Starters To Avoid And Why

For this article, we will be going through a couple of pitchers that you might want to avoid on draft day. This doesn’t mean they are in a sense bad, it just means based on their ADP they don’t seem to have any perceived value. This could be for a variety of reasons such as playing time, stuff, or injury history.

Walker Buehler ADP 19

We all know that innings will be at a premium coming into the 2021 season. We have heard of teams already saying tack on 100 innings to their innings pitched from last season. We have also heard of teams already setting a hard cap like the Mariners. This is the only reason you might want to avoid Walker Buehler.

The stuff is fantastic, he has a deep arsenal and should be an elite pitcher for years to come. He has notably said he is a slow starter so let’s assume you have to wait a month for Buehler to become who he is. That lowers the number of elite innings you will be getting right there. 

Now let’s look at the Dodgers’ tendencies with their pitchers. We all know of the phantom IL stints they like to pull. Well, the Dodgers are making the playoffs, it would be catastrophic if they didn’t. Their eyes aren’t even on the playoffs it is on winning another Championship. In order for them to go back to back it is going to take a healthy pitching staff. Why wouldn’t the Dodgers give Buehler a phantom stint or two, or even go to a six-man rotation a few times? It makes nothing but sense.

But Mike they didn’t do that in 2019 when he pitched 182.1 innings. You are right but here is the difference, depth. They have incredible depth now that they added Trevor Bauer. Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and even Josiah Gray can jump in at any time. Did they have depth in 2019? Yes, but they had Hyun-Jin Ryu who was extremely injury prone and Kenta Maeda who couldn’t pitch over a certain amount of innings due to incentives. This is a completely different scenario and it makes nothing but sense for the Dodgers to limit the innings of not only Walker Buehler but also Clayton Kershaw.  

Corbin Burnes ADP 57

Another pitcher with innings concerns. Last season he pitched 59.2 innings, in 2019 it was 71.1 innings combined, and in 2018 it was 116.2 innings combined. The Brewers said they would like to tack on 100 innings to what their starters did last season which would but Burnes around 160 innings. But the fact that he hasn’t even come close to that number leads me to believe we could only see 140 innings from Burnes. With Burnes going around pitchers like Carlos Carrasco, Sonny Gray, and Kyle Hendricks why not take the pitcher who can go 180 innings and give you more counting stats?

Burnes has so much talent and his arsenal is beyond impressive. The small issue with him (nitpicking here) is the high walk rate. Typically league average is around 8.5% and he was around 10.0% in 2020. The good thing is the elite HR/9 of .030 counteracts that but obviously, that number should regress. He rarely threw it in the zone and the chase rate wasn’t exactly high meaning the high walk rate could stick, just keep an eye on his home run rate and make sure it doesn’t start trending the wrong way.

Kevin Gausman ADP 121

Gausman seems to be the new craze around fantasy baseball Twitter. Deservedly so as he had a fantastic season putting up a 3.62 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 32.2 K%. After averaging a strikeout rate of just 22.3% in his career Gausman stormed out of the gate setting a career-high. He also set career bests in SwStr%, Contact%, and O-Contact%. 

This was all done by making a pitch mix change while adding velocity to his fastball. Let’s look at the fastball first. In 2018 and 2019 his fastball averaged about 94.1 MPH. In 2020 he was able to bump it up to 95.4 MPH. Not a massive difference but a big enough difference where it makes a difference. One worry with velocity risers from 2020 is that pitchers threw harder knowing they didn’t have a full season. Makes sense right? Well, the good thing about Gausman is that he maintained that velocity deep into his starts. So will it stick? Likely. Great news because his fastball set career bests in SwStr%, Contact%, K%, and FB%. 

As for the pitch mix change, Gausman went to his split-finger and four-seam more while reducing his slider usage. His splitter was filthy all season posting a phenomenal -29 wRC+ against, .039 ISO, 55.7 K% (!), and 26.3 SwStr% (!!). Here is the issue, split-finger fastballs can be erratic through an entire season. 

Gausman’s Splitter In 2018
Month wOBAcon SwStr%
April 0.322 23.9
May 0.210 27.3
June 0.453 21.5
July 0.309 11.5
August 0.217 22.2
September 0.310 21.2
Gausman’s Splitter In 2019
Month wOBAcon SwStr%
April 0.458 19.5
May 0.230 20.6
June 0.455 22.2
July 0.493 23.8
August 0.339 27.2
September 0.209 32.8

While the SwStr% stays pretty consistent around 20% the wOBAcon is rather erratic. A split-finger is a feel pitch and a pitch that is hard to consistently grip the same exact way without revealing to the hitter what you are doing. I’m curious to see if his splitter can be consistently as good as it was in the 2020 season. Personally, he seems a bit of a risky pick for me and with his current ADP, I’d be looking at pitchers like Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, and German Marquez.

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1 year ago

The comments from teams on innings increases are maddening. There’s no data to support that throwing less in the year prior means you a player will find it harder to throw as many innings the next. Pitching is a cumulative wear issue and if anything, they might be able to throw more innings because of the added rest. Do they really think they would rather have a guy who has gone 250 IP including playoffs with a shorter offseason than a guy who threw 60 IP?

This is not event to take into account that players aren’t completely shutting down in the off-season like they used to. It’s no surprise that more TJ surgeries are required early in the year than late. There are going to be pitchers who are really feeling the groove in August and teams are going to baby them for arbitrary reasons and the player, fans and potentially the team’s playoff chances will suffer.

1 year ago
Reply to  SucramRenrut

But… the more the diminish the value of starters–or any player–the less teams will have to pay them. Just ask all the hitters capable of 65/35/90 seasons with .260/.315 lines. Those guys are relegated to getting scraps. Pitchers are next in the food line.

1 year ago
Reply to  merkel

I’m completely on board with this line of thinking. Expanded use of openers, deeper (and better quality) bullpens, tendencies away from 3-times-through strategies, multiple open discussions of 6th starter, etc. Surely nobody believes the owners caused COVID, but they’re leveraging it’s reality to their benefit much more efficiently than maybe expected (also see MiLB takeover/reorganization and reduced draft process)

1 year ago
Reply to  merkel

Wouldn’t taking away innings from starters make relievers more valuable?

1 year ago
Reply to  SucramRenrut

There probably is data, otherwise teams wouldn’t be doing it.