A couple weeks ago, I used our newly installed NFBC ADP data to pluck out some potential hitting breakouts via Steamer 600 projections. I have some pitchers for you today. Honestly, the pitcher iteration of this isn’t quite as juicy as the hitters. I think it’s because pitchers displaying strong skills are elevated into prominent roles sooner than hitters so there aren’t many guys with mid-3.00 or better ERA projections in a low innings totals. In fact, the projections of the guys I picked aren’t that great, but I’m willing to bet on them as I believe they can outperform the projection substantially. The first three are guys I’m actively targeting in my drafts while the latter three are bigger injury gambles meant for reserve rosters in mixed leagues.
Blake Snell, TB | 3.83 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9.4 K, 218 ADP
It was hard to buy in on his 3.42 ERA in April as it came with a 0% K-BB rate (18 K and BB). The bill came due in May with a 6.89 ERA in three starts (with a meh 12% K-BB) before a demotion to Triple-A for six weeks. He returned on June 28th with a start at Pittsburgh and looked like the same old Snell in the first inning (4 runs on 2 H and 3 BB) before settling down in the final four. He was solid-if-unspectacular in his next six before taking off down the stretch thanks to an improved curveball that finally gave him a second bankable offering with the changeup.
He threw the curve harder and doubled the usage spurring a 3.02 ERA/1.03 WHIP combo over his final nine starts with a strong 18% K-BB. After going seven innings just once in his first 15 starts, he did it four times in the last month and a half. The 25-year old lefty is poised for a full season breakout and makes a great target in the 13th round and beyond (pick 180 in a 15-teamer).
Joe Musgrove, PIT | 4.04 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.9 K, 393 ADP
After laboring through 15 starts (6.12 ERA, 13% K-BB), he was shifted into a multi-inning reliever and dominated (1.44 ERA, 22% K-BB). Increased velocity and a killer slider drove the success for the 25-year old righty. Now he takes his deep arsenal and promise to PNC Park where the venue alone should help with his biggest issue: home runs. He allowed 1.6 HR/9 at home last year while PNC is one of the friendlier parks for pitchers with such issues. Righties in particular really struggle to go yard in Pittsburgh with just an 81 HR park factor per StatCorner, compared to 105 for Minute Maid.
The ADP for Musgrove on our projection pages includes all of the NFBC drafts so it’s skewed low by the fact that he wasn’t expected to have a starting gig in Houston, but even the rising number offers plenty of upside potential. Over the last month or so, it’s up to 364 on average with a peak of 273. Anything after 250 is an easy gamble. It’s hard to really get hurt by mid-teens round picks and Musgrove could wind up with a season on a par with guys being taken within the top 195 (rounds 1-13).
Luiz Gohara, ATL | 3.83 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.5 K, 288 ADP
I discussed Gohara here and here so I will recommend checking those pieces out instead of just rehashing all of the same points again. I will mention that his ADP is inching upward at 273 over the last couple weeks with a peak of 241, but that hasn’t dissuaded me from investing. He probably won’t start the season in the rotation (or the majors for that matter) with Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir coming over in that Matt Kemp deal so keep that in mind. Don’t be afraid to park him on your reserve roster for a couple weeks.
Three Injury Gambles:
Steven Matz, NYM | 4.01 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.0 K, 351 ADP
His season didn’t start until June and last just 13 starts, the last eight of which were horrible (10.19 ERA in 32.7 IP) before succumbing to injury that required the same ulnar nerve surgery that teammate Jacob deGrom had back in 2016. When healthy, the 27-year old lefty commands a solid arsenal that generates strikeouts, limits walks, and induces groundballs, which is a winning recipe. He needs to stay healthy, but that injury risk is completely factored into the lowly cost.
Tyler Skaggs, LAA | 4.22 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.1 K, 373 ADP
He did finish the season on the mound, but an oblique injury cost him three months. He has just 316 innings in the majors since debuting in 2012, but he is still just 26 years old and we’ve seen flashes from him. The projection probably doesn’t jump out as all that special, but consider that it’s better than his career numbers (4.59/1.35), thus it shows the confidence that Steamer has in Skaggs to be something more than we’ve seen. This projection comes with a 1.3 HR/9, too, so if he can curb some of the longballs, then a sub-4.00 isn’t hard to envision at all.
Nathan Karns, KC | 4.43 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.7 K, 484 ADP
This is the super lottery ticket after logging just 45 innings last year and an ugly 94 innings the year before. His 2017 ended in mid-May when he needed thoracic outlet surgery and I’m generally skeptical of TOS returns, but most of those that I’ve been bearish on happened in the offseason while his recovery has been much longer so he should be fully ready to go this year. I hope the Royals will acknowledge his third time through issues as TB did and make him more of a 5-6 IP max guy and if they do, we could see a repeat of his 2015: 3.67 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.9 K in 147 IP.