Going Deep: Analyzing Every Potential Starting Pitcher Innings Limit for 2019
With just less than three months of baseball left, it’s becoming time for managers to begin looking ahead to the rapidly approaching fantasy playoffs.
Working with a couple of Pitcher List staff members, and with the help of our resident graphics guru Justin Paradis, we’ve compiled a list of young starters and projected when they would be shut down this season. How it works is simple: First, we used available commentary from beat writers and team statements to identify popular guesses at innings limits for 2019. For those that were unavailable, we took the pitcher’s total innings across the minors, majors, and playoffs from last season, added a 20% boost to project a 2019 limit, then calculated how many innings he has left to throw this season. By calculating pitchers’ expected innings per start (based on their historical data), we can determine a rough date for when they would hit their innings limits. In the chart below, you’ll see that list, followed by an overview of each pitcher involved, providing any insight and info from the organization about a possible innings limit.
There are a few things to note before we get started:
- Fantasy playoffs will have a different start day based on your league, but most begin either Aug, 27 or Sept. 3 and could end before the MLB season finishes. Keep this in mind and adapt to your league settings.
- These stats and insights are through July 11. If you’re checking out this article after that date, keep that in mind.
- Players highlighted in yellow have a projected innings limit that could be hit before season’s end.
- Pitchers’ limits will be designated as No Limit, Unlikely, Questionable, Probably, and Definitely.
- The “shutdown date” is projected based on a five-man rotation and not skipping a single start. Teams will have different ways of limiting innings ranging from simply not pitching anymore to moving to the bullpen, a skipped start or two in July/August, or switching to a six-man rotation. Keep this in mind through the year.
Let’s get to it:
* The uncertainty around the Dodgers’ use of Urias creates a unique situation that is described below.
Brad Keller | 2018 IP—140.1 | 2019 IP—110.2 | Limit?—Unlikely
Keller has had a decent follow-up to his stellar 2018, posting a 4.47 ERA and 1.45 WHIP over 110.2 innings, though he’s clearly experiencing some of the signs of regression evident in his peripherals. I don’t expect Keller to be carrying anyone’s fantasy team, but given the ability to make roughly 12 more starts in 2019, he shouldn’t be shutting down any time soon.
Brandon Woodruff | 2018 IP—126.0 | 2019 IP—108.0 | Limit?—Probably
With all the elite pitchers struggling in 2019, Woodruff has been a very pleasant surprise, emerging on the scene as a legit fantasy starter, upping his strikeout rate to 28.8% while dropping his walk rate below 6%. The problem is that Woodruff, only 26, only threw 126 frames last year and has only thrown over 150 once in his career, back in 2016. Brewers fan site Reviewing the Brew pegged Woodruff for a 40-inning bump this year, which would take him to 165 or so. That gives him roughly 10 more starts, including the playoffs. Unless the Brewers have him blow past his innings from 2018, I expect roughly seven or eight more starts from him. That said, it won’t mean he’ll get shut down early. Instead, he’s likely to have more starts skipped down the stretch. I’ll say though, considering how bad the Brewers rotation is overall, I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the Brewers kept throwing him every five days in a very tight NL Central race.
Brendan McKay | 2018 IP—78.1 | 2019 IP—66.2 | Limit?—Unlikely
Based on these numbers, it seems like McKay will be shut down relatively soon, but McKay also threw 129 in 2017 between college at Louisville and the New York Penn League. SB Nation’s Rays’ site suggests McKay will top out around 150, giving him the ability to go pretty much the distance for your fantasy team. However, if the Rays make a strong playoff push, they could skip starts here and there to ensure they have their rookie for the playoffs.
Caleb Smith | 2018 IP—77.1 | 2019 IP—81.1 | Limit?—Questionable
One of the bigger stories at Pitcher List this season has been the meteoric rise of Caleb Smith after he went down with a lat strain last year, as he’s posted a 3.50 ERA, 3.64 SIERA, and 31.1% strikeout rate over 81.1 innings. The problem is that Smith’s career high in innings came in 2015, with 135 innings, and he’s topped 100 just once since then. With the Marlins bearing no intention of competing this year, I don’t expect the Fish to push Smith to his limits. If they really let him fly, he’s got roughly 13 starts, and that will carry you to the end of your fantasy season in all likelihood. Just know that there’s risk here.
Chris Bassitt | 2018 IP—129.1 | 2019 IP—88.2 | Limit?—Unlikely
The A’s rotation took a big blow with the suspension of Frankie Montas, and the team currently sits 1.5 games behind the Indians for the second wild card spot, all of which has left them desperately clinging to Chris Bassitt. Despite the fact that the 30-year-old has dealt with injuries throughout his career, his age should mean there are no reigns on this horse.
Chris Paddack | 2018 IP—90 | 2019 IP—82.1 | Limit?—Definitely
The Padres showed a real commitment to the future by starting the season with Chris Paddack in the rotation. We’ve already seen the Padres limit Paddack’s innings by sending him to High-A last month and limiting Paddack to 90 pitches in each start, so I would not be surprised to see it happen again with the Padres sitting at .500, though that’s only two games out of the second wild card spot. Paddack is still in just his second year coming back from Tommy John surgery, and even a liberal jump to 140 innings does not give him a full slate in the second half. If you can get significant value from him in a trade, I’d move him, as it’s hard to guarantee he’ll be there when you need him down the stretch.
Domingo German | 2018 IP—93.0 | 2019 IP—82.0 | Limit?—Probably
Just before the break, the Yankees welcomed German back to their struggling rotation with open arms, and he delivered six strong innings, bringing him up to 82 on the year. Yankees beat writer Joel Sherman thinks German will top out around 150 innings; I think fewer, depending on how well the Yankees can hold on to their stranglehold on the AL East. The Yankees have embraced the willingness to utilize bullpen games and openers, doing so in 13% of their games thus far, and I’d expect them to skip some German starts in favor of those over the course of the next two months.
Griffin Canning | 2018 IP—113.1 | 2019 IP —81.0 | Limit?—Unlikely
After 119 innings in college in 2017 and 113.1 in the minors last year, Canning is poised for 150 or so innings, as projected by RotoProfessor. The Angels are not making a run at the playoffs this year, currently 6.5 games out of the second wild card spot, so there’s not much reason to push the rookie. He is likely to end up around 150 or maybe slightly more than that.
Joey Lucchesi | 2018 IP—136.2 | 2019 IP—89.2 | Limit?—Unlikely
Lucchesi is having a strong follow-up season to his 136.2 inning rookie campaign. Tack roughly 40 innings on that gets us to 175 innings, which gives him roughly 16 starts, enough to easily finish out the rest of the year.
Julio Urias | 2018 IP—22.0 | 2019 IP—50.1 | Limit?—Definitely
How will the Dodgers use Urias? While he’s made a few starts this year, he’s recently been limited to these one- to three-inning outings. The Dodgers have given no indications of where they’ll cut him off but given he’s never thrown more than the mid 80s in terms of IP, I don’t think he’ll extend past 120. The good news is that this gives him a lot of outings with solid ratios for your fantasy team if you’re rolling with him.
Matt Strahm | 2018 IP—75.2 | 2019 IP—79.2 | Limit?—Probably
Strahm is a tough one because he’s 27 now but hasn’t thrown 76 or more innings in three years. The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote that although he’s on pace for 160 innings, he’s highly unlikely to make it there. Therefore, I’ll peg him for 140-150 innings, which means he’ll have starts skipped here and there and will likely be shut down early, unless the Padres make a playoff run.
Max Fried | 2018 IP—113.2 | 2019 IP—98.2 | Limit?—Probably
Fried has thrown three straight 100-inning seasons and is on the verge of a fourth. However, there have been injuries throughout those seasons, limiting him to a high of 118.2 in that time. Alex Anthopolos spoke at length about both Fried and Mike Soroka and stressed two primary considerations for the team: the health of those pitchers and the availability of both of them in October. He also said the Braves have thought about using a six-man rotation upon Mike Foltynewicz‘s eventual return to the rotation, which could help both Soroka and Fried prolong their seasons. Regardless of how they manage Fried’s innings, he’s only good for about 10 more starts the rest of the year, which means limited production for your fantasy team.
Mike Soroka | 2018 IP—56.1 | 2019 IP—98.2 | Limit?—Questionable
See above for basically the same information. It’s quite possible Soroka blows through this innings limit though because he threw 143.0 and 153.2 innings in 2016 and 17 before an injury-riddled 2018. I fully expect the Braves to skip starts for him as well as Fried down the stretch.
Sandy Alcantara | 2018 IP—161.0 | 2019 IP—101.1 | Limit?—No Limit
In 2018, Don Mattingly said that Alcantara didn’t have an innings limit. If that was true then, he shouldn’t have any limitations after finishing with 161 last year.
Spencer Turnbull | 2018 IP—135.2 | 2019 IP—85.0 | Limit?—Unlikely
Turnbull got placed on the 10-Day IL on June 28 with shoulder fatigue. That could make this whole blurb irrelevant. Even if he were healthy, there’s time for him to pitch out most all of the year.
Trevor Richards | 2018 IP—165.2| 2019 IP—94.0 | Limit?—No Limit
Richards is mentioned in that Alcantara article in the same breath. No limitations.
Walker Buehler | 2018 IP—176.3 | 2019 IP—104.0 | Limit?—No Limit
Buehler looks like a clearer candidate for an innings limit when you don’t add in his 23.2 playoff innings. With 176.3 innings under his belt from 2018, the reigns should be completely off in 2019.
Zach Eflin | 2018 IP—148.0 | 2019 IP—100.0 | Limit?—Unlikely
Eflin has managed to avoid major injuries throughout his career, posting 118.2, 128.0, 131.2, 131.2, 119.2, and 148.0 innings over the past six seasons. He’s already at 100 in his age-25 season and could easily be in line to hit 180 this year. It’s possible he misses a start here or there down the stretch, but he should be fine.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)