Finding This Year’s _____: Pitcher Edition

One of the more popular questions I get in any given offseason is “Who is this year’s ____?”, usually focused on identifying the next breakout of a certain mold. Sometimes it’s about a bust, but it’s often looking for the upside. I’ve got eight pitcher scenarios from last year that I’m going to overlay on this year’s ADP data to identify some potential gems. For some of the deeper categories, I added a few extra considerations.

I’m using the NFBC ADP (linked above) and set to 2/1/19 and Draft Championships.

Trevor Bauer: 2nd Half Surge Carries Over into Huge Season (150+ ADP)

Nathan Eovaldi (177th Average Draft Pick) – A cutter gave Eovaldi new life and fostered his best per-inning performance yet. After the break, he put up a 3.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 22% K, and 5% BB in 60 innings. He added 22 excellent postseason innings to cap off a great season. The 29-year old re-upped with Boston and should push 150+ innings of quality work. Health has been a concern throughout his career (just one season with 155+ IP), but these days you can put up a Top 20 season with 130 or so elite innings.

Blake Snell: 200+ ADP Cy Young Candidate

Joe Musgrove (220th ADP) – Musgrove doesn’t have the prospect pedigree of Snell, but take a look at how Snell’s 2017 and Musgrove’s 2018 compare:

Pitcher IP K% BB% SwStr% WHIP ERA FIP
Snell ’17 129.3 22% 11% 11% 1.33 4.04 4.19
Musgrove ’18 115.3 21% 5% 11% 1.18 4.06 3.59

Snell had the best individual pitch of the pair with his changeup (8.0 pitch value), but both he and Musgrove had three positive pitch values in their respective seasons. They aren’t a 1:1 comp and they don’t need to be because Cy Young candidates can come in different shapes. Musgrove doesn’t feel like the kind of guy who can pop a 32% K rate like Snell did last year, but he also doesn’t walk nearly as many as Snell so if he can push past 25% while cutting his hits allowed and continuing to limit walks, there is massive upside here.

Mike Clevinger: “If He Does This for a Full Season…” (200+ ADP)

Joey Lucchesi (203rd ADP) – Clevinger literally could’ve just put up 30+ starts of his 3.11 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 27% K from 2017 and his drafters would’ve been happy. He improved the ratios a bit while barely dropping his strikeout rate and wound up as a 200-inning standout. We’re hoping for some improvement on Lucchesi’s 4.08 ERA/1.29 WHIP combo, but if that’s all we get with 190+ Ks, it’ll play. Lucchesi has added a cutter this offseason in hopes of finding that third offering to cut some of his predictability and in turn, home runs.

(I reeeeaaallllyyyyy wanted to pick Ross Stripling here, but he isn’t likely to enter ’19 with a rotation spot so the “full season” part is tough.)

Patrick Corbin: New Peak Standout (225+ ADP)

Steven Matz (259th ADP) – Matz hasn’t quite reached the heights of Corbin as his 154 innings in 2018 were a career-high, but Matz’s work to date (3.98 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 15% K-BB) is line with Corbin’s prior to 2018 (4.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 13% K-BB). While Corbin amped his slider usage to fuel his excellent season, Matz is more likely to utilize his deep arsenal to spur a breakout. With health, I like Matz to post his first full season and set career-bests in ERA, WHIP, K-BB, and IP.

Walker Buehler: Late Round Super Rookie (325+ ADP)

Chris Paddack (432nd ADP) – Paddack missed all of 2017 to a Tommy John surgery, but returned with a brilliant two-level effort last year, posting a 2.10 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 33% K-BB – fueled by a 2% (!) BB rate in 90 innings. The 23-year old righty hasn’t reached Triple-A yet, but won’t need much time there if he pitches like he did in 2018. Paddack could spend upwards of 6 weeks in the minors and still get near the 137 innings we saw from Buehler last year, but honestly I’m less concerned about the inning count for this comp (as long as it’s 115+) and more interested in the performance during the innings.

Also considered: Michael Soroka (316th), Mitch Keller (482nd)

Zack Wheeler: Afterthought Injury Rebound (400+ ADP)

Drew Pomeranz (484th) – Pomeranz hasn’t missed two full seasons like Wheeler did in 2015-16, but Pomeranz backers are few and far between after a worthless 74-inning effort last year (6.08 ERA). The Giants inked the 30-year old lefty to a 1-year deal and they’re hoping he can be this year’s Derek Holland for them. Let’s not forget that Pomy put up 344 innings of a 3.22 ERA and 25% K rate in 2016-17. The ballpark can protect him a bit and while he’s not really going in anything but 50-round Draft & Holds, keep his name on your radar in case of a fast start.

Also considered: Danny Duffy (413th), Danny Salazar (434th)

Blake Treinen: Outside Top 20 RP Superstar (175+ ADP)

Trevor May (246th ADP) – May doesn’t have a firm hold on the closer’s role like Treinen did coming into 2018, but the 29-year old flashed incredible skills during a 25-inning sample last year (30% K-BB, 15% SwStr) so he’s my bet to take the job and run with it. The Twins should be solid, too, giving May a chance to push 30+ saves.

Josh Hader: 300+ ADP Middle Relief Stud

I’ve got a righty and lefty for you here!

Ryan Pressly (387th ADP) – Perhaps if the Twins had kept Pressly, he’d have been in the last category. Instead, I think he’ll be a popular late-round draft or in-season pickup to supplement rotations in many leagues. He had a great season across the board, but he really took off with the Astros thanks to cutting his walk rate from 9% to 4% while boosting his strikeout rate five points to 38%.

With a pair of devastating breaking balls, Pressly has a great shot at another 100+ strikeout season. Given how popular middle relievers are these days, I’m surprised he’s going this late, but it’s a great buying opportunity for the rest of us!

Jose Castillo (485th ADP) – The Padres always seem to find relievers and Castillo is a young southpaw who put up a fantastic 38-inning debut (3.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 27% K-BB). He should be the #1 lefty in their pen and while he dominates lefties, he handles righties well enough to get a decent workload. This is more of an NL-only play because I’m not sure Castillo can push 65+ innings. There is 75 K upside if gets at least 50 innings, though.

Who is your favorite among this group? Do you have anyone fitting the categories and ADP thresholds that you prefer? Let me know!

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Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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dl80
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dl80

I really like Taylor Rogers as the Middle Relief Stud. He’s going at 442 ADP and while he won’t put up the K rates of either Castillo or Pressly, he was phenomenal after June 1st last year: 47 IP, 23 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 10 BB, 57 Ks for a .146/.206/.231 line.

In that time, he had 21 IP against lefties and allowed only 7 singles and 6 walks, with zero extra base hits. It’s possible that he’ll end up being used mainly against lefties, but in that same time frame, he went .174/.216/.322 against righties.

I think he really has a chance to be their best reliever this year.