Out of Nowhere All Stars – Pitchers

A couple weeks back I highlight a group of Out of Nowhere Hitters and gave some thoughts on how I view them for 2021. It’s time to take a look at some pitchers!

Note: this is not a complete list, there are definitely more than seven candidates so feel free to include yours in the comments and I’ll give my thoughts on them in a response.

Framber Valdez | Houston Astros

Valdez ranked just 22nd among Astros prospects coming into 2019 tabbed with a bullpen future due in large part to a two-pitch repertoire. A lack of viable starting options gave him an opportunity in 2020 and he took full advantage. After a mediocre debut against the Dodgers, he reeled off 41 innings of a 2.20 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with 46 strikeouts and a 3-1 record. Back-to-back duds against the LA teams (8 ER in 7 IP at LAA, 5 ER in 5 IP at LAD) pushed his ERA to 4.08 but then he allowed just 2 ER in his final 13.3 innings to give him a season mark of 3.57 in 70.7 IP.

He was used as a super reliever in game 1 of the wildcard round, throwing five brilliant innings against the Twins (5 K, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 ER) and then rejoining the rotation against Oakland and giving them a game 2 gem (7 IP/2 ER). Despite still having just two reliable offerings – a low-to-mid 90s sinker and low-80s curve – he has stifled both righties and lefties thanks to a ton of groundballs (60%), a great strikeout rate (26%), and very few walks (6%). He has a show-me change that had some development but still needs some work to become a reliable offering.

That changeup could go long way in determining how well he will hold up in a six-month season, but I think he’ll be drafted at price that allows for some regression into more of high-3.00s/low-4.00s ERA arm so I’m open to drafting him for 2021 despite some concerns.

Tony Gonsolin | Los Angeles Dodgers

Gonsolin put up a sharp 40-inning debut last year in a hybrid role (6 starts, 5 relief app.) and followed it up with another strong 46.7 innings mostly in the rotation (8 starts, 1 relief app.). He slashed his walk rate more than in half from 9% to 4% while boosting his strikeout rate from 23% to 26% and maintaining a similar AVG (.177 & .190). All told, he now has 86.7 innings with a 2.60 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He’s a bit older at 26, but I have him as my National League Rookie of the Year, however I’m concerned about his 2021 outlook.

I’m not sure he has a spot in the rotation with David Price returning: Price, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and Dustin May. Now being the sixth starter isn’t necessarily the end of the world as almost no team goes through a season using just five guys and several of their guys have injury history, but where exactly do we draft him without a starting role? Does he even get drafted in a 10-teamer at that point? His best fit will be 50-round Draft & Hold and then you can bide your time for him to get into the rotation.

Adam Wainwright | St. Louis Cardinals

Wow, where the hell did that come from, Adam?! Waino has been a deep league streamer over the last couple years, but he played himself into a must-start guy by mid-August and wound up posting a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over his 65.7 innings. Make no mistake, his career-best .247 BABIP played a big role in his success and will be cited regularly when deciding whether to buy into him for 2021 (assuming he doesn’t retire as he is a free agent).

There weren’t any real changes to his arsenal save a small dip in four-seamer rate being funneled into cutters and sinkers. The bottom line is that his 4.11 FIP is pretty much in line with 2019 (4.19) and without any real changes, it seems there was some good fortune and the supereasy Central-based schedule fueling this run. If he does return for ’21, continue to value him as a deep-league streamer at best.

Zach Davies | San Diego Padres

Davies has been pretty good throughout his career. He entered 2020 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 614.3 innings, but he was still an afterthought in the draft market with a Summer Main Event ADP of 418, surrounded by the likes of Jonathan Loaisiga, Carlos Rodon, and Jake Arrieta. Three starts into the season, he had a 2.87 ERA including a solid 5 IP/3 ER outing in Coors Field, but a trip to the Dodgers was on the horizon. He dominated them with his best start yet dropping a 7 IP/2 ER gem on them.

It was around that time he became an all formats option and over his final eight starts, he put up a 2.70 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 46.7 innings (including 45 Ks). Davies will definitely push up in draft cost, but his 3.88 FIP says he wasn’t too different from the guy we’ve known him to be (4.22 FIP coming into ’20), though it is worth noting that his 23% K rate was a career-high and came with a nice 3-point boost in swinging strike rate to 10%. Soft-tossing finesse guys are always undervalued in the market so if you draft only for value, Davies will likely wind up on some of your teams.

Brad Keller | Kansas City Royals

Speaking of soft-tossing finesse guys… Keller rode a career best .233 BABIP to a 2.47 ERA and 1.02 WHIP combo in 54.7 innings of work. Unlike Davies, he didn’t experience a strikeout jump as it remained at a paltry 16%. That said, the central mega division was tabbed as target for pitchers coming into the season and it absolutely played out that way with even guys like Keller getting a boost from it. I still see him as something between his 2018 and 2019 which is a high-3.00s/low-4.00s ERA, 1.30s WHIP, and poor strikeout rate. He’ll no doubt he good for a run or two of all formats usefulness, but I’m not really looking to draft him.

Cristian Javier | Houston Astros

A 5.7 IP/1 ER/8 K starting debut against the Dodgers announced Javier to the league and fantasy managers. Four days later he was a premium target in once-a-week FAB bidding as a must-have arm. Those who added him to their roster that night ended up with a 3.78 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 47.7 innings along with a 5-2 record and 45 strikeouts. He was 6th among Houston prospects on the 2020 list seeing him as a potential backend starter or bulk bullpen guy.

I really wish we could’ve seen a full complement of starts from Javier as I certainly don’t think he’d have put up a 3.49 ERA/0.99 WHIP combo, though I think he’d have beaten the 4.94 FIP. Bottom line, I see a high-3.00s/low-4.00s ERA with a good WHIP and passable strikeout rate (but his 9% SwStr will struggle to sustain a 25% mark). He should at least open the season with a starting role alongside Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, and Jose Urquidy unless they make a significant signing or trade. Does Forrest Whitley finally get a shot at some point in ’21, too? Don’t overdraft Javier. If he’s going before the mid-teens rounds, he’s going too high.

Devin Williams | Milwaukee Brewers

I remember writing about Williams back when he was a prospect and still primarily starting. While that certainly didn’t help me see this elite effort coming, I bought in quicker because I had a bit more familiarity with the righty. Call me crazy, but I think he’ll give up more than 1 ER in 2021, but I believe in him as an excellent reliever. Of course, if he’s not closing, what kind of fantasy value does he have?

As a fireman, he should be in position to vulture a good handful of wins as he did this year going 4-1 and as the righty version of Hader for the Brewers, there will likely be a matchup-based save opportunity once or twice a month that goes his way. I subscribe to the Scott Pianowski theory, though, which says you should always be looking for the next Devin Williams. Someone new (and often multiple guys) will emerge so why pay the premium at the most volatile position, especially for Williams who isn’t closing (of course if that changes, we’ll reassess his price)?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Justus Sheffield wasn’t from nowhere, but he did seem to step out from PostProspectHypeLand (the only theme park still in operation….because they never had crowds anyway…..’Hey Kids..go stand next to that Greg Jeffries Rated Rookie..I want a group photo!!’) and buy a ticket to Real Town.

Not sure if it’s a good comp but his game feels a bit Marcus Stromanny to me. Nothing off the charts and not sexy for roto stats but the total mix is a possible solid #2 guy in an MLB rotation….

Might see them teamed up soon…