Five Big Fallers from My SP Rankings

I released my June rankings yesterday. Justin and I also discussed some of the biggest movers into the top 50 on the podcast. There are 40 pitchers who moved up or down at least 15 spots. I can’t cover all of them here today, that’d be like a 5000-word piece, but I do have some thoughts on the biggest fallers on the list. We start with a mea culpa, but I stand by the others!

Mike Foltynewicz, ATL | -56 to 93rd

One of the tough parts about ranking 100+ pitchers a month is that I can’t do a deep-dive on each one of them prior to each update so I thought maybe I goofed when I read this comment: “You made this before Folty started getting his velocity back within his last two starts huh”.

I did in fact miss that Folty’s velo was back up over 95 mph in his last three starts, going from 94.3 mph in his first four to 95.5 in those starts. In that time he has posted a 3.71 ERA and 0.88 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and zero walks in 17 innings, which included starts against Milwaukee and St. Louis. Hilariously enough, Detroit accounted for five of the seven runs he’s allowed.

He was absolutely brutal in his first four starts back (8.02 ERA/1.60 WHIP/8 HR in 21.3 IP) off the injured list, but only one of those happened before the May rankings so I gave him a Must Start rank thinking you’d want to roll with him after his excellent 2018 and waiting for him to get healthy. I overcorrected by bouncing him all the way down to a Deep Spot Starter. He should be about 25-30 spots higher with the potential to move even higher if he continues to pitch this well. I botched this one.

Chris Archer, PIT | -51 to 89th

Archer opened the season with a 2.74 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, fanning 26 in 23 innings and showing a legit three-pitch mix with a career-high changeup usage (14%). He has completely fallen apart in the subsequent five starts with an 8.39 ERA and 1.78 WHIP, allowing fewer than four earned just once. Since the start of 2018, his 4.64 ERA is 71st among 85 starters with at least 190 innings while the 1.40 WHIP is 8th-highest. He’s just not the same guy who was a workhorse strikeout monster from 2014-17.

Sure, he had low-4.00s ERAs in 2016 (4.02) and 2017 (4.07), but 482 combined strikeouts and a usable 1.25 WHIP kept him firmly in top 40 starters, though admittedly he was overdrafted compared to his final season rank. My point is that his struggles are relatively new. Trying to loop in ’16 or ’17 and say he’s been bad for years is just wrong.

I’m almost starting to sound like I’m arguing against myself. I’m not, but I just want to be clear about how long Archer has been a net negative. It’s been a year-plus, but it’s been really bad and I’m not seeing a lot reason for hope. If he didn’t have the name value of being “Chris Archer”, his stock might be even further in the tank. For now, I need a strong two-start slate to even consider him in a given week. I’m not even sure he’s a hold in NL-only leagues right now.

Marco Gonzales, SEA | -43 to 90th

What an absolute meltdown. After a strong April capped off by seven shutout innings against Texas with a season-high nine strikeouts, Gonzales has fallen apart. He has added more than two runs to his ERA from 2.80 in April to 4.89 now thanks to a 7.79 ERA in his last seven starts.

Hilariously, his only two good starts during the run have happened at the Yankees and Rangers. He was smashed by the Cubs, Red Sox (in Boston), Twins, Rangers, and Angels. That’s a really difficult run with all of them sitting in the top 10 of wRC+ against righties. He gets the Angels and Twins in his next two starts, both on the road.

Ed. note: Accidentally mentioned righty info for Gonzales, a lefty. Here’s how those teams stack up v. lefties in wRC+:

  • CHC: 10th
  • BOS: 16th
  • MIN: 2nd
  • TEX: 22nd
  • LAA: 14th

Not as difficult of a schedule, but still only one team in the bottom third of the league. 

The schedule could lighten up and bring Gonzales back into focus in shallower leagues, but for now I’m staying far away. One of the biggest issues with Gonzales is that he doesn’t have any strikeouts to fall back on, so he needs to ratios in check to be valuable.

Marcus Stroman, TOR | -22 to 83rd

Stroman put up 36 strikeouts in 37.7 innings during April. His newly found 11% swinging strikeout rate supported his 24% K rate, but it was short-lived. Stroman fell all the way back to a 14% mark in May (plus 1 June start), losing three ticks off his swinging strike rate. He is still toting a 2.84 ERA on the season, but the 1.30 WHIP makes it tough to truly believe.

He’s a true talent high-3.00s/low-4.00s guy without the strikeouts and there’s no real reason to believe April was anything but a good month. All that said, this was a move within the same tier so I was already prepared for some pullback from Stroman, even after a 1.43 ERA and the big strikeout rate in April.

Joe Musgrove, PIT | -20 to 49th

He couldn’t have had more disparate months. He had a 1.54 ERA/0.89 WHIP combo in April with a healthy 18% K-BB rate. In May, he had an 8.10 ERA/1.67 WHIP with just a 6% K-BB rate. Perhaps the craziest part of his month was that it actually included seven one-hit innings of shutout ball in Arizona on May 14th. While none of his pitches worked consistently, his fastball was especially worthless. No one had a worse fastball pitch value than Musgrove’s -7.4 in May.

His schedule wasn’t doing him any favors with the A’s, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Brewers crushing him. All four of those teams are top half in wRC+ against righties with the Dodgers being 1st at 122. But his schedule wasn’t easy in April and he came out looking great, including a start at the Dodgers (6.7 IP, 1 ER – 3 total runs). I’m still looking at him as a mid-to-high 3.00s talent and there’s still strikeout upside here, though we only see it in flashes as his gamelog is still dotted with 1, 1, 3, and 4-strikeout outings. I’m still keeping him in my lineup more often than not and even open to buying at a discount.

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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As a frequent reader I know how much you like Musgrove. I do think he finds it one year, but I think 49 is way too high for his current self.

Pirates Hurdles
Pirates Hurdles

and then he pitches into the 9th vs ATL.


So 6ks and 3er over 8+ ceiling doesn’t seem like anything too impressive. I’d have him around 80-100.