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Starting Pitcher ROS Rankings – May Update (Fantasy Baseball)

Wow, quite a bit has changed since Opening Day back in late-March. We are just under two months into the season so a starting pitcher rankings update was well overdue. I also included my relief pitcher ranking updates as well. In the blurbs below, I’ll cover the pitchers who have seen significant movement since opening day. If a player has been injured, they, of course, have dropped in the rankings. I won’t cover them as it’s obvious why they have fallen. There are some pitchers who are intriguing and have shown skills changes (both good and bad) discussed below. Note: The ECR +/- is based on FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings, not my previous ranks. Click here for my preseason rankings.

 

BIGGEST RISERS

Caleb Smith (SP – MIA) +73 and Pablo Lopez (SP – MIA) +93
Yeah, Smith has been unbelievable this year. I had him ranked just inside the top 100 (99th) at the start the season and now he’s inside the top 20! To my credit, I did rank him as the top Marlins pitcher followed by Richards and Lopez. Smith has earned a 28.5% K-BB% which ranks fourth in all of baseball! All of the ERA estimators have him regressing closer to an ERA near 3.00, but given his skills, that puts him inside the top 20 overall for SPs.  Lopez has jumped over Richards as the Marlins second best option. His 5.06 ERA does not indicate how good he’s been. He has a 1.17 WHIP, an 18% K-BB%, and his ERA estimators have him closer to 3.65. I’ve bumped him up to 56th overall but could be higher if he didn’t pitch for one of the worst teams in the league. The same could be said for Smith (who could be top 15). Smith is long gone but Lopez may still be available in 12-team leagues.

Lucas Giolito (SP – CHW) +95
How fitting. Giolito just threw a complete game shutout against the Astros striking out nine batters. He’s been an absolute beast this year. I thought about bumping him up even more but feel that he’s safe in the upper-30s. Clearly, I was not in on Giolito coming into the season after a disastrous 6.13 ERA in 2018. He’s doing everything right. His K% is up to a whopping 12%, his walk rate is down over two percent, and he’s given up just three homers in 52 innings! That home run rate probably won’t stick but his improvements look somewhat legit. He dropped his sinker usage and is throwing his changeup more. Increasing his FB velocity has helped as well. He’s getting ahead of hitters and has a career-high zone rate. Now for the not so great. I don’t want to completely throw cold water on Giolito but he doesn’t quite have elite swing and miss stuff and when the weather heats up in Chicago, he’s in for some regression. Still, I think he’s more of 24-25% K rate pitcher with a home run per nine innings. I’d put him closer to a 3.50-3.60 ERA with near a strikeout per inning. 

Matt Boyd (SP – DET) +33
Based on FantasyPros Expert Consensus, my rank was on average 28 spots higher than the other experts. I guess you could call this one a victory for me but then why do I only own one share? Sad. I loved what I saw with his slider last season and he was one of my favorite weekly streamers. He really was just one step away from being very good which is why I boosted him in my preseason ranks. Well, he’s taken that next step and looks a lot like Patrick Corbin from last season. Other than very little run support, Boyd looks like a great SP2/3 this year with some upside. The AL Central is full of mediocre and poor offensive clubs (sans Minnesota), so I don’t see much regression in Boyd’s numbers.

Chris Paddack (SP – SD) +44
The rookie sensation has been fantastic in the early going. He’s got the stuff, he’s got command, and he’s got control. It will be interesting to see how the Padres handle him. He’s rumored to get only 140 innings this year but he’s starting every sixth day. At his current pace, he would be shut down with about three weeks remaining in the regular season. That kind of sucks for head-to-head leagues but should be just fine for roto leagues.

Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD) +16
Kershaw might not be the best pitcher in baseball but he’s doing the best with his declining velocity and skills. He’s throwing his breaking balls nearly 60% of the time but it does appear to be working. His control and command are elite and should be a top 15 starting pitcher if he remains healthy. Let’s just hope his back issues stay away for four more months.

Luis Castillo (SP – CIN) +15
Everywhere you look, people are calling for regression with Castillo and we saw some of that against the Brewers on Wednesday but his quality of contact against has been elite. Per BaseballSavant, his xwOBA is .249 which is just insane. My boo from last offseason is off to a hell of a start and has now essentially been an ace over the last calendar year. Here are his numbers since May 24th, 2018:
182.2 IP 12-9 3.25 ERA 1.08 WHIP 193 Strikeouts

That’s what I call a borderline ace. His changeup has been the best in the bigs this year. He’s close, but not quite there. His zone rate is dangerously low and it’s really bumped his walk rate. If he can dip his BB% to 8-9%, he’s going to be a monster.

FALLERS

Nick Pivetta (SP – PHI) -55
Ouch Nicky P. Was Pivetta a sleeper if everyone loved him coming into the season? Unfortunately, K-BB% isn’t everything. Quality of contact and location of pitches in the zone are extremely important. Pivetta may be recalled soon as he’s pitched well in Triple-A, I’m just no running to the waiver wire to add him save for deep leagues. He’s walking more batters and his BABIP is low in the minors. In over 315 innings in the bigs, his BABIP is .335. He just won’t succeed if those numbers continue.

Kyle Freeland (SP – COL) -65
Outside of injury or demotion, Freeland is the biggest faller from my preseason ranks. Coors Field is a bitch, amirite? Freeland has already given up 12 home runs this year after giving up 17 in all of 2018. We all knew regression was coming but no one expected this much. He’s still struggling with walks and the juiced ball has really hurt his home run rate. But, he’s also turned into a fly ball pitcher with his fly ball rate over 40% (up 6%). He’s not likely this bad but given him limitations with strikeouts, he’s not rosterable in 12 or even 14-team leagues. 

Miles Mikolas (SP – STL) -43
I had him at 24 in my preseason rankings as I believed his stuff could induce more swings and misses and therefore net more strikeouts. That has clearly not been the case. It figures that a pitcher who pitches to contact would get bitten by the juiced ball. Duh. As strikeout rates continue to rise, Mikolas’ K rate is falling. Mikolas doesn’t appeal to me as a fantasy player in this era. I missed on this one.

Ross Stripling (SP – LAD) -35
Well, we knew the risk going into the season with Stripling and other Dodgers starters. There’s a ton of skill and depth in that rotation but also a lot of uncertainty in terms of health. It’s difficult to rank Stripling any higher even though he’s been very successful as a starter. As a bullpen arm, he falls outside the top 100 but as a starter, he’s a top 40 option. In deep leagues, hold him, in shallow leagues, he’s a clear cut.

If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter @FreezeStats


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Luis Castillo 2019 Outlook: Are We Back In?

Luis Castillo (CIN – SP) –  NFBC Early ADP 113.5

I know, I know, we all got burned last year with Luis Castillo. Castillo ended the season with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with 165 strikeouts in 169.2 IP. The overall numbers are not the main concern here. It’s the fact that, owners had to carry a 5+ ERA with a 1.40 WHIP through the first half. At that point, most owners jumped ship or were out of the race already. If you jumped ship or stopped paying attention, you missed out on a stellar second half. In fact, Castillo’s second-half was near ace-like with a 2.44 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP with a 26.3% K rate. Yes, I prefer K% to K/9 and 25% is the magic number. How about those walks? Well, for the season, Castillo dropped his walk rate from 8.9% to 6.9% with a tiny 5.3% walk rate in the second half.

Those are gorgeous numbers, let’s see if the plate discipline backs it up. In 2018, Castillo increased his chase rate by 5%, decreased his zone-contact against by 1% and increased his swinging strike to 13.5% up from an already impressive 12.6%. Those numbers are the sole reason I held on to him in 2018. Castillo’s velocity dipped overall but it did come back some in the second half averaging just under 97 mph the last two months of the season. Castillo’s sinker has not been good, there’s no way around that. He just needs to throw it less often or better yet, eliminate it. His fastball, on the other hand, is better when his velocity is up but he also needs to work on locating it up in the zone more to fully take advantage of its speed. That’s where he can fully utilize this pitch because unlike the sinker, it can get swings and misses.

Castillo owns one of the best changeups in the game that resulted in a 43.4% strikeout rate and an incredible 52.8% chase rate with a 25.9% swinging strike rate (nearly double the league average). Castillo did increase the usage of the changeup which is good, but that sinker, now with over 700 thrown has a 126 wRC+ against it without the threat of strikeouts. Per Alex Chamberlin’s K% Outliers from 2018, you can see that Luis Castillo tops the list. That’s largely because of his change. If you look at pitch values per 100 thrown on Fangraphs, its value was much better in 2017. However, and this is where pitch values can be deceiving, pitch values are ONLY results based. Castillo gave up more home runs on the pitch (still just 5 in total) and gained 100 points in BABIP. He did that while increasing his vertical drop on the pitch yet decreasing the ground ball rate against. Hmmm, that doesn’t compute. All of his other metrics on the change improved from the previous season. In other words, pitch value isn’t everything. I think he falls somewhere in between next year and the pitch generates a pitch value north of 12.

Enough about the changeup, because one pitch won’t make Castillo a stud. His slider is his second-best strikeout pitch. It’s good but it doesn’t generate enough swings outside the zone to make it a great pitch. It already has a sub-80% zone contact rate which means it’s very difficult to hit, even in the zone. Since the velocity of the change and slider are similar but move in opposite directions, it would help Castillo is if he tunneled these two pitches better. Take a look at his vertical release points of these two pitches.

In the first half, there was a pretty decent separation in vertical release points between the slider and change. But in the second half, he tightened it up a bit. I think a combination of his release points and fastball velocity with better location up in the zone are going to be the key to Castillo’s success in 2019. Here’s the deal, if he’s able to capture what he did in the second half of 2018 for a full season and locate his fastball better, he’s a top 10 pitcher. That is not something most pitchers being drafted outside of 100 overall can attain. This is where projections are difficult because while Castillo was both unlucky and deserved some of his struggles, he still has elite skills. He just needs to make adjustments. Will he make them or not. We have to monitor the velocity in spring training, hopefully, he’s around 95-96 and can ramp up during the season. Here are my projections for Castillo in 2019.

12 Wins 3.81 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 198 Strikeouts in 187 Innings

You can follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

(Photo: Aaron Doster, Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Weekly Rundown – 4/21 – 4/27

HOT Hitters

The Notorious DIDI is at is again blasting 5 homers and driving in 13 runs while hitting over .450 this week. The league leader in RBI has continued his onslaught on MLB pitching. I’ll admit when I’m wrong and I was way off on Didi Gregorius coming into the season. He’s walking at a career high and striking out at a career low. He’s hitting that ball very hard and his high drive percentage is a hair under 20% (league average is around 6.1%). His xStats are great but the one interesting note is that xHR sits under 5 (currently has 10 homers). He’s outperformed his Stats in the past so I’m riding this out with Didi especially if he continues to hit in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

Michael A Taylor has had himself a week after a slow start filling out the stat sheet with 2 homers and 3 steals hitting .313. Taylor has been a great source of steals with 9 on the season but I’m not buying the hot streak. He has contact issues, hits too many ground balls and a lot of poor contact. His walk rate is up which is good and I’d hold him if you need steals or are in a deep league. In shallow leagues, he’s a sell for me right now.

Brandon Belt, the Prince of xStats is murdering baseballs. He’s hitting .455 this past week with 3 homers and leads the league in OPS (last 7 days). Whoops, nope, that’s Didi, Belt is second. The 6 homers on the season is a third of his career high in a single season. He’s rolling with career highs in both hard (high) and soft contact (low) which which tells me he’s selling out for power evidenced by his elevated O-swing and SwStr rates. I like the power gains but I’d sell him while he’s hot. If he maintains the power, which will be difficult at AT&T Park, he’s likely to lose 50 points on his average.

Kyle Schwarber has blasted 4 home runs this past week and has followed up a terrible 2017 with a hot start to 2018. So far, things are looking great, the strikeouts are down, the walks are up and the lower SwStr and O-Swing back that up. The one negative, I noticed is his launch angle is down to only 7 degrees. He’s hitting less fly balls, the ones he’s hitting have been fantastic, just check his 40% HR/FB rate. As great as that is, it won’t last. He’s not a sell, because he’s still stinging the ball and this lower LA could keep his average above .260.

Matt Davidson has 4 dingers this past week and continues to prove doubters wrong. He’s got 9 homers on the season but there are some underlying numbers that make me concerned about his season long term. The strikeout rate sits over 34% and his launch angle is below 9 degrees which is not ideal for a power hitter. As a result, he’s only hit fly balls 33% of the time which is more in line with a mid-teens to 20 homer type FB rate. Here’s the outrageous number of the day, his HR/FB is 60%! Yes, that’s correct, it leads the league by nearly 20% and almost doubles Bryce Harper’s 33% which ranks 3rd in MLB! In OBP leagues, I’m holding him because he has improved his walk rate but I’d sell high on him in standard leagues.

Freezing Hitters

J.D. Martinez is hitting .238 this past week. His Ks are up and BB are down. Has the decline for JDM begun? No, not even close, he’s hitting 60% of his batted balls hard. When he makes contact, it’s Judge-like, his average exit velocity is over 95 mph and his high drive rate is nearly 30% which is almost triple the league average! Per xStats, he’s actually been unlucky and should have more HRs and a higher average. If this cold stretch continues, I’m buying!

Chris Taylor has gone 5 for his last 26 with 2 runs, no homers, no RBI, and no steals. Ugh, this follow up to his 2017 breakout is a nightmare. He hasn’t stolen a base and his BABIP sits nearly 100 points lower than in 2017. We knew the .361 from last year was a bit inflated but this is low. He does have 3 homers and 10 XBH, and his contract rate is right where it was last year. He’s not hitting the ball quite as hard but I expect the numbers to up a bit, he’s a hold or moderate buy.

Andrew McCutchen is 2 for his last 16, that’s a .125 average but at least he taking walks, right? He hasn’t homers or stolen a base in that stretch and is now hitting under .200 for the season. Slow start for Cutch, but other than a slight increase in K rate, he’s the same guy. He’s still walking a ton, the BABIP will come back up and his 3 homers + 3 steals is solid. I’m buying Cutch right now.

Anthony Rizzo is 5 for his last 23 without a homer with a total of 1 bomb this year. He’s walking less and striking out more, very uncharacteristic of his track record. I’m worried about big Riz. His value hits are half of the league average and his poor hit rate is nearly 25% which is 5% over league average. His xStats don’t paint a much prettier picture, so it’s possible he’s hurt. If he keeps struggling the next couple weeks and they don’t DL him, I’m selling.

Justin Upton is in one of his slumps going 4 for his last 22 without a home run. Even though Upton was able to hold off an long slumps in his incredible 2017 campaign, he’s been known for prolonged slumps throughout the season. Nothing out of the ordinary for Upton. His batted ball profile and plate dicsiline is right in line with his previous seasons. It’s funny because the fantasy community believes Upton is inconsisten (especailly head to head players), but he’s as bankable as they come. He’l end up with a .260 BA, 26-30 HR, and 90-100 RBI.

Dee Gordon is hitting .192 in the last seven days without a steal. Where is Gordon’s value without steals? Now, he can’t steal bases every week but if you’re expecting 60 from him, you want that consistent production. The 9 steals on the season are nice and puts him on pace for over 50 steals. His speed hasn’t declined yet and so that’s good but he’s swinging and missing more so less opportunities to steal bases. If this keeps up, he’s probably more of a .285 guy with 50 steals than a .300-60 guy.

HOT Pitchers

Sean Manaea followed up his no hitter against the Red Sox with a gem against the World Series Champion Astros. No surprise, he’s the number one pitcher over the last seven days with 2 wins, 17 strikeouts, no earned runs and a WHIP of 0.44. He’s been amazing but he’s not an ace. His 98.2% LOB and a .148 BABIP just won’t stick. Don’t get me wrong , I love Manaea but he’s probably a 3.40-3.60 ERA pitchers with a K rate around 8.5/9. A solid #2 or 3.

Kyle Gibson has looked great in his last two starts with an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.00 in that stretch along with 17 Ks in just over 12 innings. I’d be picking him up in 12 team leagues and deeper where available. His Swinging strike rate is up 3%, that is not insignificant. Yes, that’s a double negative. Otherwise, he’s the same guy, but more Ks equal less blow ups. I think he can be a solid number five or six, so hold or pick up for now.

Miles Mikolas has proved to be more than ready to dominate Major League hitters giving up only four earned runs in his last three starts. He needs to be owned in even the shallowest of leagues if available. He was bit by the long ball in his first few starts and could be an issue going forward, but he’s averaging over 95 mph on his fastball and allows a lot of weak contact. I’m buying now, but keep an eye on the velocity, if that dips, he may be starting to fatigue. If that happens, you need to sell.

Chris Tillman, yes everyone Chris Tillman pitched seven innings last night without giving up a homer or a run for that matter. He struck five and has a 2.77 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in his last two starts. Here’s my advice for you on Tillman, don’t pick him up and if you own him in a super deep league SELL! He’s allowing a .313 BA with a .571 SLG. xStats actually says he’s been lucky! His walk rate and strikeout rate are identical. Excuse me….Sorry, I just threw up, but I’m back. SELLLLLLLL

Freezing Pitchers

Marcus Stroman has an 8.88 ERA on the season with his worst starts coming this past week.  He’s given up 14 runs (12 ER) in his last 10.2 IP, he also walks four in his start against the Yankees. Ground ball rate is great vut his hard contact given up is high. His average exit velo against is over 92 mph. That’s not good fam. He has been unlucky but his control is off as well with a 12+% BB rate, so he’s paying for allowing the walks and the hard contact. I don’t like what he’s doing and his velocity is down. I’m selling, he’s a streamer, nothing more.

Luis Castillo has given up eight earned runs in his last six innings along with 13 hits and six walks! This one really hurts. His velocity wasn’t bad last night, he was regularly hitting 96 mph and touched 97 but his command and control was off. He’s stuff is good but he’s making way too many mistakes. He also doesn’t trust his slider, he threw a total of three sliders and they all went for balls. This is a problem, if he’s not hurt he’s droppable in 10 team leagues. In deeper leagues you have to hold him for now. If he hits the DL then at least there’s a reason for his poor performance.

Danny Duffy has given up 10 earned runs in his last two starts while striking out only five batters in 10.2 IP. I’ll make this quick, I’m out on Duffy, Velocity is down a bit, swings and misses are down, contact up, hard contact up, I could keep going. He’s a drop in shallow leagues and ell low in deep leagues.

Clayton Kershaw has not looked sharp as he walked six batters, yes SIX, in his last start against the Marlins of all teams. It’s not just the walks but his 14 hits allowed in his last 12 innings is also no Kershaw like. Check out this great deep dive into Kershaw’s struggles from Nick Pollack on RotoGraphs. Basically, his fastball command is off and his velocity is down. It’s completely devalued the pitch which has been so great for Kershaw in his career and throws off the sequencing of his awesome curve and slider. I had Kershaw as the #3 SP coming into the year and if he can’t correct this fastball issue, I may be dropping him outside the top 5 or 6 overall SPs. Don’t sell yet, but monitor the situation.

Luis Castillo Sleeper Post and 2018 Outlook:

Tags: Luis Castillo Mass Appeal

  • Luis is probably my favorite young SP sleeper who by the time late March rolls around, may not be a sleeper anymore due to the potentially massive hype. If you are one of the lucky few reading this, then you have the advantage Bro!
  • Castillo is 24 already and came up straight from AA in 2017 and by Mid-August already had Mass Appeal. I love the fact that he complied nearly 170 innings between AA and the majors which means he shouldn’t be limited in 2018.
  • I’ve heard him compared to Severino. WOW!  Well, maybe 2015 Severino and we all know how 2016 went…not good; but the kid averages nearly 98 MPH on his fastball!! How’s his stuff?  Well, his K rate and Ground Ball % went up and his HR % went down when he came to the majors.  Weird right?  Well not really.  He developed a pretty damn good sinker and has a great change that is 10 mph slower than that fastball; mix in an above average slider as well.  The sinker, change, and sliders all induce ground balls at over 60% and he throws those 49.4% of the time.  The only minor issues are the fastball and that he plays his home games in the GAB (that’s Great American Ballpark) so home runs could be a problem.   Now, the BB rate was a little high but he’s shown great command in the minors and I expect that improve to just below 3.00 BB/9.  If you want a more detailed read on Castillo, check out this fangraphs community research piece by Lance Brozdowski.  Great read, and the fact that Castillo was actually better at the end of the season really gets me going!  In that piece, Red Manager Bryan Price has already committed to Castillo for a rotation spot, so it’s looking like a full season for the kid!
  • Let’s get down to the projections: Since Wins are difficult to project (Reds aren’t good so he could end up anywhere from 9 to 15), I’ll give you IP, ERA, WHIP, Ks for 2018:
  • 185 IP, 3.59, 1.14, 194 Ks
  • The ERA jump is mostly a regression based on the low BABIP (which I still think he keeps well under .300) and a slightly lower LOB % He’s had an ADP of around 160 in Way Too Early Mock Drafts. That’s around the 40th  I’d take him inside the top 30 SP, around 25 and about 110 overall.