Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening — whichever is applicable to you. Over the year’s, fantasy players develop strengths and weaknesses. Over the years I’ve found myself in an unhealthy relationship with Jack Cust, laughed out of a draft room because of my affection for Chris B. Young, and praising Craig Monroe as a future MVP to anyone who had a pulse. The error of my ways hasn’t always been in player evaluation. For years I would eagerly welcome the Adam Dunn/Chris Carter types time and time again; oblivious to my roster makeup.
I’ve been slow to embrace the worth of SB sources who provide plus production elsewhere. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed at a Dee Gordon selection in round two only to select Billy Hamilton a few rounds later or spend multiple late round . selections on speculative rabbits that never panned out.
My track record for Pitching success has featured far less growing pains. Despite the ever-growing statistical data used to evaluate pitching my approach has remained unchanged. Last year I introduced my GAWK system for finding pitching value.
- Ground ball, Assited by Walk and K‘s
While the acronym can be blamed by a 12 pack of Pabst, I stand by the process and the track record of its success. Despite the endless stream of pitching metrics I see no reason to abandon what has proven to work. The GAWK profile is based on 3 pitching peripherals.
1. GB%. HR allowed can be a SP undoing. Fly ball pitchers are more subject to HR. Spikes in HR/9 is the easiest way a SP can inflate an ERA. A ground ball approach is simply a safer alternative.
2. Walk. I use BB/9 as my barometer. Walks are free base-runners. Base-runners lead to runs. I’ve found this to be the statistic I hold most dear.
3. K. Once again I do the K/9 variety. Aside from being a category all to itself, a strikeout is the most effective way of run prevention for a pitcher.
In summary: if you keep the ball on the ground, limit the free passes, and have a solid amount of easy outs then success should find you. For the purpose of this post I used the league average for SP to find players whose performance could be valued a plus or problematic in these areas. The average MLB SP in 2017 posted a GB% of 44%, with a K/9 of 7.96 and a BB/9 of 3.13. Many may choose to adjust these numbers upward; personally I see no reason.
Pitching styles and skill sets are redundant in general – in the end there’s only so many ways a pitcher can pitch. With that being said: fantasy relevant arms come in various styles. Not all are high K arms, many relevant names have control issues, and success can be found with both fly and ground ball approaches. Overall I’m just not sure the “fantasy relevant” averages would be that much of a contrast compared to the league average.
Using the above MLB averages I identify players who not only display a plus skill, but those who have potential risk as well. I use this breakdown to differentiate between player groupings in ADP and to unearth potential breakouts as the draft moves into its endgame. Below you will find some player groupings with players 2017 totals listed.
Kershaw 10.39/1.54/47.9, Scherzer 12.02/2.47/36.5, Kluber 11.71/1.59/44.5, Sale 12.93/1.81/38.7
*Kershaw is the most often SP selected but any of these options will suffice. Kershaw and Kluber are the favored options using GAWK with Kershaw getting the league advantage. Scherzer is a prime example of the GAWK process. The 36.5 FB% is borderline problematic, his huge K/9 and plus control helps minimize the damage but HR frequency makes it hard for Scherzer to consistently post an ERA south of 2.75. Sale’s fly ball lean increased last season. Was it a one year blip on the radar or a new trend? Sale’s control is better than Scherzer, but fly ball growth in AL East and its parks isn’t necessarily the best recipe.
Bumgarner 8.19/1.62/40.8, Archer 11.15/2.69/42, Severino 10.71/2.37/50.6, deGrom 10.68/2.64/45.3
Strasburg 10.47/2.41/46.8, Carrasco 10.17/2.07/45.2, Syndergaard 10.09/.89/57.6, Greinke 9.56/2.00/46.8
Overall I’m skeptical of the draft day price of this grouping (more on that next week). GAWK is taking an unbiased opinion and would suggest 2017’s data clearly supports the current draft day asking prices. Perhaps GAWK may even be questioning the current price of Madison Bumgarner. At this point Bumgarner is actually the 5th wheel of Tier 1, but with the level of talent behind him, one may ask if reaching for an injury shortened 2017 SP is the best investment?
Top End Price In Question
Verlander 9.57/3.15/33.5, Ray 12.11/3.94/40.3
This list seems shorter than in years past, but these are the types I avoid 100% of the time. Sky high cost accompanied with built-in risk. With Ray the problem is walks. The K’s certainly go a long way in aiding the ERA risk, but until that total is more league average he will be a detriment to your WHIP. I’m not willing to pay a hefty price when growth is still needed to ensure profit.
Verlander’s present issue is a low GB%, while GB% will always be secondary to walks for me, it still offers pause. Verlander’s 3.15 BB/9 is right around league average – what if that total increases even slightly? Are we looking at a few more 2-Run home runs over the course of a season? Verlander has a smaller-margin for error than I’m comfortable paying for at his current price.
Top End Talent w/Profit Potential
Weaver 11.22/2.28/50.7, Paxton 10.32/2.45/44.9, Nola 9.86/2.63/49.8, Godley 9.57/3.11/55.2
Overall this group is certainly not being overlooked on draft-day. Most are being targeted among the Top 25 SP, and all of them among the Top 40. Currently outside of the Top 15, enough owners are justly seeing that type of potential in these arms. Weaver’s success has the small sample label applied to it. Much the same could be said for Godley in addition to his borderline control. Nola and Paxton certainly seem on the cusp of greatness.
Underwhelming 2017 Leaves Me Wanting More
Quintana 9.87/2.91/44.8, Tanaka 9.79/2.07/49.2, Cole 8.69/2.44/45.8, Lester 8.97/2.99/46.2
This collection is a prime example of how much analytics have been infused into the fantasy game. Each of these arms were among the Top 20 SP in ADP last season. Each disappointed their owners in 2017. Three to four years ago these SP would’ve seen their values plummet after posting ERA’s north of 4.00. Underlying numbers, however, tell an entirely different story. Apparently fantasy owners are banking on those for 2018 as each of these arms are still being drafted among the Top 30 SP.
I love the current asking price for Quintana; his ratio’s check all 3 boxes and the defense behind him should be really solid. Borderline elite in all three areas was Tanaka, I just don’t see a repeat should the skill set hold up. Lester’s age could eat away at some of the skill, but I’d need to see a regression in it before I panic. Cole’s outlook is most clouded for me. Initially I’d expect a decline in production with the move to the AL, yet one has to wonder if a move to a contender could regenerate the competitive juices.
Checking All the Boxes
Martinez 9.53/3.12/51.3, Wood 9/2.27/52.4, Arrieta 8.71/2.94/45.1
* Martinez has room to grow, but I’m not sure walks will reach elite levels. Still, a very reliable and safe option. Wood could be on the cusp of Elite status; overall volume could be the last remaining hurdle. Arrieta would be my most concerning arm among this group. Three year gain in WHIP has been the result of increased walks in 2016 and more hits allowed in 2017.
Nelson 10.21/2.46/50.3, Morton 10/3.07/51.8
Both showed excellent growth in 2017, leaving everyone to wonder if it can be repeated. Nelson of course will spend a significant amount of time on the DL, moving forward, however one has to feel pretty good about the future. By default I typically dismiss career seasons and changes in skill set at the age of 34. However seeing those underlying metrics combined with decent value – Morton will not be someone I will avoid at all cost. Just how much the K rate holds up will likely be the determining factor in a repeat.
McCullers 10.01/3.03/61.3, Bauer 9.99/3.07/46.6, Jon Gray 9.14/2.45/48.9
A talented group who’ve yet to sustain success up to this point. Gray has been a GAWK target for several seasons, but nothing has really become of it. Coors certainly doesn’t do him any favors, but a career 1.36 road WHIP speaks to how hittable he can be at times. McCullers has all the potential in the world; I’m just not sure the workload needed to be elite will ever be there. Bauer’s ADP of 37th seems fair. Unlike McCullers, Bauer’s path to workload will be based on his performance. This combo provides the perfect mix for solid earning in 2018
Taillon 8.42/3.10/47.3, Wacha 8.58/2.99/48, Corbin 8.47/2.84/50.5,
Happ 8.79/2.85/46.9, Hernandez 8.10/2.70/46.9
These are the types of targets that can win league titles. Taillon 51st, Wacha 63rd, Corbin 66th, Happ 71st, and Felix 77, can all be had after the Top 50 SP are off the board. Taillon is a perfect post-hype option who produced a really solid underlying skill set for a rookie. If his growth in control is swift you could be looking at a low ratio target. I’m not sure what upside Wacha possesses, but there is value to be had with decent ratio’s over 165 IP. Corbin could be a nice mix between Taillon and Wacha. I don’t see the upside of Taillon, but I do believe he could be a better option than Wacha with around the same workload. Happ and Hernandez are really interesting to me. Both have skill sets that would suggest better results can be had. Hernandez in particular could have used 2017 as a learning period for his reinvention as a SP. Unlike the previous trio there’s absolutely no reason to suggest either couldn’t top 200 IP for 2018.
Everyone Loves Mom’s Meatloaf
Because ause 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. In the grand scheme of things, a very small sample of players offer the gauntlet of goodness. This is not to say that success cannot be found without it. Scherzer and Archer have already been mentioned among the elite options while both Darvish (10.08/2.80/40.7) and Castillo (9.87/3.22/58.8) are being drafted as such.
Pitchers with K/9 and BB/9
Maeda 9.26/2.35/37.5, Samardzija 8.88/1.39/41.5, Berrios 8.61/2.99/39, Price 8.59/3.00/40.8,
C.Anderson 8.47/2.61/39.2, J.Montgomery 8.34/2.95/40.7, Porcello 8.01/2.12/39.2, Duffy 8.00/2.52/39.5
Pitchers with K/9 and GB%
S.Gray 8.48/3.16/52.8, G.Gonzalez 8.42/3.54/45.8, Walker 8.35/3.49/48.9, Fister 8.46/3.64/52.1
While less enamored with these types due to walk concerns, they all have appeal. Gray is on the cusp of being a 3 plus outcome SP. Walker has youth and the potential for improvement on his side. Gio has workload going for him, while Fister is relatively cheap and has an elite GB rate.
Over the years Dallas Keuchel, Kyle Hendricks and to some degree Marcus Stroman, have made their impact in fantasy. In a game impacted so much be high K arms, these types of players are often overlooked. Plus control with a ground ball lean can be a very effective mix, and yet the price you will likely have to pay will be minimal or in the very least discounted compared to the likes of McCullers, Bauer, and other high K potential plays.
Manaea 7.94/3.12/44.1, Sabathia 7.26/3.03/49.9, Nova 6.30/1.73/45.7
Leake 6.29/1.79/53.7, Fulmer 6.23/2.19/49.2, Cobb 6.42/2.21/47.8, Matz 6.48/2.57/47.1
One item to consider with arms such as this is the K rate. For me I’m comfortable with anything in the 6 K/9 range if they have the potential to be a workhorse. The IP totals and other safe skill sets will produce a decent K total and solid ratio’s in Roto formats. Anything below the 6 range offers up too much opportunity for damaging events that will impact both ERA and WHIP.
Likely ignored in 10 and 12 Team formats, these players could have some value in 15 Team formats as end game options. Furthermore, in those 10-12 team formats, these players could be worth monitoring as breakout candidates should early season success find them. All should be added to your watch list after the draft.
3 of 3
Karns 9.87/2.22/49.6, G.Marquez 8.17/2.72/45.2, M.Leiter 8.16/2.23/45.17, Andriese 8.24/2.93/44.3
2 of 3 K/BB
T.Andrson 8.22/2.78/43, Skaggs 8.05/2.96/41.8
2 of 3 BB/GB
Biagini 7.16/3.07/55.2, B.Suter 6.91/2.05/46.3, Triggs 6.89/2.62/49.8
C.Richard 6.89/2.69/59.2, JC Ramirez 6.45/2.97/51.4, T.Williams 6.94/2.92/49.8, Senzatela 6.41/3.16/48.7
- Dilson Lamet 4.25 BB/9. The K totals are easy to love. I just can’t force myself to brush over those walk concerns at his current 54th SP ADP.
- Mike Clevinger 4.26 BB/9. Same exact script as Lamet and just 2 spots lower in ADP.
- Justin Verlander 33.5 GB%. I try to be risk adverse at the top part of the draft. He’s one poor HR/9 season from a 4.00+ ERA building block.
- Blake Snell 4.11 BB/9. Building some speed after a solid 2nd half of 2017. I’d much rather be a season late to the party.
- Dylan Bundy 32.8 GB%. A Fly ball approach in that ballpark and in that division. No thanks. Role the dice elsewhere at 49th SP off the board.
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