Late-Round Evaluations: Pivetta, Bubic, Gomber, & 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 eight more starters. You can find the other editions here:

487: Matt Manning

Manning’s talent is a complete unknown besides a few sound bites from the alternate camp. Besides his talent being an unknown, Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize got promoted to the majors while Manning never did. In a non-waiver wire draft, I’ll not be drafting him at this price since his major league exposure could be limited.

484: Nick Pivetta

Pivetta is sucking me back in. As a whole, his 2020 season was a complete disaster (6.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 2.3 HR/9). The Phillies gave up on the experiment and traded him to the Red Sox. With the Sox, he made two dominant major league starts (1.80 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 11.7 K/9) after a stop at the alternate camp.

Pivetta made several changes that could be behind the improved results. He stayed away from the strike zone with his Zone% dropping from 62% to 47% and his First Strike% from 76% to 60%. Part of the drop in strikes might be from throwing his slider more. Here are his pitch-mix changes for the two games along with the career pitch results.

Nick Pivetta’s Pitches
Pitch Phillies Usage Red Sox Usage Diff SwStr% GB%
Fastball 51% 48% -3% 8% 35%
Slider 5% 28% 23% 16% 51%
Curve 36% 18% -18% 13% 58%
Changeup 8% 5% -3% 80% 47%

First, it’s nice to see the fastball usage under 50%. Second, he threw his best pitch, the slider, more.

Besides focusing on his better pitches, he changed his release point (lower arm slot) with the Red Sox.



His pitches will have a different shape and change their performance.

Overall, he implemented a major adjustment, but it was for only 10 innings against the Braves and Orioles. For me, I’ll go back to the well depending on who else is available at his ADP.

481: Kris Bubic

The Royals promoted the left-handed prospect with mixed results (4.32 ERA, 1.48 WHIP). Some batted ball luck had his September numbers (2.86 ERA, .259 BABIP) better than his in August ones (5.63 ERA, .375 BABIP).

While an 8.8 K/9 would normally be acceptable, his 4.0 BB/9 killed his fantasy value. Of the 81 pitchers who threw 50 or more innings, his 12.2% K-BB% ranked 58th. He’s just out of the reach of being average.

To see if there is a chance for any growth, here are his individual pitch results.

Kris Bubic’s Pitches
Pitch Usage SwStr% GB%
Fastball 54% 10% 40%
Changeup 31% 15% 44%
Curve 16% 3% 86%

They are acceptable.

Acceptable is a fine description for Bubic. For now, he looks to be a back of the rotation starter in fantasy with the best chance for upside is lowering his walk rate.

478: Matt Shoemaker

When healthy, Shoemaker has been a competitive pitcher with a career 1.18 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, and 3.86 ERA. After throwing 160 IP in 2016, he has just thrown a total of 164 innings. And as of now, he hasn’t even signed with a team to throw those 30 or so innings.

Fantasy managers just need to understand the downside and see how Shoemaker fits into the team design. For me, he is someone I’ll target if there is a waiver wire but if I’m stuck with him all season, I will pass.

466: JT Brubaker

The 27-year-old righty got nine starts with the Pirates last season where he posted a 4.94 ERA but his ERA estimators were closer to 4.00.

He’s a ‘sort of’ pitcher. He sort of strikes out batters (9.1 K/9). He sort of limits walks (3.2 BB/9). He sort generates groundballs (47% GB%). He’s sort of acceptable.

To dive in a bit further, here is his pitch mix.

JT Brubaker’s Pitches
Pitch Usage SwStr% GB%
Sinker 35% 7% 54%
Slider 33% 18% 42%
Curve 14% 14% 42%
Four-seamer 14% 5% 26%
Changeup 5% 18% 50%

The four-seamer doesn’t belong, especially since it didn’t get any more swinging-strikes compared to his sinker. It’s sort of a decent pitch mix

His talent level and the Pirates low Win rate making him a streaming option who fantasy managers will start 25% to 50% of the time depending on the league’s depth.

457: Austin Gomber

Oh, what do we have here? Gomber’s surface stats are a mix of good (1.86 ERA) and bad (4.7 BB/9). With the insane schedule the Cardinals had with weeks off and a ton of double-headers, he bounced back-and-forth for starting and relieving. He settled into a groove in September (4.17 xFIP) and as a starter, he posted a 17.7% K-BB% with a 3.59 xFIP. The results were similar to Kyle Hendricks (17.8% K-BB%, 3.78 xFIP).

Several changes fostered the improvement. First, he quit walking as many batters. His walk rate dropped from 6.1 BB/9 in August to 4.4 BB/9 in September. Additionally, he started throwing his changeup more and his curve less. Here are his 2020 usage and career individual pitch results.

Austin Gomber’s Pitch Mix
Pitch Usage (Sept 2 & earlier) Usage (after Sept 2) Diff SwStr% GB%
Four-seamer 51% 54% 3% 7% 34%
Curve 32% 20% -12% 9% 48%
Slider 16% 15% -1% 14% 52%
Changeup 1% 11% 10% 18% 54%

Why in the hell is he throwing the curve … at all. He has two elite non-fastballs to pair with an average fastball. The curve pathetic compared to the other two.

The late-season Gomber was decent and I have no problem paying this price. There could be a second gear to him if he optimizes his pitch mix.

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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