Deep League Starting Pitchers (Scherzer, Rogers, Manoh, Montas, & Gray)

It’s finally time to start my annual tradition of examining starting pitchers being drafted after pick 300 in NFBC drafts. For each article, I’ll examine about five guys when I find time between updating my outfield and top-200 hitter rankings and also Mining the News.

Max Scherzer (302 ADP)

What a horrible pick. If everything goes as planned, the 39-year-old is out until at least June or July while being a 4.00 ERA pitcher last season (3.77 ERA, 4.02 xFIP) and is projected to do the same this year (4.04 ERA, 4.07 SIERA). This ADP is from 12-team redraft leagues with no IL slots. Why in the world would someone plan on holding an old, hurt, average pitcher for three to four months on their bench?

The only way I’d even consider adding him would be in the last round with the intention of dropping him during the first FAAB period and then sliding him onto my roster once he starts his return.

Trevor Rogers (304 ADP)

In 2023, Rogers made four starts in April and was then shut down with a forearm issue. In late May, he attempted a comeback and made two minor league starts before being shut down for the season with a shoulder issue. After that, he even dealt with a lat injury. I looked around the interwebs and could not find any update, good or bad, on his recovery.

It’s going to be tough to set his talent with no information. ERA estimators valued him as a low-4.00 ERA pitcher and this season’s projections agree even though he struggled with velocity.

In 2022, Rogers averaged 94.6 mph on his fastball but last season, it nose-dived from 94.2 to 93.8 to 93.0 to 92.3 before he went on the IL.

In his rehab start, he was able to get his fastball velocity up to 93.6 mph before getting hurt again.

Over this career, he’s been able to deal with righties with an elite changeup (career 17% SwStr%). For lefties, he used a slider (career 14% SwStr%) but his past season the slider wasn’t right. He added ~2 mph to it but its swinging strike rate dropped to 10% Swstr%. The usage was also down from 18% to 13%.

Trevor Rogers’ Slider
Stat 2020 2021 2022 2023
Stuff+ 91 88 100 88
Bot Stuff 49 48 52 42
Velo 81 81.9 80.7 82.6
SwStr% 13.2% 15.0% 14.8% 9.5%

I ran some comps on the pitch and they agree that the faster slider should perform worse.

I couldn’t find an answer to why the slower slider performed better. Usually, there is no difference when a pitch changes shape and/or speed by that amount. I asked Lance Brozdowski and here is what he said.

The issue was that the average movement I used didn’t show the variation in pitch movement. I’m thinking about how to correct this issue besides looking at the pitch’s scatter chart.

After going down the slider wormhole, I’d be interested in him if:

  1. His fastball velocity is up to 2022 or earlier standards.
  2. He dumps the 2023 slider for his previous one.

Alek Manoah (309 ADP)

With Manoah, I felt he was being drafted way too early in 2022 but no one guessed his fall from grace. He struggled because he couldn’t find the plate as seen by his 6.1 BB/9 in the majors. It wasn’t any better in the Complex league (6.8 BB/9) and AA (5.40 BB/9). He couldn’t locate his fastball (Zone% from 59% to 50%) and slider (Zone% 44% to 39%).

Manoah showed some Spring Training struggles with his walk rate going from 1.9 BB/9 in 2022 to 3.5 BB/9 in 2023 but not close to the walks he allowed in the regular season.

I wasted way too much time trying to find that one stat that would point to if he’s back and I couldn’t locate it.  For 2023, I could see myself rostering him as a bench arm that I don’t plan on using for three to four starts.

Currently, he’s being drafted as the 128th pitcher in 12-team NFBC leagues, so the market is going with the same approach since 108 (9*12) pitchers are needed in a starting lineup.

Frankie Montas (309 ADP)

I covered him in a previous article.

Jon Gray (314 ADP)

The 32-year-old gray made several changes in 2023 but his results got worse with his walks and home runs up and strikeouts down. Overall, his K%-BB% dropped from 18% to 13%.

I expected his strikeouts to improve with him dropping his fastball rate from 51% to 42%. The issue was that teams started to load up with lefties against him. The adjustment probably happened when teams had a chance to analyze his 2022 season when he posted a 24% K%-BB% against righties and a 12% K%-BB% against lefties. In 2022, he faced lefties 48% of the time and that number jumped to 51% of the time last season (17% K%-BB% vs RHP, 10% vs LHP).

His one saving grace might be a changeup he threw 12% of the time and it posted an 11% SwStr%. Maybe it’ll take a step forward in 2024.

Overall, I see Gray as an aging starter who might be able to have a decent season or two but his best is behind him.

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 months ago

I understand the Scherzer pick in a league with IL spots. No one gets certainty after 300 ADP, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where he is valuable the last few months. With an IL spot, you won’t have to make a decision until that point.