Very quietly, Jacob Waguespack has been pretty solid so far this year. He’s only had one game in 11 starts where he’s given up more than three earned runs and has shut down some pretty solid offenses, including an impressive game against the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched seven shutout innings with one walk and five strikeouts.
He fell back to earth in his most recent start against the Atlanta Braves, as he only pitched three innings and gave up three earned runs on six hits with just two strikeouts, but still, over the past month the guy has posted a 2.61 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP.
And clearly fantasy players are taking notice. He’s the fifth-most added pitcher in fantasy right now, and if you see him on your waiver wire and you’re wondering if he’s worth a claim for the final stretch of the season, that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.
Waguespack is an interesting pitcher, and honestly I’m somewhat surprised at his success given the stuff that he has. But let’s take a look at his repertoire and see if this translates into something you can trust in fantasy.
Where Waguespack makes his money right now are his fastballs. He throws three of them—a four-seamer, a cutter, and a sinker.
His cutter has been his best pitch so far this year, but it’s not because it’s a particularly overpowering pitch. Actually, quite the opposite. It comes in at 89.6 MPH on average with below-average movement, yet the pitch has produced a pretty decent 33.9% chase rate and, more importantly, a solid .311 wOBA against.
Why? It’s the location. The thing that makes Waguespack succeed is his command, and he often locates his cutter pretty well, right on the outside of the plate:
In fact, let me give you an idea of what Waguespack generally looks like. Here’s a look at an at-bat Max Muncy had against Waguespack.
Waguespack starts off with a cutter, right where you’d expect it based on that heatmap—on the inside of the plate for Muncy:
Great location. Then, next pitch, Waguespack throws another cutter, but misses low:
Now, here’s where Waguespack gets scary. His command is inconsistent, sometimes it’s excellent and sometimes it’s not. Here, he throws a sinker and is lucky Muncy didn’t nail this:
But, Waguespack turns around and rings up Munch with a nice 94 MPH fourseam fastball up and away:
This is Waguespack in a nutshell and shows both what I like and dislike about his fastballs. What I like is how he mixed his locations, he starts in, then goes out (that cutter he missed was supposed to be outside corner), then he goes low, and finally, he goes up and out.
He’s changing the hitter’s eye level, and even if he isn’t necessarily changing speeds, if his command was consistent, that would be a tough at-bat.
However, that’s the thing that I don’t like about Waguespack—his command is inconsistent. He’s incredibly lucky Muncy didn’t park that down-the-heart-of-the-plate sinker in the seats, or at least in the outfield.
And if you need evidence of Waguespack’s inconsistent command, look no further than his .246 ISO on his cutter. It’s an effective pitch when it’s working, but he makes mistakes with it, and when he does, it gets annihilated, as the pitch is sporting a 23.1% HR/FB rate.
Waguespack’s Breaking Pitches
Now, this is where we see Waguespack’s biggest weakness and the thing that I think is holding him back from actually being a consistently solid pitcher (aside from his command). He lacks a quality breaking pitch.
Waguespack throws a curveball, a changeup, and a slider, and none of them are particularly special. The best of the pack is his curveball:
It’s decent, but the pitch has less drop on it than your average 12-6 curve (by more than an inch) and it’s not fooling hitters, as it’s produced just a 30% chase rate and a miserable 6.4% SwStr rate.
Still, if he locates it well (like he did in the above pitch), it can be effective, and he generally does, locating it pretty well down and away to righties and down and in to lefties:
While the pitch isn’t producing much in the way of swings and misses, it does have a very good .123 wOBA and .032 ISO against it, so if and when hitters do make contact, they’re not doing much with it.
Then, he has his changeup:
As far as a potential strikeout pitch goes, this is just about nothing. It’s a change that’s all vertical drop and very little horizontal movement and it’s not fooling hitters much at all, producing an awful 16.3% chase rate, though a decent 11% SwStr rate.
Once again though, this is about contact, and when hitters make contact with Waguespack’s changeup, they don’t do much with it, as it has just a .130 wOBA and a .000 ISO against, which is excellent.
Problem is, they rarely have the chance to make contact with the pitch because he throws it outside of the zone so much.
On the year so far, Waguespack’s changeup is sporting a pretty rough 32.9% zone rate. If hitters were chasing the pitch, that would be one thing, but they’re not. Instead, they’re generally just sitting on it and letting it go.
Finally, we have his slider, which he throws the least of the three breaking pitches, and for a good reason—it’s not very good.
The pitch is all about horizontal movement, one of those frisbee sliders, and its movement is fairly average. It can work well as it did in the above GIF, but far too often the pitch doesn’t break right, Waguespack makes a mistake with it, and we get this:
On the season so far, opposing hitters are slashing a gaudy .444/.474/.889 against Waguespack’s slider. That’s a .444 ISO in case you didn’t already do the math, and it’s a .551 wOBA against.
It is very bad, and unless it gets significantly better soon, it’s a pitch he should probably ditch almost entirely.
So what do we know about Jacob Waguespack now? He’s a contact-oriented command pitcher with a solid set of fastballs and mediocre-to-bad breaking balls.
Should you pick up that kind of pitcher in your fantasy league? I wouldn’t. I realize he’s had some good starts, but notice that in all of these starts there are hardly any strikeouts. So far this year, he has a pretty sad 18% strikeout rate.
Personally, I get nervous with pitch-to-contact guys, especially ones like Waguespack who rely entirely on their command, which is inconsistent. If the guy was able to consistently command his okay stuff, he could be useful, but he isn’t, and he’s pitching to contact in the AL East, which scares me even more.
Like I said, over the past month, Waguespack has a 2.61 ERA, and that looks pretty attractive, right? Even with a poor 5.81 K/9. But that ERA comes with a 4.76 FIP and a 5.27 SIERA. No thank you. Waguespack does not have the strikeouts to make that level of risk worth it.
There are definitely things I like about Waguespack. First, he’s got a last name that’s fun to type. Second, he has some good command of his pitches, and if that command became more consistent, I’d start to trust him more. But right now, he is way too risky for me to trust coming into the fantasy playoffs.
A fair number of fantasy players are picking up Jacob Waguespack right now. I’d recommend that, unless you are in a very deep league or you’re streaming him in a favorable matchup, you not be one of them.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)