Like Patrick Corbin, who I profiled yesterday, Zach McAllister impressed me in 2012 while filling in as a stream starter for my fantasy teams. He profiled as slightly worse than Corbin heading into 2013, so I tabbed him for more stream starts. That seems to be the right role for him, since he returned negative $2 of value last season. McAllister should enter the season with a rotation job, but owners in shallow leagues will be able to ignore him on draft day.
Despite a palatable 3.75 ERA on the season, McAllister saw a substantial decline in his peripherals, which led to his FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all totaling over 4.00. SIERA and xFIP are good at predicting future performance and both came in around 4.50. His velocity declined one mph and his whiff dropped from 8.3 percent to 7.1 percent. His strikeout rate followed, it fell from 20.3 percent in 2012 to 17.4 percent last season. His walk rate also increased by 1.5 percent.
That’s the quintuple whammy of peripheral meltdowns. By themselves, none of those changes are particularly bad, but taken together they result in McAllister looking a lot less attractive as a fantasy pitcher. If the Indians featured a powerhouse offense, he might project to win enough games to be worthy of consideration, but that’s not really the case.
McAllister’s profile screams back-end starter, which is typically something to avoid in fantasy baseball. Especially when it isn’t accompanied by strikeouts or a high innings pitched total. As you can see in the chart below, he leans heavily on his fastball, using the pitch over 70 percent of the time. The pitch draws swings just under half the time he throws it, and it does appear to be his best pitch in terms of results seen. While it isn’t a standout fastball, it is effective. He’d see more success if any of his secondary offerings provided a strong complement to the fastball.
McAllister has toyed with a cutter in the majors, but the results aren’t pretty. He mostly threw the pitch to right-handed batters. They managed a .438 batting average and .688 slugging percentage against the pitch with a .400 BABIP. However, the sample size was a tiny 16 balls in play. This is not to say that the cutter should be discarded, but perhaps it needs more development in the pen. He does need a secondary weapon against right-handed hitters besides his slider, since he avoids using his change-up against righties early in the count.
If McAllister can get his strikeout rate back up to 2012 levels, he’ll have more utility to fantasy owners. He suffered a finger injury in June, and his strikeout rate improved upon his return. Unfortunately, his walk rate also increased to offset the benefits. Owners in medium to deep leagues may want to take a flier on McAllister in the hope that he can maintain his strikeout rate above 7 K/9 and return to the strong walk rate he posted in 2012.
Like with Corbin, if you decide to roster McAllister outright, I strongly recommend pairing him with a high strikeout reliever. Most owners should prefer to use him as a stream starter against poor offenses, especially when the Indians are also facing a bad pitcher. I will be targeting about five starts from McAllister in my leagues, but I won’t lose any sleep if my rivals beat me to the punch.
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