Late-Round Evaluations: Lester, Voth, Velasquez, & Others by Jeff Zimmerman December 11, 2020 I’m continuing my attention on fringe starters. They are the starters who once the season starts, managers are going to have to make a quick decision on adding or dropping. These pitchers will be in play all season. I’m using NFBC’s ADP and starting at the bottom and selecting any starter drafted by half the teams. Here is an evaluation of the six more starters (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6). Note: I had been using the player’s ADP rank and I moved to the actual ADP for clarity. #623 Shane McClanahan The 23-year-old lefty is a member of the Rays organization who pitched OK through the minors until getting hit around (.450 BABIP, 1.5 HR/9) in AA (8.35 ERA). Drafting him seems like a desperate dart throw on playing time and talent. Pass. #616 Daulton Jefferies The 25-year-old right did get called up to the majors for one start where he allowed five runs in two innings. He had been flying through the minors with no hiccups until the start. With little to go off of, here is a look at his pitches from the start. Fastball Cutter/Slider Change Curve It’s a nice variety of pitches, but they didn’t really break. He could have been off during the start, but the results matched up to the pitches. Now there are some positives. The A’s did promote him and he had a great minor league track record, so he’ll likely pitch in the majors next season. Out of the prospects being drafted, I’ll move him to the top. #614 Patrick Sandoval Sandoval’s season was decent except for a 2.5 HR/9 that pushed his ERA and FIP into the ~6.00 range while his other ERA estimators were closer to 4.00. He wasn’t just getting rocked in a couple of games. He allowed a home run in eight of his nine appearances. Also, it wasn’t just one pitch getting hit around. Each one allowed three or four. With a 55% GB%, home runs weren’t supposed to be an issue, but they were. It’s tough to ignore the home runs, but I will for a second to give you an idea of how the rest of his skills stack up. Here are some pitchers with similar strikeout, walk, and groundball rates (min 40 IP). Patrick Sandoval’s 2020 Comps Name K/9 BB/9 GB% ERA Brady Singer 8.5 3.2 53% 4.06 Max Fried 8.0 3.1 53% 2.25 Justus Sheffield 7.8 3.3 51% 3.58 German Marquez 8.0 2.8 51% 3.75 Average 8.1 3.1 52% 3.41 Patrick Sandoval 8.1 3.0 55% 5.65 Sandoval’s ERA was over two runs higher than the average of the other four. Everyone’s looking for a sleeper, so here’s one. At his price, he seems like a must-add in all formats for the chance he performs like the other four comps. #607 Jon Lester I tried to find any reason to get excited for the 37-year-old free agent and surprisingly succeeded. It’s not all good. His fastball velocity has been on a four-year decline (92.1 to 91.1 to 91.0 to 90.3 to 89.2). He tried to offset the decline by throwing the pitch less, but he can’t go any further. There may be a mix that works for him. Here are his pitch results from last season (pERA explanation). Jon Lester’s Pitches Pitch SwStr% GB% pERA Cutter 7.6% 37% 4.72 4-seam 2.9% 32% 6.10 Sinker 7.7% 82% 2.59 Change 14.7% 58% 2.46 Curve 7.0% 58% 3.29 How damn hard is it to not throw the four-seamer. It does nothing. While the cutter isn’t horrible, a sinker, change, and curve pitcher might turn Lester into Dallas Keuchel. For me, where he signs matters and if that team has any history of improving pitchers. If that combo hits, there’s a chance Lester could at least be streamable, or maybe a bit better. #604 Austin Voth I apologize for recommending Voth to anyone last season. Sort of. I knew Voth had a couple of decent non-fastballs and when his fastball velocity jumped up, I thought I spotted a sleeper pick. The problem was that his velocity tanked and so did the results. Here is a comparison of his career results when his fastball is over and under 92.5 mph. Austin Voth’s Fastball Velocity Results ERA K/9 BB/9 Over 92.5 mph 4.31 9.81 2.15 Under 92.5 mph 5.56 7.68 3.71 Just monitor his velocity and when it’s up, roster away. #602 Vince Velasquez Velasquez was another pitcher I was high on coming into the 2020 season because he was going to throw his changeup more. The underlying stats improved with his strikeout rate jumping from 25% to 30% and his ERA estimators dropped a half to a full point to ~4.00, but a .373 BABIP ruined it all. His ERA (5.56) and WHIP (1.56) ballooned from the hits and he was un-startable. The problem is that he’s throwing his fastball about 60% of the time and doesn’t change the usage based on the count. Another issue is his changeup. Sometimes it drops and is gets a swing-and-miss (18% SwStr%) and other times it hangs up for a home run (career 31% HR/FB%). He needs to keep it out of the middle of the plate. Down Up The results can also be seen in his heat maps. Here are his changeup locations. And the vs ISO for those pitches. I wonder where he shouldn’t throw the pitch. There will always be some excitement surrounding him after the games he limits his fastball usage and keeps his changeup down. Then reality will kick in and the struggles will return. Monitor the fastball usage for an real improvement.