Let’s take a short break from my Pod Projection recaps (only two left!) to review another Steamer and I, where I identify players I’m far more bullish or bearish on than Steamer is. Carlos Rodon was a heavily hyped prospect after being selected as the third overall pick in the 2014 June Amateur Draft. He jetted through the minors so quickly, you would swear he never actually made an appearance. In fact, he recorded a total of just 34.2 minor league innings before making his Major League debut in 2015. It was an excellent debut, at least from an ERA perspective, so expectations were high.
Somewhat surprsingly to me, I was far more bullish on Rodon than Steamer was heading into the 2016 season. Let’s see exactly how Steamer and I projected his performance and how he actually performed:
Before we dive into the specifics, it’s quite interesting that I was closer on six of the 10 forecasts, yet still missed on ERA and WHIP…which is driven by those other metrics!
Let’s start with the strikeouts. Rodon featured a fantastic slider and good, but infrequently used, changeup in 2015. Oddly, his fastball, despite coming in at above average velocity, wasn’t very good on the whiff front. But that suggested some upside, which combined with his short minor league track record, resulted in my forecast of a small bump in strikeout rate. Steamer projected the same, but even smaller than my bump. Rodon ended up nearly matching my projection. There’s still seemingly some upside here if you could get that fastball SwStk% up to a level you would expect from that velocity.
His walk rate was the biggest surprise and I was closer simply because one of us had to be. Neither of us saw this coming though. His strike percentage did improve by a meaningful degree, but still finished below the league average. This smells fluky to me. I expect him to give back some of those walk rate gains in 2017.
Oof, another casualty of the leaguewide HR/FB rate surge, his shot up from a better than average 9.8% to 13.8%. Pitching half his games at the formerly named U.S. Cellular Field was going to make it difficult for him to maintain a better than league average mark and the leaguewide power surge ensured that would last just one year. Unfortunately, his home park means he may continue to allow an inflated HR/FB rate.
Man, that BABIP. Obviously, I would never project a pitcher to record a .330 BABIP, but I projected a worse than league average one because I expected the White Sox defense to continue its futility. But that didn’t happen! The Sox actually finished ninth in baseball in UZR/150 with a positive mark, far better than expected. Yet Rodon’s balls still couldn’t find gloves. There’s absolutely nothing in his batted ball profile that would explain the inflated BABIP, so gotta chalk it up mostly to poor fortune and expect sharp improvement next year.
My LOB% projection is a calculated number, done so after ERA is calculated from my projected peripherals. But Steamer’s always seems far lower than mine, which is odd. Rodon nearly matched his mark from 2015.
Because of the huge BABIP and HR/FB rate, Steamer backed into coming closer on the ERA and WHIP, despite missing on the strikeout and walk rates, and actually missing on the BABIP too. This happens often. Right results, wrong process. I have even “won” that way as well.
At this point, I’m not that excited about Rodon. He still clearly has control issues, has no sort of ground ball or fly ball leaning profile that could help curb either homers or BABIP, and his fastball just hasn’t been as effective at inducing whiffs as you’d expect given its velocity. But since his ERA finished above 4.00, perhaps he has been forgotten about and comes fairly valued or maybe even cheap enough to yield a profit. I’m absolutely willing to roster him, but not pay a whole lot.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.