Late-Round Evaluations: Puk, Cease, Bumgarner, Mize, & 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: McKay, Akin, Gibson, Cueto, Archer, Honeywell, Fleming
  • 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
  • Part 12: Houser, Patiño, Gilbert, Ponce de Leon, Wainwright, Martinez
  • Part 13: Gray, Weaver, Happ, Severino, Syndergaard, Sale, Lorenzen, Mikolas

401: A.J. Puk

Puk has just way too many questions surrounding him to be counted on. He has dealt with a ton of injuries over the years including a September shoulder surgery keeping him off the mound. Here are his combined major and minor league innings:

Season: IP
2016: 32
2017: 125
2018: 0
2019: 36
2020: 0

Some hope exists because of his 2019 stats (103 K/9, 1.32 WHIP, 3.18 ERA), but those were in 11 relief innings over 10 games. Puk seems like a reserve round dart throw. Give him a week or two to see how he performs. If he’s good, keep. If bad, drop.

396: Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner just fell apart last season with his ERA and strikeout rate (K/9) an identical 6.48.  His strikeout rate drop (8.8 K/9 in 2019) should not have been a surprise since he lost 3 mph off his fastball.

It was nice to see the late upward trend, but it was too little, too late. Valuing him is as simple as finding anything on his Spring Training velocity. He needs to be sitting around 91 mph to return to form.

381: Dylan Cease

There is no good explanation for Cease posting just a 4.01 ERA with a 5.3 BB/9 and 1.9 HR/9. Walks plus home runs usually lead to disasters. He was saved by a .238 BABIP since his ERA estimators hovered around 6.00.

While he’s got a nice and shiny 97-mph fastball, that’s it. It’s just impossible to project him forward because his output bounces all over the place. Just look at strikeout outs and walks per game.

In five of the 12 starts, he walked more batters than he struck out. He has always walked batters. so there is not going to be a magical turnaround.

He’s a reserve round pick at best until he finds the plate.

380: Casey Mize

I know that Mize is considered a top-10 to 20 prospect, but I’m not seeing all the hype. He has never posted a strikeout rate over 9.0 K/9. He doesn’t have an above-average groundball rate. And in 26 MLB innings last season, he was hopeless with a 6.99 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Our prospect evaluation grades him above average across the board.

Several items held him back last season. First, none of his pitches performed above average in the short sample. Besides no outstanding pitch, he walked 4.1 batters per nine innings. His above-average Command grade was nowhere to be seen.

He’s just another reserve round pick who fantasy managers need to drop if 2020 begins to repeat itself.

373: Spencer Howard

Howard is a lot like Mize, he got to the majors with a ton of fanfare but struggled in his first season. Howard had a decent number of strikeouts (8.5 K/9), but the rest of his season was a disaster (1.64 WHIP, 2.2 HR/9, 5.92 ERA).

Unlike Mize, Howard at least has his slider to build off (22% SwStr%) that he threw just 22% of the time. It’s more than Mize had.

One note, the Phillies are planning on slowly working Howard into the rotation so he doesn’t run out of innings. For this reason, I’m likely to draft Mize first. Mize’s talent will be known before Howard’s for an immediate roster decision.

369: David Peterson

Peterson projections to perform like …. who knows. In the minors, his groundball rates hovered around 60%. He was only at a 44% GB% in 49 IP with none of his main pitches approaching the 60% GB% mark (75% GB% on 18 curves). Also gone was his sub-3 BB/9 with a 4.4 BB/9.

His surface stats (1.21 WHIP, 3.44 ERA) didn’t suffer because he was lucky on balls-in-play (.233 BABIP and 0.9 HR/9). All of his ERA estimators hovered around 5.00.

Projections take the middle ground between the two profiles (4.29 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) but it’s impossible to know how he’ll perform this upcoming season. And what is his upside? He could get the groundballs back and be similar to Dallas Keuchel. His Depth Chart projection is similar to Miles Mikolas and Ryan Yarbrough, so he’s rosterable if he meets those requirements.

I think I’d pass on Peterson going forward. He seems like a pitcher to settle on or stream with almost no upside. I’m at least going to roster a pitcher with upside.

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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John Wick
John Wick

Feels like there’s a lot of recency bias in a few of these writeups, and more pessimism than is warranted. Player growth isn’t linear, and at these price points you need to be thinking about the upside.

For Mize in particular, he’s got a body of work in the minors that suggests he has better control than he demonstrated in all of 28 innings last year. Not sure why he’s being written off on a sample that small.

For Cease, it’s not a profile I gravitate towards, but I could see him progressing to a Robbie Ray type stat line, and providing Ks and Ws along with mediocre ratios.


Well it Cease is about to post a 6.62 era w 1.9 whip you can go ahead and count me out


All jokes aside his tone is always pessimistic, which is fine. Nothing wrong with that. Only issue is you literally need to draft someone in this range, so there does need to be some targets. I do personally feel like pitching prospects tend to be massively overrated, and it is better to target pitchers from organizations that develop good pitchers (Indians, Dodgers, Braves, now the Marlins) and go from there. I would also say the Rays, but I am starting to fade more Rays pitchers as I do not think they have any intention of letting SPs get wins in the near future. Detroit currently hasn’t shown that ability, so as of now I think their pitchers are fades for me.


being pessimistic with pitchers, especially pitching prospects is the way to be. How many pitchers in the say top 50 prospect list are solid everyday starters in the last 5 years? It takes a while for them to acclimate and there are several bumpy years before they do, if they do.
Mize has been highly touted all along and he might become a great pitcher, but there is also concern over the fact he doesn’t have a lot of spin on his pitches, cutter and fastball are a bit too similar so his location becomes even more important. And while he was the one who stayed healthy last year, he has had shoulder and elbow issue in the past. Already had the PRP injections and missed a decent amount of time.
Add in good pitching prospects that are on bad teams don’t get a lot of support, and good pitching prospects on good teams are brought along slowly and might not get enough innings for counting stats.