2019 Bold Pitcher League Leaders

Yesterday, I unveiled my bold hitter league leaders, of which I expect to go 10 for 10. The pitching side of the ledger is a bit easier. Given that there is both more luck and factors outside the specific pitcher’s control that shapes his surface results, it’s more conceivable that a non-favorite leads the league in a category.

In an effort to avoid double dipping and naming the same pitcher in two categories, there may have been a slightly better bold choice for a particular stat. Also keep in mind that it is challenging to balance boldness with realistic, considering this requires me to bet against a group of names in which it’s like a 95% lock that one of them wins the category. I eliminated many names that I didn’t think were bold, but maybe you do. I also eliminated names that have no real chance at leading in the category. I decided against a bold wins league leader, because wins are silly and unpredictable. I also deleted my strikeout league leader, because it would seem just about impossible for any non-top projected guy to lead the league.

American League

ERATyler Glasnow

Does Glasnow follow in his fellow teammate Blake Snell’s footsteps in enjoying a brilliant breakout season? Though defensive support isn’t as important for a strikeout artist like him, the Rays figure to provide excellent fielding behind him. He dramatically cut his walk rate upon coming to the Rays, and that’s been the last red flag he needed to correct en route to a breakout. His fastball velocity has been superb during spring training, too, so strikeouts should continue to come in bunches.

WHIPShane Bieber

This Biebs may not sing and make the ladies oooooh and aaaah, but impeccable control is his calling card. He actually just posted the highest walk rate of his career during his Indians debut, and that was just 4.7%! He combines sterling control with strikeout ability, as he has always been in the mid-20% range, backed by double digit SwStk% marks. And while most spring training stats are meaningless, pitcher strikeout and walk rates are not. Bieber struck out nearly 33% of the batters he faced in the spring, while walking just 4.5%. Is there more strikeout rate upside here?

The biggest question is whether he’s actually “hittable” like his inflated BABIP suggests, or it was just mostly or completely bad luck. Where his BABIP lands will determine how low that WHIP could go.

SvBrad Boxberger

The Royals haven’t formally announced who their closer is, but with no standout characters, Boxberger and his experience should be the man. I also think he’s a pretty good pitcher and significantly better than his outward 2018 results. He was crushed by the home run ball last year, but guess what? He’s now in one of the best home parks for power prevention. Control is the biggest issue here, so he’s either going to post a double digit walk rate and fail to record 10 saves, or display improved control and hold the job all season long.

National League

ERALuis Castillo

I had totally forgotten that Castillo was my pick in this very column last year. He endured a roller coaster of a season, alternating months he got crushed (three months with a 5.57+ ERA) and those he was scintillating (three months with an ERA below 3.50). Overall, his second half was much closer to what we expected than his first, though I wouldn’t go betting on a 2.44 ERA. That said, his strikeout rate surged and walk rate declined, which is the exact recipe for a breakout. Armed with an elite changeup, excellent slider, and a fastball that peaked at 99 MPH, he’s got the stuff to dominate.

WHIPJoe Musgrove

I was tempted to go with Chris Paddack here, but he’s highly unlikely to throw enough innings (162) to technically qualify for the title. Musgrove also possesses excellent control and has strikeout upside from his excellent slider/changeup combo that has helped produce SwStk% in the mid-11% range the last two seasons.

SvPedro Strop

It’s true, the Cubs do have a bunch of pitchers who could probably hold onto the closer role all season. But Strop will likely be given the first opportunity, and he’s quite good. He has posted a sub-3.00 ERA for five straight seasons, and that has been supported by absolutely dominating stuff that has yielded SwStk% marks no lower than 15.5% during that time. You really think Brandon Morrow is going to return from elbow surgery, not lose a beat in his effectiveness, and regain the closing gig? Way too many question marks and if Strop is doing his typical sub-3.00 ERA work, then it would be silly to change his role.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Not a great start when you mistakenly refer to your very first player as a “fellow southpaw teammate” of Blake Snell. Glasnow is a northpaw.

Jackie T.
Jackie T.

Go easy on Mike, Dougan.