He has opened 2020, after a delayed start, with two scoreless outings. Pretty impressive, right? Well, that’s as far as my excitement goes. He deserves a spot in the Top 100, but he’s still the same Brad Keller. He’s another two-pitch starter with a great slider, a la Hernandez. Keller doesn’t have the same control nor strikeout upside, however. His final season line will wind up resembling his current 4.64 SIERA more than his 0.00 ERA.
- Justus Sheffield, SEA (SP78) – Sheffield cracks the list after a fine performance against the Astros. He went six innings, allowing just one earned run with one walk and four K’s. I was never crazy about Sheffield as a prospect due to his lack of control. His walk rate sits at 3.20 BB/9 through 19.2 IP. I’m not sold on that sort of walk rate just yet, coming off a 4.50 BB/9 in 2019. He also had a low 22% CSW in this start, including a 14% CSW on 35 sliders. That CSW is lower than a limbo stick at a yoga party. He’s still a low-end streamer. At least he’s got a cool name.
The Top 100 Starting Pitchers
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