Late-Round Evaluations: Mills, Wacha, Wilson, and More

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 eight more starters (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8).

#523 Bryse Wilson

I’m a little surprised Wilson is being drafted this high (i.e. at all). In 42 career innings over three seasons, he has a 5.91 ERA supported by a 5.3 BB/9. He has been unplayable. I could just go through the plethora of negatives, but instead, I’ll state the few positives (career numbers).

  1. He was decent in AAA in 2019 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 121 innings.
  2. A 94-mph four-seamer with a 10% SwStr% and a popup inducing 32% GB%.
  3. A 93-mph sinker with a 11% SwStr% and 73% GB%.
  4. And what looks like an average changeup (12% SwStr%).

There are some pieces here to build on. The sinker usage needs to jump from 17% usage to 50%. The changeup (or some other average non-fastball) needs to be around 25%. And finally and most important, he needs to throw strikes. He’s going to need a Lucas Giolito makeover to be relevant, but there are some pieces to build on.

#519 Kohei Arihara

The Rangers signed the 28-year-old Japanese righty this offseason. For a complete breakdown, Eric Logenhagen covered the signing for the main site. Here is his summary.

He’s a 40 FV player for me, someone who I think can be plugged right into the back of a rotation and work as a 1.0 to 1.5 WAR starting pitcher.

He seems to valued correctly with the likes of Danny Duffy, Jose Quintana, and Steven Brault being drafted around him. In deeper formats, he is a perfect choice for a team needing a pitcher who will throw every five or six days.

#517 Michael Wacha

Wacha got hit around (.366 BABIP, 2.4 HR/9) leading to an unrosterable 6.62 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Under the hood though, he showed some improvement with his strikeouts (7.4 K/9 to 9.8 K/9), walks (3.9 BB/9 to 1.9 BB/9), and a faster fastball (93.1 mph to 93.6 mph). He even dumped a worthless curve and tried throwing a cutter more. He even tried to drop his arm slot. He was trying to be relevant. So why the struggles?

Simply, his fastball got rocked (1.195 vsOPS) … again (956 vsOPS in 2019). And more specifically, hitters teed off on his first pitch. He didn’t mix up his pitches much and threw his fastball more than expected.

And on the first pitch, he had a  1.529 vsOPS.

I trust that Tampa already has a plan in place to fix him and for that reason, I’m hoping to draft him in all formats. Hell, his 19% K%-BB% was comparable to Carlos Carrasco, Zac Gallen, and Lance Lynn. If someone is looking for a deep sleeper, here he is.

#498 Kyle Wright

How is Wright going this high? He has shown no ability to find the plate over three separate seasons (6.1 BB/9 in 63 career innings). Like Wilson, it’s time to find anything positive.

  1. He throws a 94-mph sinker with an 8% SwStr% and 54% GB%
  2. His slider is above average with a 16% SwStr%.

That’s it but it is the makings of a sinker-slider pitcher. The problem is that he throws his other useless pitches (four-seamer, curve, and change) 43% of the time. While a pitch mix change may help in some ways, he needs to throw more strikes. He’s a watch-and-monitor guy for me.

#489 Danny Duffy

Duffy has been below-average the last three seasons (4.68 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 8.2 K/9). Would anyone expect the 31-year-old righty to take a step forward? I’m not. For now, he’s just a waiver wire streaming option when the Royals face the Indians or Tigers.

#485 Alec Mills

The 29-year-old righty threw a no-hitter last season and not much else. He ended the season with a pedestrian 6.6 K/9 and 4.48 ERA. He lost 1 mph off his already slow fastball (4% SwStr%). And what did he do with that slowing fastball, he threw it more (54% to 59% usage). He has never walked many batters (2.7 BB/9) so he did post a decent 1.16 WHIP.

Like many of the pitchers featured today, he might be throwing too many different pitches. I think he should focus on his sinker (career 62% GB%), change (21% SwStr%, 56% GB%), and slider (15 SwStr%, 78% GB%).

Here is a simple comparison of his results when he threw the combined three over 65% of the time.

Combined usage: K/9, BB/9, ERA
>65%: 9.9, 2.1, 3.47
<65%: 8.2, 3.6, 4.39

I can see how he has people’s interest depending on his performance that day.

Without any adjustments, he’s an accumulator. There is the possibility he could take a step forward by throwing his more production pitches more often.

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 three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Arihara might project similar to guys like Duffy & Brault but I have to think the range of potential outcomes is wider (particularly the ceiling is higher since they will give him chances if he stinks at first and there are more unknowns with Arihara). But Arihara should eat some innings at worst, hence those comps I guess.

I’m just not a member of the Kyle Wright fan club but expect he’ll get ATL starts before Wilson (who I like more).