The starting pitching landscape is usually one where we are able to find hidden jewels that can provide the much-needed help to conquer championships. Or, we can end up with a stash of 5.00-ERA hurlers that make us feel extremely miserable every time we check our rosters.
I tried to find a few of the former, at reasonable ADPs, that could provide the best possible return for our teams. So, without further ado, let’s take a look.
2021 stats (138.2 IP): 10 W, 152 K, 3.83 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3.48 FIP, 3.60 SIERA, 32.2% CSW, 77.98 speX.
Starting with the obvious: Alex Wood is a very, very good pitcher. It almost feels like cheating to have him on a Sleepers list, but after checking that he’s been taken in round 14 on average (213 ADP) in NFC Draft Champions Leagues (15 Teams leagues) since 12/15/2021, it certainly makes you think that he’s been somehow undervalued.
This is especially true when you see that pitchers like Tarik Skubal (178 ADP) and Hyun Jin Ryu (198 ADP) are being picked ahead of him. I understand that there is concern regarding Wood’s health because he has been injury-prone in his career, but there also should be a good amount of concern regarding Skubal and Ryu, so that levels the field and I would surely pick the higher upside player.
Steamer has Wood projected for 11 W, 167 K, 3.59 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP, which are undoubtedly solid numbers, but what I like the most is the 164 IP forecast. Other projections systems have similar innings numbers and looking at Wood’s recent track record plus the Giants’ handling of the pitching staff, we can be somewhat comfortable that these are feasible numbers.
Wood was second in MLB in CSW% last year at 32.2% (min. 130 IP), just behind Corbin Burnes and ahead of Gerrit Cole, no small feat at all. It’s now (as it should be) ubiquitous but in case you need a refresher, take a look at the CSW% primer. He also finished 33rd in speX, putting him in the same tier with Nathan Eovaldi, Lucas Giolito, and Yu Darvish.
I’m pretty sure his ADP will climb a few steps as we get closer to the start of the season.
Lance McCullers Jr.
2021 stats (162.1 IP): 13 W, 185 K, 3.16 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 3.52 FIP, 4.02 SIERA, 31.4 CSW%, 73.78 speX.
Let’s play a game, please look at the following chart:
One player has an ADP of 184 and the other 80, but other than that they were pretty much the same, leaning to Player A as the better one.
Of course, Player A, the one with the 184 ADP, is Lance McCullers Jr.; Player B is Luis Castillo.
“But Carlos, Castillo was atrocious at the start of the season, he was a completely different player by the end of the year!” – you are right, indeed. Well, let’s look then to the final month of 2021:
Yes, Castillo was the better pitcher at that moment, of course. But he is not seven rounds better and, although there is concern about the injury that kept him out of part of the postseason last year that he is still recovering from, that’s what we are looking for here.
2021 stats (129.2 IP): 8 W, 150 K, 5.83 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.52 FIP, 4.85 SIERA, 28.5 CSW%, 72.60 speX.
I know Andrew Heaney is the perennial promise that never delivers, so please, bear with me a moment before closing the tab. I’ve been burned over and over by The Heaney Situation and we know there’s always a big chance of getting burned again so it’s completely appropriate to proceed cautiously.
The thing is that with a tag price south of Round 20 (304 ADP), he is mostly free and the potential gain (big emphasis on potential) is enticing.
I’m going to be honest: we know that Heaney’s raw stuff is good, so part of the reason I’m willing to bet on him is the certainty that leaving Anaheim and joining the Dodgers is a huge upgrade in terms of pitching development. We want the better Los Angeles coaches to put him in their labs and fix whatever needs to be fixed.
While that happens, there are still signs for hope under the hood for Heaney; yes, his ERA and SIERA were hideous, but his FIP was still palatable at 3.52, plus he also had a sub 4.00 pCRA and a K-BB% close to 20.0% (19.6).
There are other indications of better prairies ahead. For instance, let’s take a look at the following graph:
The graph shows that some key factors were trending in the right direction for Heaney while he was getting back from the injuries that limited his participation last year. And while he had some disastrous early games (and a few at the end), he was starting to stabilize to a point close to where other pitchers were, according to their accumulated weekly speX. Remember, speX tracks K-BB%, pCRA, CSW%, Zone% and O-Swing%, so there was a lot of stuff getting back together for him before the season ended.
Do you need volume? Do you need Ks? Do you need a passable ERA and WHIP?
So, besides some more wins, why would you go for José Berríos at a 71 ADP instead of Tyler Mahle at a 118 ADP, three rounds later?
Most projection systems have both pitchers at very similar forecasts for 2022, Mahle being a tad worse in ERA and WHIP, but not too much. And I have a reason to believe Mahle will improve a little beyond the projections: he has slowly but firmly added a couple of decimal increments to his 4-seamer every year (from 92.4 in 2018 to 94 mph in 2021) which takes him out of The Dreaded 90-94 Zone I’ve written about in the past.
Yes, he got a little tired by the end of the season and that affected his end-of-season numbers, but it wasn’t that bad and his overall performance remained solid. Also, completely ditching the curveball in favor of the slider and, especially, the split-finger pitch proved to be the right thing to do for this past season, especially at the end when the fastball got more hammered than usual.
If you are still undecided between the two of them, you could try to extend getting Berríos until round seven (that’s the farthest he’d been taken in DCs – which are 15-teamers ) but in case you miss him, go for Mahle, instead.
Photo by MLB.com/ Adapted by Shawn Palmer (@PalmerGuyBoston on Twitter)
No mention of Mahle’s struggles at home? Have to figure that’s baked into his lower ADP since he’s essentially a match-up dependent home start
Thanks for the comment. Yes, playing in an unfriendly park for pitchers is a big issue, for sure. I didn’t extend too much in a lot of things for these pitchers to keep it concise, but you have a point.
I still decided to look at the whole picture and, in that regard, Mahle’s contribution is solid.