Deep League Starting Pitchers (Patino, Cobb, Luzardo, & Gibson)

For this series, I want to focus on pitchers going after pick 300 in the NFBC ADP. While I’ve moved well past pick 300, three names just dropped below after 300 so I will go back to examine them before moving further down the list.

Starting and Relievers, Part 1 & 2($$):

Deep League Starting Pitchers

Luis Patiño (300 ADP)

There is not much to get excited about Patiño. While he throws hard (96 mph fastball), he’s basically a two-pitch guy (fastball and slider at 90% usage). The Rays limited him through the lineup so he only averaged 4.6 innings per start (never threw over 6 IP). His 3.4 BB/9 is just below my cutoff for walk rate being too high. His 31% GB% will support a lower BABIP (.265 last season), but a decent number of home runs (1.4 HR/9). Simply, he issues too many walks for the number of home runs he allows.

Also, he was a different pitcher before a combination of a May finger injury and a minor league demotion. His fastball velocity trended up after returning, but he way overthrew it with his strikeout rate getting cut by ~25% (10.6 K/9 in 1H, 7.9 K/9 in 2H).

His average (14% SwStr%) slider not being thrown as much (33% in April, 24% in September) was the reason for the strikeout decline.

Just too much that has to go right for him to take a step forward (increase control, a third pitch, fewer home runs) for me to take a chance on him compared to the other pitchers being drafted around him.

Alex Cobb (300 ADP)

I’m a little surprised Cobb is being drafted so low. I’m sure managers are getting flashbacks to his time with Baltimore (5.22 ERA, 1.42 WHIP), but he’s an improved pitcher. Over the past two season’s he’s seen his fastball gain 1 mph. Additionally, he’s focused more on the splitter (20% SwStr%, 64% GB%) with just a 23% usage in 2018 but up to 37% last year. His sinker, change, and curve keep the ball on the ground 53% GB%. It would be nice to see his walks drop (3.2 BB/9) to take another step forward. Simply, his 3.38 xFIP ranked 17th among all starters (min 90 IP).

He did deal with a blister in the second half and struggled in three starts once returning (4.41 xFIP and K%-BB% down from 19% in 1H to 11% for September). Also, since he only throws two pitches consistently, he struggled the second time through the order (1.79 ERA 1st TTO, 5.35 ERA 2nd TTO). Finally, he became a little too predictable in certain counts (e.g. no splitters to start off righties).

And now he signs with the Giants who have turned every middling to crappy starter into a bonafide ace. If he can stay healthy (decent obstacle) and throw just like he did last season for 150 IP, he’s easily a top-50 pitcher. But if the Giants can fix some of his problems (e.g. the walks), he could take a jump up like Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman did. Buy the floor knowing there is quite a bit of upside.

Jesús Luzardo (301 ADP)

At least for me, Luzardo’s draft cost is … intriguing. The raw talent is obvious (96 mph fastball, wipeout slider), but he has never been able to stay healthy. His combined 124 innings from last season was a career-high. While his 95-mph fastball and wipeout slider (21% SwStr%) will turn heads, he had the deadly combination of allowing too many walks and home runs. In both the minors and majors, he had over a 4.50 BB/9. That many walks are just unrosterable especially when they lead to 1.62 WHIP. As for the home run rate (1.9 HR/9), I’d expect some regression since his 38% GB% isn’t an extreme value as seen by his 1.1 HR/9 Steamer projection.

Besides just praying that he’ll improve, he joined the Marlins at the trade deadline and made a pitch-mix adjustment. He dropped the usage of his sinker and changeup, but his results got worse (4.65 xFIP with Oakland, 4.97 xFIP with Miami). There is just nothing positive to build off of for next season.

At this cost, I’d only consider Luzardo in waiver wire leagues. The hope is that he can start throwing strikes and he lives up to his prospect potential. If he can’t take a step forward, it’s then off the waiver wire. In draft and hold leagues, I’d rather bet on the stable pitching being drafted around him instead. I can’t be taking a zero at this point in the draft with no waiver wire options.

Kyle Gibson (367 ADP)

Gibson and his new cutter were having a great season and then it all fell about with several possible reasons (2.29 ERA in 1H, 5.51 ERA in 2H). First, the foreign substance ban started getting enforced and his cutter lost about 50 rpm. Its swinging-strike rate dropped from 13% (April and May) to 8% (August and September).

The second issue was a groin strain at the end of May. Before the injury, he posted a 2.24 ERA and 12% K%-BB% and after returning, and still with Texas, it was a 3.59 ERA and an 11% K%-BB%. The injury and the ban enforcement happened at the same time, so it’s tough to know exactly how to divide up the blame.

And then he got traded to the Phillies where his results were horrible 5.09 ERA. At the core, he pitched a bit better (1% point increase in K%-BB%, 3% point increase in GB%), but his ERA jumped from 2.87 to 5.09 with a 24 point increase in BABIP (.267 to .291) being the main cause.

In the end, a 3.71 ERA, 3.87 FIP, and 4.14 xFIP with a 1.22 WHIP would be fine. It was just great results out of the gate, but a slow decline during the season. Something close to his final results should be expected for this upcoming season. He feels like a streamer option in all formats.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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2 years ago

To quibble on Luzardo, his last 7 starts (Aug 29-EOS) were very solid with 2 fantastic showings. Small sample size, but there is something to build off with those. I’d be interested in knowing if there were materials changes (pitch mix?) those innings versus the rest of his 2021.