Deep League Starting Pitchers (Rodriguez, Cabrera, Yarbrough, & Gil)

Four interesting arms, an elite prospect, a streaming option, and two guys who are just a step or two from being elite.

Dual role pitcher profiled at RotoWire.

Deep League Starting Pitchers

Grayson Rodriguez (508 ADP)

According to every scouting report, Rodriguez is the most talented pitcher in the minors. All discussions about him start with his fastball and here is Baseball America’s take on it.

Rodriguez’s fastball averaged 97 mph for the season and frequently hit 100 early in the year before settling in the mid-to-high 90s late.

Besides the plus fastball, he has three pitches (slider, curve, and change) that scouts grade out as average or better. He used those pitches to dominate hitters last season. In 103 combined innings across two levels ending in AA, he had a 2.36 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 14.1 K/9. He straight up shoved.

The one issue holding back his upside until last season was the lack of command as seen by his ~9% BB% in 2018 and 2019. He took care of the walks last season with a 6% BB% in Single-A and 7% in AA.

The only question coming into this season will be when will the Orioles promote him and how many innings he’ll throw.

Edward Cabrera (529 ADP)

Cabrera is 100% a dart throw at this point in a draft with huge upside. He was cruising through the minors until this past season when an arm (bicep) injury delay his start until June 6th in A-ball. He pitched like his old self until he got to AAA where he lost the ability to consistently throw strikes (5.8 BB/9). His 14.7 K/9 covered up the flaw allowing him to have a decent 3.68 ERA but an inflated 1.40 WHIP.

Once promoted to the majors, he was a complete mess. The Marlins limited his pitch count and he never reach 80 in seven starts. His 9.6 K/9 was reasonable but a 6.5 BB/9 and 2.1 HR/9 led to a deserving 5.81 ERA. It’s possible he was using some foreign substance to help him throw and the ban enforcement hurt his control. Also, he was dealing with a toe and finger (blister) in the majors. If he gets a chance to heal this offseason, he could start finding the plate.

To show his upside, here is how his pitches performed last season.

Edward Cabrera’s Pitches
Pitch Usage SwStr% GB% Zone% vsOPS
4-seam 38% 7% 28% 52% .850
Change 24% 12% 47% 44% 1.629
Slider 20% 17% 50% 40% .492
Curve 17% 16% 58% 51% .669

The changeup is for sure an issue. It’s biggest problem is that it has only 4 mph separation from the fastball, not the desired 8 to 12 mph. I ran my pitch comparison tool and it compares to mostly bad sinkers.

And bad sinkers get hit around.

While he didn’t throw his curve much, it was borderline elite with the groundball numbers and swing-and-miss capability. It would be perfectly fine third pitch if the changeup doesn’t come around.

I added to my notes: “Check CH velo and BB/9 in ST”. Everyone else should also for a potential deep sleeper.

Ryan Yarbrough (532 ADP)

Yarbrough appeared on the fantasy landscape in 2018 with he got 16 Wins as a follower. There is a reason he’s a follower, he not a good pitcher. He has an 86 mph fastball. His slider (16% SwStr%) and change (12% SwStr%) get a decent number of swings and misses, but it’s not enough to keep hitters off-balance. Or to get his strikeout rate over 7.0 K/9. As a starter over his career, he has a 3.69 xFIP the first time through the order, but it jumps 4.72 the second time and 5.22 the third.

All of his fantasy value comes when he’s been a follower starting after an opener. Over his career, he has a 10-16 record in 50 starts (20% Win%, 4.79 ERA) and a 27-7 record in 57 relief appearances (47% Win%, 3.69 ERA). Last year, the results were similar with a 5-5 record in 21 games started (24% Win%, 5.46 ERA) and a 4-2 record in nine relief appearances (44% Win%, 4.03 ERA).

There is no fancy formula with Yarbrough, just keep him on the waiver wire unless the Rays are using an opener with him. With an opener, he’s a viable streaming option, especially in deeper leagues.

Luis Gil (532 ADP)

Gil’s got some Cabrera vibes going on with a good strikeout rate last season (11.7 K/9) but a high walk rate (5.8 BB/9). The deal with Gil is that he’s always had walk issues with the 5.8 BB/9 being one of his better rates (5.9 BB/9 in AAA).

Besides command issues, he struggles because he’s a fastball-slider guy who dabbles with a subpar changeup.

Luis Gil’s Pitches
Pitch Usage SwStr% GB% Zone%
4-seam 53% 11% 22% 52%
Slider 39% 16% 43% 48%
Change 7% 8% 50% 39%

The fastball and slider are great at missing bats and he might just need to trust them more and just pound the strike zone.

As for his change, it has the same issue as Cabrera with it not having enough velocity difference from his fastball. It’s also a bad sinker.

He needs that change as he struggles each time through the lineup. The first time he has a 3.47 xFIP (26% K%-BB%), a 5.67 xFIP (9% K%-BB%) the second, and 6.43 xFIP (0% K%-BB%) the third.

Just like Cabrera, I’m adding to my notes “Check CH velo and BB/9 in ST”.

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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