The best of, worst of awards continue this week along with a spotlight on fantasy baseball’s catcher landscape in 2015. Last week, I awarded the 2015 Sigh Young — fantasy baseball’s biggest pitching bust — to Jeff Samardzija, who miserably underperformed expectations en route to a pretty awful season.
The 2015 Roto Overhyped Pitcher award is a bit different and probably more subjective. Rather than simply be bad, a pitcher must have also been over-hyped. Too much hype typically occurs for two reasons, neither of which are mutually exclusive:
- The pitcher was once a top prospect
- The pitcher broke out, or turned the corner, the previous season
A few guys fit the bill this season, but I want to get my honorary mentions out of the way first.
Jered Weaver and his slow fastball (or, perhaps, a fast slowball) have been around the block once or 10 times, somehow scrounging together fantasy value for teams despite his fly ball tendencies. It’s not 2015 was his death knell, although it very well may have been; it’s just that there’s so much young, elite talent coming into the game that there was no reason to rely on the old man for his services. Given his declining velocity and strikeout rate, his average draft position (ADP) of 36th represented a ceiling rather than a mean. That he declined the way he did only further underscores the point.
Gio Gonzalez has been starting full-time for six years. He also didn’t really have a bad year, according to his peripherals — his ground ball rate shot above 50 percent for the first time in his career, which would have been a boon to his value were it not for a .341 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). When it comes down to it, he simply walks too many hitters to be valuable among said pool of young, elite talent that brings strikeout upside with above-average or plus control. Like Weaver, Gonzalez’s ADP of 29th offered zero upside.
With the honorable mentions out of the way, here’s my 2015 Roto Overhyped Pitcher ballot.
Teheran is a debatable inclusion here in light of the aforementioned criteria. Thing is, Teheran dominated for two years before suddenly losing control and ballooning his walk rate. The hype was understandable, and it would have been difficult to foresee his collapse. He still generated enough value in deep leagues to not be a total bust, but he definitely disappointed.
Hitters took advantage of Teheran’s off-speed stuff, which may have dampened the effectiveness of his fastball, too. He evaded the zone more often than ever, and hitters laid off his outside pitchers more than ever. It wasn’t a disaster in absolute terms, but it was relatively. I’m no expert, but he needs to refine his off-speed offerings to capture his early-career success.
4. Alex Wood, ATL/LAD
26th ADP, 73rd EOS
Like Teheran — aside from being a Brave at one point — Wood parlayed a solid 2013 debut to an even better 2014 campaign. And, like Teheran, it would have been hard to predict such a sharp decline in an important statistic — in this case, Wood’s strikeout rate. Wood’s trajectory was a little different, however, given his time spent in the bullpen before shuffling into the rotation. It may seem like enough, but even 35 starts can be too small a sample to accurately capture a player’s true skill level.
That doesn’t mean I think 2015 Wood is the true Wood. However, according to PITCHf/x, Wood started throwing a two-seamer (1) pretty regularly and (2) 1.4 miles per hour slower than his 2014 fastball. It likely explains the declining value in his fastball; with a 5.5-percent swinging strike rate (SwStr%), the two-seamer simply isn’t effective. It may be a classification error, but if not… from one Alex to another: lose the pitch.
3. Phil Hughes, MIN
33rd ADP, 102nd EOS
Here you go. Here’s your quintessential turned-the-corner guy. Hughes used to give up home runs like it was his job — to be clear, it’s an occupational hazard, but, well, you know — while barely making it through the fifth inning. Then, upon being traded to the Twins and away from dastardly Yankee Stadium, he magically shaved down his walk rate and stopped giving up long bombs away en route to a 16-win, 5.8-WAR season.
Then, like clockwork, Hughes failed to pitch a full season. He started giving up home runs again. In his defense, his walk rate remained elite, but then the strikeout rate caved. Like the latter two kids, the precipitous drop would have been hard to predict. But after years of mediocrity, we gave the guy way too much for credit for reaching 200 innings, and we gave Target Field way too much credit for keeping fly balls in the park in 2014. Sometimes, fantasy baseball memories can be very short.
2. Doug Fister, WAS
35th ADP, 173rd EOS
Fister has had the luxury of pitching for (purportedly) good teams, but the wins column is a shaky foundation upon which to predicate value. An uncharacteristically low .262 BABIP and an inexplicably high 83.1-percent left-on-base rate (LOB%) masked a preposterously low strikeout rate, no matter how good the walk rate (BB%) was.
The BABIP, LOB% and BB% all regressed and the strikeout rate didn’t rebound, hanging Fister out to dry for 86 innings of 4.60 ERA baseball. His departure from the rotation was somewhat unexpected, but with Tanner Roark lurking in the shadows, it wasn’t entirely surprising. (Joe Ross superseding both Roark and Fister with such success for an extended period of time was far more surprising to me.) Like Weaver, Fister was destined for disappointment at his draft price.
And your 2015 Overhyped Pitcher is…
1. Andrew Cashner, SDP
39th ADP, 148th EOS
A first-round pick in the 2008 draft, Cashner had “stuff.” At the risk of showing my age, I was young back then, but I recall the hype about his velocity. He had promise, and for years, prospectors waited on it.
Except it never showed up. Kind of like the contemporary Nathan Eovaldi, Cashner’s heat was, for whatever reason, not as effective as it should’ve been. He only struck out hitters at remotely remarkable levels in small samples. Still, prospectors gobbled it up.
It took three Major League partial seasons for him to stick in a rotation for a respectable amount of time — and when he finally stuck, he struck out 6.58 hitters per nine innings (K/9). Sure, the ground ball rate was nice. And the BABIP could have been for real, but maybe I’m projecting now. By this time, the velocity over which everyone drooled had long since departed, dipping to a good-but-not-great 94.9 mph.
Then the injury bug bit Cashner again in 2014. Moreover, he didn’t really improve at all. He was 28 years old and had thrown all of 409.2 innings across five Major League seasons. Frankly, I don’t know what everyone expected.
Still, they, whoever they are, expected it, I guess. Y’all drafted him 39th among pitchers overall despite never pitching more than 175 innings in a season, despite not striking out more than seven hitters per nine.
I guess Cashner showed me wrong, because he threw 184 innings and achieved an 8.04 K/9 — decent stuff for a guy finally making good on yesteryear’s promise. Still, he averaged fewer than six innings per start, his walk rate spiked and his BABIP regressed way past the mean. Worse yet, given his swinging strike and contact rates barely budged, I’m inclined to think the strikeout rate spike is a mirage. Inefficient innings will do that.
Luck wasn’t on Cashner’s side in 2015, I know. The BABIP and LOB% hurt him, as did what seems to be a slightly inflated ratio of home runs to fly balls (HR/FB) despite career-best hard-hit and pull rates (Hard%, Pull%). And with only six wins on the season, there’s no doubt the baseball gods smited Cashner this year.
But that’s not the point. The point is: Why? Honestly, 39th? Over Michael Pineda? Jose Quintana? Scott Kazmir? John Lackey, he who rose from a phoenix’s ashes in 2013? Why? What was I missing? What am I still missing?? Please, someone tell me.
It’s not like I’ve had that chip on my shoulder a long time or anything… Anyway…
Who’s your 2015 Roto Overhyped Pitcher? Think I missed anyone?