The NFBC is conducting drafts already and has generated an ADP from nine leagues. We will soon be hosting NFBC ADP here at Fangraphs, but right now it’s only available to those with a league on the site so you’ll have to take my word on these prices. I decided to look at how my Top 50 starters (updated since this October run so don’t get too hung up on those… update coming after the New Year) matched up with the market and highlight some of the biggest discrepancies. Today we’re focused on the guys I like more than the market.
PITCHERS I FAVOR:
Michael Wacha – 45th for me; 72nd in NFBC
Not to undercut the entire premise of this piece, but I have to mention how tight the middle group of starters really is again in 2017. Seeing a 27-spot difference feels stark, but just comparing my own 72nd guy to Wacha – Patrick Corbin – highlights how close it is in that range. That isn’t to say that the rankings don’t matter, there are still factors that will have you preferring one guy over another. I still see upside in the 27-year old (July 1st birthday which has him right on that cusp so he’ll be listed as age-26 some places, age-27 at others) righty for the Cards.
We’ve seen Wacha be good for sustained periods in each of his seasons, even the 2016 season when he had a 5.09 ERA, but he’s only made it 180+ innings once and twice been DL’d for shoulder issues. I’m a longtime fan and I’m sticking by him. Seeing that the market values him lower than me will allow to wait on him a bit.
Garrett Richards – 29th me; 55th NFBC
I completely understand those who are hesitant about Richards as he’s thrown a whopping 62 innings over the last two seasons combined, but I’m heartened by the fact that he finished his season on the mound and looked quite good doing so with his velocity intact. Furthermore, we saw his strikeout (25%) and walk (7%) rates better than ever, though admittedly in a tiny 27.7 IP sample. It seems once we hit the 25th starter area, the elite per-inning guys start to go off the board.
We pretty much know (or at least expect, since we can’t *know*) that the Richards, Lance McCullers, and James Paxton types aren’t likely to log 180+ innings, but they will be so good in their 120-150 innings that they’re still worth taking there. Obviously, the market doesn’t quite agree with me on Richards, but they have Paxton, Shohei Ohtani, Alex Wood, and others like Richards up in the top 30.
Johnny Cueto – 23rd me; 40th NFBC
It was a rough season for Cueto as he posted a 4.52 ERA in 147 innings, laboring through blisters that cost him time and no doubt contributed to the home run and walk rate surges. I can’t say for sure that the blisters will be behind him in 2018, but I’m willing to bet on a rebound. His strikeout rate was essentially the same (21%), he got more chases (35% O-Swing), and while his first-pitch strike rate (65%) was down compared to 2016, it was above his career mark (61%). The 32-year old Cueto had three 210+-inning seasons of incredible work before 2017 and I just don’t think that guy is completely gone after a one season. At this price, I’m all in, but I can definitely see him rising up the boards as draft season moves on.
Taijuan Walker – 40th me; 56th NFBC
He was one of many hit by blister issues, likely related to the new ball, costing him time in late-May/early-June, but seemed fine the rest of the way. There were flashes of what he can be skills-wise (April, July), but too much inconsistency either with walks (June, September) or homers (July-August) to bring it all together. Walker now has enough experience where expectations start to shift.
If he’s going to become the frontliner he was projected to be, now is when we’ll see that transformation. He has to turn one of his secondary offerings into a true bat-misser to complement his fastball, hold or amplify the 49% GB rate we saw in 2017, and get his walks back to the 6% from 2015-16. The humidor could provide a buffer if he’s unable to do all of that. Plus, he just doesn’t cost much.
Michael Fulmer – 35th me; 49th NFBC
A couple injuries yielded just a five-inning jump in workload and the ulnar nerve injury eventually ended his season after his August 29th start and might’ve been at play as he posted a 6.15 ERA in seven starts surrounding the first DL stint on August 3rd and then his shutdown in September. It required surgery, the same procedure Jacob deGrom had to fix his ulnar nerve. Just because deGrom returned strong doesn’t guarantee Fulmer will, too, but it’s definitely encouraging and all reports so far have him ready for Spring Training.
I still think his raw stuff is conducive to more strikeouts than we’ve seen to date as he’s favored efficiency over punchouts. I don’t think he’ll move away from efficiency, but rather he will pile up more strikeouts while maintaining a great pitches-per-plate-appearance mark. Keep an eye on his Spring Training work to make sure the velocity is back and if so, it’s all systems go on the 25-year old righty.
I guess none of these names should really surprise me as I’ve been longtime fans of them and none of them are coming off great seasons. How do you feel about these guys? Any of them stand out as guys you’ll buy or pure stayaways? I know some who just flat out quit Richards because of his consistent injuries. Next time, I’ll highlight a handful of arms the market is higher on compared to my current ranking.