Late-Round Evaluations: Houck, Akin, Dunn, and Schmidt

While most of the off-season analysis will be on top players, I’m going to focus my attention on the players who will be on the fringes of rostering. They are the players who once the season starts, managers are going to have to make a quick decision on adding or dropping. These players will be in play all season. It’s time to learn about a few options beginning with starting pitchers.

I decided to not pull the pitchers out of thin air but use the ADP from the #EarlyMocks to find them. I started at the bottom and selected any pitcher added by two or more teams (and no auto drafts). Here is an evaluation on the bottom four starters.

#521 Tanner Houck

The 24-year-old former first-round pick had a near-perfect three start late-season callup. Three Wins, a 0.53 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and an 11.1 K/9.

To begin with, here is a video of a couple of pitches.

I’m not a fan of pitchers with his delivery. He lands on the third base side and twists his torso to throw home. I find these pitchers deal with an above-average number of injuries (e.g. Sean Manaea).

Also, he’s going to perform better against righties since the ball looks like it heading for them. On the other hand, lefties will own him since they get a good look at the ball. The difference is obvious in the few innings he threw. He posted a 29% K%-BB% against right-handed hitters and just 5% against lefties.

Another glaring issue is that he walked 14% (4.8 BB/9) of the batters he faced and it wasn’t a one-year phenomenon. He’s always had issues finding the plate as seen by his 5.0 BB/9 last season in AAA. He needs to get them under control.

Like most low arm slot guys, he just throws a fastball-slider mix but does split the fastballs into sinkers and four-seamers. Here are the results of those pitches last season.

Tanner Houck’s Pitch Results
Pitch SwStr% GB% Usage
Four-seamer 10% 38% 36%
Slider 17% 60% 36%
Sinker 6% 57% 27%

The individual pitch results lineup with his over results and should keep in the league in some fashion for years to come.

Overall, I’m not a fan. I think he’s a gimmick pitcher who will have success against a lineup once or twice but struggle once hitters get used to him. Now, he may get plenty of starts since Boston’s rotation is pathetic. I could see myself spending a late-round pick on him knowing I need to move on quickly, especially if he can’t find the plate.

#518 Keegan Akin

Late in the season, I dug into Akin’s profile since he was one of the few pitchers with two-starts in the last week. While the last week was a complete disaster (7.71 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, 10 Ks), there is a lot to like if a person digs beyond the surface stats. A 4.56 ERA and 1.44 WHIP were mainly BABIP (.358) driven. The walks (3.5) were also an issue and, like Houck, they have been in the minors (4.9 BB/9 in AAA).

For the positives, he posted a 12.3 K/9 and his ERA estimators hovered around 3.50. He attacked batters with a four-pitch mix that could use some tightening up.

Keegan Akin’s Pitch Results
Pitch SwStr% GB% Usage
Four-seamer 14% 33% 62%
Change 21% 29% 17%
Slider 4% 43% 10%
Curve 10% 25% 11%

He needs to dump that slider. Also, throw the change closer to 40%. Of course, its effectiveness will drop but he needs to find that point. While the curve is a bit below average, it provides him a third pitch to keep hitters from sitting on the other two. I can see some upside if Akin and more importantly the stubborn Orioles streamline the mix.

The possible red flag is the low 35% GB% because of his homer-happy home park. His 1.1 HR/9 would be ideal going forward but I could see it jump.

Overall, I think he remains a streamer when the opportunity arises. A game against the Yankees at Camden … pass, but a two-step at Tampa and Miami, sure.

#517 Justin Dunn

First off, I need to find out what drafters were drinking to make this pick and then get some. There is nothing on the surface or deeper that point to him being a rosterable pitcher. The good is a 4.34 ERA is from a .179 BABIP. A lower than normal BABIP is not a surprise since he only has a 32% GB%. The flyballs are either outs or homers (2.0 HR/9).

On top of the homers allowed, his 6.1 BB/9 was the second-highest behind Robbie Ray’s 7.8 BB/9 (min 40 IP). Dunn’s below league average 7.5 K/9 could be acceptable if he had a sub-2.0 BB/9.

There just weren’t any changes in obvious changes to his repertoire or arsenal that could lead to future growth. His fastball velocity dropped as the season went on. His pitch results aren’t good enough to hope on a pitch-mix adjustment.

Justin Dunn’s Pitch Results
Pitch SwStr% GB% Usage
Four-seamer 6% 32% 55%
Curve 12% 24% 24%
Slider 12% 38% 15%
Change 2% 17% 6%

He needs to completely drop the change but that would lead to a small improvement. He needs to take a step forward in several areas (e.g. control, increase velocity, a swing-and-miss pitch) to even start being on anyone’s radar.

#516 Clarke Schmidt

I don’t get the love for Schmidt. Maybe there was a big-eyed delusional Yankees fan in each draft hoping Schmidt would break out. Yes, Schmidt is one of the Yankees top-10 prospects. Yes, in seven Spring Training innings, he posted a 2.57 ERA. Even with the Yankees abysmal pitching staff, they would only find room for Schmidt to throw six innings (7.11 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 10.0 K/9). There must have been some reason the Yankees kept him at the alternative site. Possibly he wasn’t a good pitcher.

Schmidt’s ADP is entirely based on prospect hype and fantasy managers have better options. Ignore.

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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Lunch Anglemember
3 years ago

Why all the hate on Schmidt? yeah he’s far from a can’t miss, but 60 fastball/70 curveball combos don’t grow on trees.