While I normally examine pitchers in-season, a couple of late-season call-ups I missed deserved some analysis.
Note: All breaks are from the pitcher’s perspective.
The 21-year-old lefty got my attention by showing up as the 38th ranked starting pitcher by our auction calculator. If I’m going to take a guy to be my #3 or #4 starter, I should know a bit about him. Here is my take on his last start of the 2017 season against the Marlins.
• He throws straight to home with no funky angles from a ¾ arm slot and doesn’t fall off the mound after his windup. He shows a little more effort from the stretch. With his simple delivery, he’ll not have as much of a platoon split.
• Fastball: 96-99 mph, straight with some rise. He has good control of the pitch and keeps it around the strike zone. He kept his velocity up until he was pulled in the 6th inning.
• Slider: An 81-89 mph, 10-4 breaking pitch in which has different break amounts and effectiveness. It’s sharp at times and loopy other times. He can bury it in the dirt or get called strikes. I’m not sure if the inconsistencies are intentional or not. Even with the intrigue, it generated a 24% swinging-strike rate on the season.
• Change: At 89 mph, it had the motion of a hard curve with some release side run. Also inconsistent. A couple didn’t break and could have gotten punished. He barely threw this pitch during the game I watch even though it got a 15% swinging-strikes on the season. Earlier in the month, he used it 20% of the time against the Nationals so he may not have had the feel for it this game.
• He wore down as the game went on and his command faltered some.
Overall: I don’t feel great about Gohara after watching him but I’m intrigued. The fastball-slider combination should allow him to get through the order twice. But he needs to be confident in his change to throw it when he’s facing hitters the second or third time through the order to take a step up.
Even though I like his potential, I’m not sure I’m going to value him as the 38th overall pitcher. But it seems like I won’t have to. At FanTrax, he’s the 76th starter off the board with an ADP of 275. I’m all in at that cost. If he develops and uses his change, he could be a top-20 pitcher for years to come.
I had to investigate what the hype was about surrounding Buehler. Baseball America has him as the top Dodgers prospect with above-average command, fastball, curveball, and slider. With the hype, he struggled in nine major league innings with matching 7.71 ERA and BB/9 and a .409 BABIP. I decided to find the disconnect especially with plans on him being a starter next season.
Dave Roberts said Walker Buehler will be a starter in 2018 after relieving for Dodgers in September.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) December 12, 2017
With Buehler, I went and watched each of his relief outings to sort of give me the feeling of a full game.
• He had a fairly normal delivery from the right side with some late effort visible.
• Fastball: His straight fastball sat at 95 to 100 mph but generated a ton of groundballs (67%). Even though it was a small sample, he’s always had groundball rates over 50% in the minors. I’m not sure why he posts high groundball rates because his fastball should “rise” with its high spin rate (2441 rpm put him 56th of 723 pitchers who threw a four-seamer last season).
I did wonder if his fastball was playing up in the bullpen but according to Baseball America, it sat in the high 90’s when he started.
His newly-enhanced fastball sits 97-98 mph deep into outings, reaching 100 and rarely dipping below 95.
The high velocity is just not a product of his move to the bullpen.
• Slider: 88-94 mph and with almost no horizontal break and a small late drop. There is nothing even above average with this pitch. It’s not good. I’m wondering if it’s a more of a cutter than a slider.
• Curve: His 12-5 loopy curveball sat 81-84 mph which he can throw for called strikes. It’s easy to see and it generated a below league average rate of swinging strikes (7%).
• He struggled out of the stretch at times with his command (8.4 BB/9 with runners on base). Reports state he has above average command, especially with his fastball, be he doesn’t. He seems to just throw it instead of commanding it.
• While some of the walks he gave up were legit, he got BABIP to death, especially down the 3rd base line.
Overall: I can see why prospect hounds are excited but he’s not ready to start in the majors. His over-reliance on his straight fastball means he may get hit around. Also, major league hitters aren’t going to chase his pitches out of the strike zone like in the minors so he’ll need better control.
For 2018, I’m passing on him in all but the deepest of leagues. He’s not yet a finished product after coming back from Tommy John surgery. Even if he does improve his command and slider, he only threw 90 innings last season so it may be a while he builds back up his strength. Maybe the Dodgers will give him 10 to 15 starts with trips back to the minors for rest or to skip starts. He is about one year away from being in top-40 discussions.
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.