Late-Round Evaluations: Patiño, Martinez, Wainwright, & Others

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 six more starters. You can find the other editions here:

  • Part 1: Houck, Akin, Dunn, Schmidt
  • Part 2: Webb, Kremer, Stripling, Richards
  • Part 3: Quintana, Minor, Hill, Peralta, Morejon
  • Part 4: Margevicius, Chatwood, Plutko, Marquez, Lucchesi, Balazovic, Abbot
  • Part 5: Lodolo, Castellani, Bailey, Chirinos, Rodon, Cody, Cobb, Hamels
  • Part 6: Perez, Matz, Fiers, Porcello, Gray, Lynch
  • Part 7: McClanahan, Jefferies, Sandoval, Lester, Voth, Velasquez
  • Part 8: Barria, Loaisiga, Wood, DeSclafani, Freeland, Martin,
  • Part 9: Wood (again), Dobnak, Suter, Archer, Senzatela, Brault, Whitley, Kelly
  • Part 10: Wilson, Arihara, Wacha, Wright, Duffy, Mills
  • Part 11: Manning, Pivetta, Bubic, Shoemaker, Brubaker, Gomber

#454: Adrian Houser

Houser was a popular sleeper pick coming into the 2020 season and he disappointed his owners. Houser struggled to repeat his 2019 strikeout rate (9.5 K/9) and more of his batted balls went for hits.

Starting with the strikeout rate, I’m a little surprised it was that high in 2019 (25.3% K%) with just a 10% SwStr%. Usually, the K% is twice the SwStr%. In 2020, he still had the 10% SwStr% but his K% dropped to 18%. I don’t see his strikeout rate improving since his fastballs are his best pitches.

Adrian Houser’s Pitch Mix
Pitch SwStr% GB% Usage
Sinker 10% 69% 44%
Four-seamer 13% 36% 20%
Curve 8% 75% 12%
Slider 8% 50% 12%
Change 8% 53% 12%

Besides generating some groundballs, his three non-fastballs are essentially useless. He could take a major step forward if just one non-fastball was league average.

The other issue is that more of Houser’s groundballs went for hits. After digging around with his profile, two causes stick out. First, the Brewers as a whole were below average in the field with a .296 BABIP (10th highest) and -6.4 UZR (8th lowest). The second cause was bad luck. He’s seen high BABIP’s before and bounced back.

His BABIP was high last season but nothing out of the norm.

He’s just not an exciting pitcher without the high strikeout rate. He’s still useful and reminds me of Brad Keller who is being drafted 150 picks earlier. Acceptable.

#445: Luis Patiño

By the upcoming mid-season, Patiño’s fantasy valuation could be different than the following evaluation. There are just so many unknowns surrounding him. Fantasy managers need to make sure they don’t anchor him to a single profile.

First the good. He can strikeout batters with a 96-mph fastball. To pair with it, he has two average or better non-fastballs. The first is his change that the prospect evaluators love but last year it was just league average. His slider performed better than than the change (16% SwStr% vs 13% StStr%) but got worse scouting grades. In 17 innings, he was able to post 10.9 K/9 against major league hitters.

As for the bad, he couldn’t throw strikes and posted a 7.3 BB/9. While his minor league walk rates never reach into the sevens, he did struggle with walks (4.7 BB/9 in AA).

Another unknown is how will the Rays handle the 20-year-old. Will they develop him as a starter or reliever? Will he spend most of the season in the minors trying to reign in his command? Will he get the walks under control?

He has a profile that I’m not going to take a chance in any redraft league format. He’s someone I’m to monitor from afar and hope his future clears up.

#434: Logan Gilbert

Gilbert is a prospect in the Mariners system and all my takes would be rehashing other writers’ scouting reports. It’s not that the reports are wrong, rookie pitchers are just a group of players I’m lower on than most other drafters. Between injuries and talent changes, few meet expectations.

Sure there is a point I’d consider Gilbert in a 15-team, 50-round draft-and-hold but it would be about pick 600. I’m fine with missing out on the gamble. I can’t draft everyone and I’d rather have Adrian Houser if given the option.

#429: Daniel Ponce de Leon

Ponce de Leon’s 2020 season followed that of Austin Gomber, who struggled to find a grove while the Cardinals were missing games and playing tons of doubleheaders. By season’s end, they got in a groove. Over Ponce de Leon’s last three starts, he posted a 12.7 K/9, 0.76 WHIP, and 2.65 ERA. Before those games, his ERA was 7.47 with a 1.91 WHIP (8.6 BB/9).

His repertoire is unique. His 93-mph fastball is a one-of-kind with a career 15% SwStr% and just a 27% GB%. The ball misses bats high in the zone, but because of the pitch’s flyball nature, it gives up a ton of homers. He’s not someone to start in a small park (e.g. Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark) for sure.

Additionally, he throws a curve that doesn’t miss bats (4% SwStr%) but generates a decent number of groundballs (57% GB%). Also, his cutter took a major step forward last season with a 15% SwStr%.

Finally, he gives up his fair share of free passes with a career 4.6 K/9. Those walks, when paired with his home run nature, can lead to some blowups.

He’s a streaming option for me who may or may not be on my roster depending on the league’s depth. The chance does exist for a step forward if he quits walking so many batters.

#428: Adam Wainwright

The 40-year-old Wainwright will continue to be himself by throwing a ton of innings with a below-average strikeout rate but an excellent walk rate. He’ll have an ERA around 4.50 and 1.40 WHIP. While the expected stats aren’t impressive after his 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP from last season, they are more in-line with his five-year average (4.43 ERA, 1.40 WHIP). Expect more of the same.

The only remaining question is if he will sign or hang up his cleats

#427: Carlos Martinez

His talent level is a mess to nail down with all his injuries, talent adjustments, and changing roles. After successfully navigating the turmoil over the years, he imploded last season.

He started the season on the COVID IL and ended it with another IL trip for his back and oblique. Between those two IL stints and turbulent schedule, he saw his fastball velocity drop 3 mph from the previous season. The velocity drop led to a 7.7 K/9 and made his pitches more hittable (2.7 HR/9, .366 BABIP). To compound the problems, he posted a 4.5 BB/9. Too many walks and home runs and his 9.90 ERA should not be a surprise.

His velocity drop is the factor that matters most to me. If it’s back up, it shows that he’s healthy and back to his previous talent level. Otherwise, something is obviously wrong. Tracking his Spring Training velocity will be paramount. If he’s falling this far into a draft, what is the downside of adding him, especially if he can be sent to the waiver wire and replaced?

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 once, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Depending, obviously, on league rules and roster construction, I’d rather plan on rolling out strong ratio-affecting, high-K relievers that may pick up 2-3 good innings a week than gamble on one start from a guy like Wainwright or Martinez. Just like wealth is preserved by not losing money, championships are won by avoiding massive blow-ups. I believe this is especially true in 2021 where we don’t know which pitchers will be subject to innings restrictions.