10 More Starting Pitchers, Just Because

Yesterday, I published 15 starting pitcher blurbs, just because. It involved a long prologue behind the what, when, and why of the matter. In short, I spent much of the offseason secluding my digital self from outside noise (fantasy baseball articles, Twitter opinions, etc.), forcing myself to develop opinions on as many relevant players as possible. I isolated my brain from outside analysis and biases, leaving me with only my own. I wanted to document my thoughts, both to have a point of reference during drafts and to have a record of those thoughts for accountability’s sake. If nothing else, be accountable to yourself.

At the end of yesterday’s article, I solicited recommendations from readers for more pitchers to feature. That, my friends, was an enormous mistake. Although I alleged I would pick names at random, instead I combed through 85 comments (and counting) and tallied up the most combined recommendations and up-votes. Those are the ones I’ll present here.

To reiterate another point from yesterday: the blurbs below come straight from my 2022 draft season’s “north star,” as I called it. They are first instincts—in some cases they were written months ago, and in pretty much all cases they lack spring training data/information. Despite the point of all this, it would be irresponsible of me to ignore recent developments. I’ll address those as needed.

One last thing: I pull most of my analysis from my Pitch Leaderboard with assists from the usual places like FanGraphs and Statcast/Baseball Savant. Any references to pitch comparisons come from my Pitch Comps tool, which I love, but it could also be the death of me. Also, there’s a glossary at the end of this, in case you’re confused about any terminology, acronyms, abbreviations, what-have-you.

Without further ado: 10 more staring pitchers, per your collective request, in order of votes (followed by alphabetical order by first name for ties):

Tylor Megill | NYM | $2.5 ($1.0 per IP)

Wouldn’t be surprised to see him on sleeper lists. FF-SL-CH arsenal. Despite bad outcomes for both, decent comps on FF (Wheeler, Ian Anderson, Gilbert) and excellent comps on CH (Anderson, deGrom, Nola). May rely on CH for both whiffs and GBs. SL will accrue whiffs, too, but should be weaker than suggested by peripherals (.304 xwOBAcon). Hey, I might call him a sleeper, too. Just know that 89.2 IP is most for him in any pro season, so leash could be short. 130 IP, 3.90 ERA (27% K | 8% BB | .380 wOBAcon)

To correct myself, he threw 130 IP last year including in the minors. I imagine he could push 150-160 this year. Not sure my opinion has changed, but another 25 innings makes him a $6.2 player. That would make him roughly a top-45 starter for me.

Eduardo Rodriguez | DET | $5.3 (-$0.5 per IP)

Only fastballs and off-speed stuff, plus a show-me SL. FF gets whiffs but gets clubbed to death. CH is his bread and butter but lacks wipeout qualities. FC and SI play roles but are anemic. Locationally too middle-middle—very Pineda-esque (high-BABIP/homer-prone). Rumblings re: move to DET were positive, albeit vaguely (like, why?). Unclear to me how DET fixes two-headed issue of bad fastball and good-not-great put-away pitch. 160 IP, 4.00 ERA (26% K | 8% BB | .380 wOBAcon)

Trevor Rogers | MIA | $10.1 ($5.8 per IP)

5% HR/FB sticks out like sore thumb. Bad news: closest FF comps include Ray, Boyd. Good news: CH is devastating. SL can be solid, even above-average, third pitch. Big arsenal with ace-caliber K%. Easy to point to ERA estimators (3.54 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA) and expect to regress—which he will, just maybe not all the way. May possess legit contact suppression skills. But I don’t trust FF, which I think could give back much of his breakout. I suppose 3.50 ERA ain’t bad. 150 IP, 3.50 ERA (29% K | 9% BB | .360 wOBAcon)

For clarity, my ERA projections are algorithmic, not guesswork, so I found myself now and again contradicted by my own projections. Rogers is a good example; I thought I would be more bearish, but my projection encouraged me to warm up to him. I do think his fastball could hold him back from taking another step, but we’ll see.

Drew Rasmussen | TBR | -$6.2 (-$8.0 per IP)

Almost exclusively two-pitch (FF/SL), which bodes poorly for rotation longevity, although some do overcome and excel. Power fastball does most of heavy lifting. SL leaves much to be desired but has stifled hard contact. Sustainable? TBD. Marquee projection systems glow for Rasmussen but likely include relief work, where he was more dominant. Deserved and actual K% roughly 11 ticks lower as SP—problematic, obviously. Seemed to show better control as SP—probably didn’t let loose as much—but all else suffered. Prognostication here as SP only. 80 IP, 4.40 ERA (19% K | 8% BB | .360 wOBAcon)

The newfound appeal here, for those who missed the news, is Rasmussen is now throwing a slider (popularly called a “sweeper”). Folks already liked him; I, on the other hand, was pretty far out on him, as evidenced above. I’m willing to humor the idea that his sweeper improves him significantly. I think he could be a high-3s ERA guy, which, in 130-or-so innings (assumed by the aforementioned marquee projection systems), would make him a slightly above-average pitcher in 12-team leagues ($2.3).

Zach Thompson

I actually didn’t write a blurb for Thompson—he didn’t seem particularly appealing to me on first glance. He must have had a good spring because y’all want to hear about him. So let’s do one of these in real time.

Zach Thompson | PIT | $2.3 ($1.4 per IP)

FC-FF-CU-CH-SI profile, all used roughly 10% or more. 95th percentile release height creates super-steep approach angle on all pitches. Four offerings feature double-digit SwStr%, three had deserved ERA (dERA) marks below 2.00. Wainwrightian FC… eh. Bears lots of SL comps, highlighting unusual movement. FF comps to Stripling, Musgrove, Greinke—none glowing. CU, CH both solid. Surprised he doesn’t use SI more. I felt excited at first, less so now, but unique release point could help everything play up beyond expectation. FYI, last time he eclipsed 100 IP in a season was 2016. 120 IP, 3.70 ERA (24% K | 8% BB | .350 wOBAcon)

Carlos Hernández | KCR | -$1.9 (-$5.1 per IP)

Rob Silver alerted me to an undeserved omission. Despite double-digit BB%, long track record of tidy BB% in minors. Four pitches with double-digit SwStr%. Could be a Sonny Gray clone: FF-SI-CU make up bulk of arsenal and comp closely. Fastballs boast mid/upper-90s velo. SL boasts volatile mix of strong and mediocre comps. Weak CH, but more spin axis mirroring could help it play up. There’s something to work with here. Long track record of low K%, though, curbs enthusiasm. 120 IP, 4.20 ERA (22% K | 8% BB | .370 wOBAcon)

I think there’s high-3s-ERA upside here. Grabbed him in a couple of leagues. Velo and FF comps are interesting.

José Urquidy | HOU | $1.9 ($0.1 per IP)

Annihilated high minors in 2019. Curious combo of high PU% and steep vertical approach angle on FF. Possible that this particular combo of fastball shape and location throws off hitters. Not that the approach is foolproof; I expect some homer-prone bouts. CH gets whiffs; SL is solid, if not overpowering. Both secondaries mirror their spin axes and have spectacularly limited hard contact. I expect home run correction, but it may not come. 140 IP, 3.90 ERA (21% K | 5% BB | .360 wOBAcon)

Luis Patiño | TBR | $3.3 (-$0.4 per IP)

Works consistently up, gets whiffs with 96 mph FF. Created completely different velo and movement on SL (looked more like FC) compared to 2020 but with similar outcomes. Old version might be better. Abandoned CH. Savant shows CU and SI he barely threw, so maybe he was workshopping. At this point he’s kind of in two-pitch purgatory. Only 22 with room to grow but still work to be done. 140 IP, 4.00 ERA (25% K | 8% BB | .370 wOBAcon)

Hedge your innings expectations.

Nestor Cortes | NYY | -$0.8 (-$3.5 per IP)

Interesting but low-ceiling repertoire. Wise not to expect more of .265 BABIP or 85% LOB%, but he does induce PUs like a sonofabitch (99th+ percentile). That’ll beat FIP. Contact suppression skills can be fickle, and Cortés is not a big K guy, so ride could be bumpy—but fruitful. Nominally the SP6, but with recovering/injury-prone Severino/Taillon/Germán there will be plenty of innings to go around. 120 IP, 4.00 ERA (23% K | 8% BB | .370 wOBAcon)

Another high-3s-ERA upside here with the expectation of more of those pop-ups that suppress wOBAcon.

Mitch Keller | PIT | $0.4 (-$3.8 per IP)

Another in-real-time evaluation. Obviously, sitting 96-97 and touching 101 is huge. Keep in mind he sat 95-96 in 2019. FF got clobbered then, so I’m not sure velo is key to unlocking potential, unless pitch shape changed, too. But it’s not the FF that matters—it’s the SL that, while his FF sat 95-96, notched an otherworldly 27.4% SwStr. Buried his CU for GBs back then, too. Apparently has a new sweeper, too, like everyone and their mother; unclear if this replaces existing elite SL or supplements it. I would guess the FF sets up the secondaries again, but FF itself is at that precipice of becoming effective purely by virtue of near-elite velo. Using 2019 as baseline, but still considering woes from 2020-2021, while also accounting for 2022 offseason: 130 IP, 4.20 ERA (25% K | 9% BB | .380 wOBAcon)

I think it’s hard to know what to expect with Keller. I’ve gambled on him a couple of times, definitely.

* * *

Glossary (all terms may not have been used)

FF four-seamer
SI sinker (includes two-seamers)
FC cutter
CH change-up
SL slider
CU curve (KC knuckle-curve)
FS splitter
GB ground ball
LD line drive
FB fly ball
PU pop-up
IP innings pitched
K% strikeout rate
BB% walk rate
SwStr% swinging strike rate (swinging strikes ÷ all pitches)
LOB% left-on-base percentage (“strand rate”)
CSW called strikes plus whiffs ([called strikes + swinging strikes] ÷ all pitches)
BABIP batting average on balls in play
EV exit velocity
LA launch angle
wOBAcon weighted on-base average on contact (value of batted ball outcomes)
xwOBAcon expected wOBAcon (a measure of contact quality)
SSW seam-shifted wake
ADP average draft position
NFBC National Fantasy Baseball Championship, a high-stakes fantasy baseball series
DC Draft Champions (draft-and-hold league: 15 teams, 50 roster spots, no adds/drops)
TJS Tommy John surgery

Currently investigating the relationship between pitcher effectiveness and beard density. Two-time FSWA award winner, including 2018 Baseball Writer of the Year, and 8-time award finalist. Featured in Lindy's magazine (2018, 2019), Rotowire magazine (2021), and Baseball Prospectus (2022). Tout Wars competitor. Biased toward a nicely rolled baseball pant.

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7 months ago

I like Keller, but Carlos Hernandez might be a real steal this year. I’d be thrilled with a Sonny Gray clone, depending on which Sonny Gray it is.