Mixing Fantasy & Reality: Rookie Bias & Fastball Velocities

I have been researching the 3rd and 4th starting pitching tier. I’m trying to find a few facts to help differentiate the pitchers in this group. Using five print publications, here are the projected ranges for Jharel Cotton, Robert Gsellman, and Rick Porcello

2017 Range for Selected Stats
Name K/9 ERA IP
Gsellman 2.4 (6.1 to 8.5) 1.01 (3.39 to 4.40) 56 (86 to 142)
Cotton 1.5 (7.1 to 8.6) 0.49 (3.55 to 4.14) 54 (114 to 168)
Porcello 0.3 (7.0 to 7.3) 0.27 (3.60-3.87) 14 (200 to 214)

The projections agree on Porcello’s talent. They are almost eerily similar. That is not the case with the other two.

Throwing out the projected innings, which will be more of a guess with these two, the differences in the other two are eye opening. I know both Cotton and Gsellman broke out last season but I’m still a surprised by the large range.

I compared these projections to my personal projections (1/3 of each Pods Projections, our Depth Chart, and BHQ projections – each projection updates playing time which I find important). My projection sits right in the middle for the ranges.

As I have moved to a wisdom of the crowd approach for my valuations, I’ve found that I am never the high bidder for rookies or players with spotty playing time (e.g. Alex Cobb’s projection has huge variance since he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery). I adjust projections around some but if the averaged value seems reasonable, I just move on to dig into someone else (like I was with the three above).

With this average approach, at least one other owner will  have a projection higher on the unproven guys. I found this out last year in Tout Wars when I paid for a boring but winning team.

The process seems a little robotic but if the value exist with established players, I will take them. And hopefully, continue to be successful. Thoughts?

Spring Training Fastball Velocity

I have continued to update my spring training velocity spreadsheet. Several interesting names have now thrown with the radar guns recording.

Jon Lester is down 2 mph. He threw in Arizona last spring training and averaged 94 mph, so he has thrown hard in the spring. Now he’s down 4 mph from that reading. The 33-year-old will likely lose his arm sooner rather than later, so the decline could be starting now. I will be watching his next start with quite a bit of interest as I felt he was being undervalued.

Felix Hernandez’s sinker ball velocity was back to his 2012 to 2015 levels (+1.6 mph). It’s nice to him back up and he will still be discounted this spring.

Brandon McCarthy’s velocity is up to 94 mph which is close to the 93.4 mph fastball he averaged in 2015. During that season, McCarthy averaged 11.4 K/9. He’s worth a late-round flyer to see he he can stay healthy for a month.

James Paxton’s fastball is back down to averaging 94 mph vs the 97 mph it averaged last season. When it was near 94 mph, he averaged ~7.5 K/9 but jumped to 8.7 K/9 with the higher velocity last year.

Matt Harvey is still below his 2015 season velocity when he averaged 96 mph or even last season when he was at 94.5 mph. He isn’t topping out at his 2016 averages. I am completely staying away for now as he gets back into shape.


• The White Sox release of Brett Lawrie initially had me perplexed but I think the move is all about Tyler Saladino. Saladino will be given a chance to prove his worth. In just over 300 plate appearances, Saladino hit 8 home runs and swiped 11 bases. He is projected for similar numbers this year. If he’s given a full season of plate appearances, he could put up 15 HR and 25 SB.

The main issue with his value is Yoan Moncada. The While Sox traded Chris Sale for Moncada, so Moncada will be given several chance to prove he is a major league but at what position is not set.

The shortstop, Tim Anderson, is also highly touted and like Moncada, has contact issues (27 K%). Saladino could also move to short if Anderson doesn’t make the but.

The trio’s results will determine who will continue to play in the majors this season.

David Price will not throw a baseball until mid-March, at the earliest.

All that has been decided is that Price will take medication for the next seven to 10 days and won’t throw the baseball during that time. But there’s no guarantee Price will start throwing again once that time period expires.

At that point, Price is going to need a month to build back up his arm. Best case is that he misses the season’s first two weeks. Now it will likely be longer. To be conservative, I am going to value him with a 2/3 projection and 1/3 season of a replacement level pitcher.


Swinging with intent.

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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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I have a friend who plays in an AL-only league. He’s from Chicago and he’s one of those rare ex-Chicagoans who isn’t a Cubs fan.
Anyway, he said that because of Moncada’s contact issues and that he’s convinced the ChiSox will try to trade Frazier, Saladino should get plenty of playing time. So naturally he’s planning to fill the 2B void on his roster (it’s a keeper league) with Saladino.

On the other hand, I gotta admit I’m unhappy about Paxton’s velo drop. I traded for him in a 16 team (10 keeper) league. I was expecting big things from him (I read somewhere he changed his workout routine so he can avoid lower body injuries). Now I can only hope that velocity comes back.


Isn’t it a little early to be worried about velocity since it’s only Spring Training? At what point do we expect velo to be indicative of where the pitcher will be for the season? Hell, some guys take all of April to get up to their “real” velocity – in fact, Lester was pretty notable for that in his Boston days.

Jonathan Sher

I play in an AL-only league too and came to the same conclusion even before the White Sox dropped Lawrie:


Chicago is finally in full rebuild mode, and that means the team will absolutely try to move Frazier before the trade deadline because he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. It also means Chicago will take some time with Moncada so he can work on his contact issues (and some mental awareness issues on the base paths and in the field) before he is promoted. I suspect Moncada won’t be called up until, at the earliest, June, and the Frazier will be gone by early-August, which would leave Saladino a full-time player for about four months and a frequently-used backup for two months, perhaps 500 or so plate appearances.