I asked twitter what I should write about, and the requests were too many to get to. So I thought I’d get to as many as I could, and the only grouping I could find was starting pitching. So let’s take a look at these guys without spending three thousand words on them! I’ll try to be succinct.
(Okay, I lied, I picked the pitchers because I love pitchers.)
Andrew Heaney (9% owned Yahoo)
It’s a little early to be making too many decisions about Heaney based on his pitch peripherals, but it’s also interesting that Heaney looks better based on our recent update on the pitch type peripherals. Well, maybe not. His change still gets a well below average 8.1% whiff rate, even if the benchmarks for changes softened in the last update. But he has gotten grounders on over 80% of his change-ups, and obviously his breaking pitch (27.6% whiffs) is outstanding. Three of his five homers have been allowed on the road, so maybe a little home cooking will work in his favor when he returns from his procedural demotion in the second half. He’s worth a stash in deeper leagues if someone has moved on.
Marcus Stroman (23% owned)
Stroman’s control came with him to the bigs, so that’s the good news. He’s also got an above-average grounder rate, based mostly on his breaking pitches have 50+% grounder rates or better. You might think that our systems are misclassifying those breaking pitches — it’s rare to have a cutter, slider and curve — but other systems say the same thing. The curve, with its 15% whiff rate and 58% ground-ball rate by BrooksBaseball, that’s the star. But of course we want to know how the thing that breaks the other way does. Because it was that question — does he have a change — that, along with his diminutive stature, seemed to doom Stroman to the pen. The change is getting 10.6% whiffs and 46% grounders, which means that he’s almost there (11.9% whiffs and 44% grounders is the ‘okay’ change-up benchmark). In any case, a man getting that many grounders and an average amount of whiffs has a higher floor than we might have though. He’s right on the cusp of mixed leaguer status, and any improvement in his sequencing could get more out of the fact that he has three above-average pitches by whiff rates. (And an okay change.)
Zack Wheeler (56% owned)
Despite not really improving his command much — his walk rate is still worse than league average, and though he’s bettered his first-pitch strike rate, it’s not at par yet — Wheeler has taken more advantage of his prodigious velocity and intriguing off-speed stuff. I say intriguing because they don’t yet really measure up when it comes to benchmarks. His slider (13.1%), curve (10.5%) and change (11.9%) are all hovering at or below average by whiff rates. And no grounder rate is above 50%. But an 8.4% swinging strike rate on the fastball (averaging near 95 mph) means that he’ll always get the Ks. But if he’s going to be elite, he’ll have to improve the command more, and get more out of his offspeed pitches. To me, he’s fungible in mixed leagues. He’s looked better by results recently, but with seven games of four-plus runs and seven games of three-plus walks, he’s volatile. If he hits a bad stretch, you can move on in a mixed league. Even if he doesn’t really have an innings cap, having thrown 168.1 innings last year.
I’d rank these three as I have them here (worst to best), but of the three, I’m most interested in Stroman’s upside in deeper mixed leagues relative to his price. He’s attainable, and it might be a good idea to go get him. Even if the Blue Jays acquire a pitcher, he’s got to be ahead of J.A. Happ, and there’s a non-zero chance he’s the one that would end up traded into a nice situation at the end of the day. Four legit non-fastball pitches and a 94 mph fastball, with command? Sign me up.
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