Late-Season Arms (Butto, Daniel, Estes, Francis, & Hurt)

Note: For the next few weeks, I’m going to focus on some pitchers who I thought were interesting but haven’t had time to dive in. Most were late-season debuts while others had an arsenal change. Others came of the IL as the season was coming to a close. I’m just going to work through them in alphabetical order and once done, I move to my normal late-round starters.

José Butto

The 25-year-old righty made nine appearances for the Mets last season including seven starts. His surface stats seem decent with a 3.64 ERA and 1.33 WHIP but a 0.6 HR/9 and .261 BABIP kept them in check. He posted a 4.90 xFIP and 5.11 SIERA with a 4.9 BB/9 pushing them up. His struggles with walks just started this season with a 4.9 BB/9 in AAA. In 2022 he had a 3.4 BB/9 in AAA and 2.2 BB/9 in AAA. His 4.5 BB/9 in the majors was just in 4 IP and irrelevant.

This year in the majors, he had three stints, one in April and May (3 G), a single relief appearance in August, and five starts to end the season. Here are his stats from the first two stints and then the last one.

Stints: K/9, BB/9, xFIP
1 & 2: 6.1, 8.6, 6.33
3: 9.2, 3.0, 4.13

What a major improvement. He just found the plate and the results are comparable to the 2022 results of Yu Darvish, Reese Olson, Lance Lynn, and Clayton Kershaw. I couldn’t find any changes to his arsenal with his velocities being constant and no major changes to his pitch mix (added a sinker) He just pounded the strikezone.

For an arsenal, he starts with a 95-mph fastball that he threw 51% of the time with a 7% SwStr%. He backed the fastball up with a cutter and changeup that each had an 18% SwStr%. The sinker that he added at the season’s end didn’t generate many groundballs (42% GB%), but it did miss some bats (9% SwStr%). Don’t get excited for the sinker since its comps are uninspiring.

Finally, he showed a below-average curveball (5% usage).

Currently, Butto has a 714 ADP in NFBC drafts. I’d probably pound the add button 200 or more picks before that. Pitchers with the possibility of 9 K/9 and 3 BB/9 don’t grow on trees.

Davis Daniel

The 26-year-old righty was a starter in the minors but made three relief appearances last season where he averaged over 4 IP per game. His stats were all over the place:

  • 2.19 ERA
  • 6.00 xFIP
  • 6.57 K/9
  • 6.57 BB/9
  • 38% Ball%
  • 1.30 WHIP
  • .182 BABIP
  • 89% LOB%

His 38% Ball% is the equivalent of a 3.6 BB/9. While the equivalent value isn’t great, it’s better than the 6.6 BB/9 he posted.

While he threw 102 IP in AAA in 2022 (7.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9), he didn’t make his 2023 minor-league debut until August because of a shoulder injury.

Looking at his pitches, they are uninspiring. His 93-mph fastball has a 10% SwStr%. That is the highest rate of any of his pitches and that might be why he throws it 53% of the time.

While the results on the slider were horrible, the comps to its shape offer some hope.

All Daniel offers is hope that his command comes back and he finds a way to start striking out batters.

Joey Estes

The 22-year-old Estes was promoted at the season’s end to make two starts (at MIN, vs SEA) where he got lit up for 8 ER over 10 IP. While he has posted decent minor league strikeout (9.6 K/9) and walk (2.9 BB/9) numbers, he has never had a groundball rate over 35% so home runs will be an issue (four in MLB debut).

He relies on a 93-mph fastball that had a 16% SwStr% but just a 21 GB% in 77 MLB pitches. In AAA, it posted a 9% SwStr% and with the same 21% GB%. Across both levels, his cutter (compared to some sliders) was his standout pitch with a 19% SwStr% in AAA and 14% in the majors. The results on his slider, change (possibly a splitter), and curve were mixed between the minors and majors. It almost seems like he has too many pitches and needs to figure out what works.

I don’t have a good read on him. I read several of his old scouting reports and they place him as a 5th starter or bullpen arm. Without any more changes, I’m not interested in him, especially since he’s on Oakland.

Bowden Francis

The 27-year-old had been a starter until last season when the Jays moved him to the bullpen where he made 20 MLB appearances with a 1.73 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. It seems like the move to the bullpen may be permanent. When he was demoted in late September, he threw out of the bullpen vice starting. He was never consistently used in high-leverage spots (0.34 gLI, 1.0 is average, 2.0 is high leverage) even though he got one three-inning Save.

Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic thinks Francis might have one more shot at starting.

While his outings were limited, Francis experienced a breakout season in 2023, pitching to a 1.73 ERA in 36 1/3 innings (20 appearances) with a 25.7 percent strikeout rate. He has one option year remaining, so if he doesn’t win the fifth starter competition in spring training or earn a swingman job, he should be the first man up should the Blue Jays need a starter.

All of his fantasy value will come down to if the Blue Jays see him as a rotation arm or just a bulk reliever.

Kyle Hurt

The 25-year-old Hurt was promoted for one appearance where he struck out three batters over two innings. Hurt is a tough player to pin down his talent. Across three levels last season, he made 16 starts in 27 appearances. Even when he was relieving, he was going long into games. In his AAA relief appearances, he threw between two and five innings.

First, he’s always struggled with walks. While he posted a combined 4.3 BB/9 last season, it was in line with his previous two seasons (7.4 BB/9 in ’22 and 4.3 BB/9 in ’21). He will need to show improvement to be a viable option.

With the walks, he would be a non-factor except he posted a 14.5 K/9 over his minor-league career, His fastball comes in at 96 mph. In AAA, the pitch had a 15% SwStr% and 17% in the majors.

His change is plus-plus with a 30% SwStr% in AAA and 25% in his small major league sample. Looking at its comps, it might be a splitter.

Also, he throws a slider, sinker, and curve with the slider being the only acceptable pitch in AAA (12 SwStr%).

His fastball and change/split give him two plus pitches with an acceptable slider. Now he just needs to find the plate.

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

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