The Snell of Spring

Nick Pollack reviews every single starting pitcher's performances from yesterday's games.

(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)

Across the preseason I take a mental note of which pitchers I consistently get asked about in the context of “why are you so low/high on this guy?” I’m pretty sure Blake Snell had the most people saying “I love him for 2018, I think you’re too low.” And you might be right as Snell did look like a star last night against the Red Sox, going 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks. Well, almost as he only earned two strikeouts in the evening. And that’s the problem. He had to rely on the batted ball to earn his salary as he still features his Slider + Curveball under 25% of the time. These pitches are filthy and miss tons of bats, but until he gets that number above 35%, I just don’t see a situation where Snell transforms into that Top 30 SP we want him to be. His fastball/changeup combination worked last night, but those two walks can turn into four quickly, especially if those flyball outs find a few patches of grass. I want to be wrong here and I’ll be the first to get behind it when I see the changes. Let’s hope it comes soon.

Let’s see how every other starter did on Friday:

Johnny Cueto – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks. Today was the day of blisters not showing up, just like me and my 10-year high school reunion. Cueto had himself a party, acting like the ace of the olden days. Maybe it continues, maybe it doesn’t. The Dodgers were also shut out by Ty freakin’ Blach yesterday so I’m not going to put much stock in this. Nice to see, though.

David Price – 7.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks. Well this was everything I could have hoped for – and he only went 76 pitches! This was a potential Maddux, but I’m fine with seven frames of shutout ball and 4 baserunners. It was vintage Price like a 5 cent coffee and you should be thrilled if he’s on your squad.

Max Scherzer – 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 10 Ks. Aces gonna ace. It took us an extra day, but it was dope as he carved up the Reds’ lineup. Congrats on your first Gallows Pole of the season with 22 whiffs, beating the next closest (Manaea) by 6.

Tyler Skaggs – 6.1 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks. I think people are going to trust Skaggs now and that’s a problem. He’s still just a two-pitch pitcher and while I’m super happy he induced 15 whiffs last night, I really just don’t see this lasting – He’s like a Double Bubble, sweet for a brief moment until you realize “wait, why am I still doing this?”

Alex Wood – 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks. 90. That’s the number of pitches Wood threw and also his average fastball velocity through the outing. Obviously he can be successful without the ~93mph heat he had in the spring of 2017, but it does make me concerned that he’ll stumble plenty moving forward. I’d sell high when you also consider his injury history.

Homer Bailey – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks. Homer Bale looked pretty decent in this outing and considering that he’s on the field and not on the trainer’s table, I’d look his way if I needed some help at the end of my rotation with a grim wire in front of me. There will be bad days, but it’s possible he has found a groove.

Doug Fister – 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 3 Ks. 7 baserunners and 3 Ks in five frames. You’re putting me back asleep Fister, which means you’re performing well up to your standards.

Kyle Hendricks – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 5 Ks. 3 Walks from Hendricks? CONTROL KING MY BUTT. I want to love Hendricks but I’ll keep watching his velocity and it was hovering 87mph yesterday. Shudders.

Sean Manaea – 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks. YES MANAEA. YES. The man is healthy and killing it, using his changeup super well to go 10/21 on missing bats (16 overall whiffs!) while nearly going a full eight frames. Now, there was one cause for concern, though – a 91.3mph average velocity on his heater, which is a tick low from 2017 and two ticks from 2016. It’s early, it also might be an actual approach change to not dial it up all the time. I’m not worried like I am with Wood (I’m aware how I’m defending Manaea but hating on Wood) as I don’t think Manaea is as reliant on it to succeed. If he’s still out there somehow, I’m all for this.

Caleb Smith – 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. It started with the Twins and it was the Padres last season, now for 2018, it will be the Most Fantasy Relevant Miami Marlins Starting Pitcher Award – MFRMMSPA for short. Will it be Caleb after…eight strikeouts and 15 whiffs? Seriously? I just watched this outing and I’m impressed, not blown away, but impressed. He’s a lefty that reminds me a little of Jimmy Key with the way he sits away from RHB effectively, introducing a changeup the second time through the lineup that he commanded well down-and-away consistently. Slider wasn’t all too great, though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if next time was plenty rougher. Something to consider in deeper leagues though, and I’m not counting out his rosterability in 12-teamers. If I had to guess, he’s a streamer, not a starter when all is said and done.

Masahiro Tanaka – 6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks. That one HR came off a first pitch fastball – duh – as Tanaka elected to throw a combined 16 total fastballs. 16 out of 77. This is absurd. ABSURDLY AWESOME. I haven’t seen anything like this in a long time and to see that it also came with 0 BBs and 8 Ks is unbelievable. Get pumped.

Mike Foltynewicz – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. One of the greatest PEAS cases of them all, Folty ignored labels and showcased the wonder we all want him to be. Bread. But seriously, I want to believe this, yet Folty has had his moments before that pull us in and I need more before I’m taking the dive. Also not too encouraging when you have more strikeouts (7) than overall swings and misses (6).

Ivan Nova – 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks. Nova might be crowned the Meh-yer of Mediocricity. It’s Spring Training for everybody.

Dallas Keuchel – 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 4 Ks. It’s a PQS from Keuchel and while you want a little bit more from your SP2, it’s alright. It’s a handful of strikeouts that come across as packets of ketchup thrown into a depressing cheeseburger delivery at 1:00am and a WHIP that you roll your eyes to. It’s not the status quo, but this will happen.

Joey Lucchesi – 4.2 IP, 3 ER, 7 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks. I watched the fella, amazing windup and all, and I understand what people were saying about his mechanics creating deception with each pitch, but I don’t really dig what he brings to the table. I can see good starts here and there, but nothing made me think “oh yeah, I want to see more of that” or “excellent pitch, that will work a ton.” It was…fine. He’ll probably turn into a streamer, but should be ignored for 12-teamers.

Nick Pivetta – 4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 3 Ks. Blegh, there isn’t much to say here. I feel like we’re going to see this a good amount from Pivetta this year.

Jhoulys Chacin – 3.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 2 BBs, 1 Ks. Chacin will do well when Jhoulyst expect it. I really should listen to my own terrible jokes before choosing him as a super reluctant Call Boy. Streaming Record 0-1. Whatever, the 1998 Yankees started with an 0-3 record. IT’S A LONG SEASON.

Aaron Sanchez – 5.2 IP, 4 ER, 8 Hits, 4 BBs, 2 Ks. I love the fact that Sanchez was able to pitch and not leave the game early. I also kinda love the fact that everyone probably hates him now after this start. Wait, you don’t? Okay fine, I still kinda do as I don’t think he’ll be injury free through the year and he was clearly laboring in his final inning, but I do believe that over the course of the season, Sanchez will evolve into a great arm. There’s a ton of potential here – one I wouldn’t bank on happening simply due to injuries – but if he’s coming to you for peanuts with the owner saying “but even if he is healthy he clearly sucks” then I will sell those peanuts right away. They’re like a dollar a bag at my corner store.

Jordan Zimmermann – 6.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 1 BBs, 8 Ks. I was watching this game yesterday like many of you, itching for more baseball to the point that I’ll watch a Jordan Zimmermann vs. Ivan Nova matchup and for the first few innings there was an air of “Huh, Zimmermann isn’t looking so bad.” But anyone can have success in a small sample and BAM, he showed up in the fourth like he just couldn’t hold himself back from laughing any longer. No one’s laughing Zim, no one’s laughing.

Robbie Ray – 5.0 IP, 6 ER, 7 Hits, 3 BBs, 8 Ks. Man, this one writes itself. With the humidor showing up, Ray will be even better than before as that HR rate will come down. Cue clip of three HRs from yesterday I hate everything. The tune of Ray’s tuba (let’s be honest, that’s definitely the instrument Ray would play) hasn’t changed and as he’s getting swings and misses mixed with a ton of hard contact. He’ll have starts like these, he’ll also have 12 strikeout nights with 0 ER. Get used to it.

Tyler Anderson – 2.1 IP, 7 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks. Remember the days when Anderson was an interesting lefty that didn’t get enough love? It seems so far away, like a train that’s turning the bend, hinting at its arrival a minute away. Except you’re standing on the tracks and it’s a terrible time. That’s Anderson.

Today’s Streamer

Trevor Williams vs. Detroit Tigers – You know, I’m not looking exactly at Owned % for these out of the gate since even if I see Lucas Giolito or Kyle Gibson not wildly owned, I won’t believe it. Yes, I’d rather start them both over Williams here, but if you have your back against the wall (I don’t know how it is at this point but whatever) and need an outing somewhere, I’m going with Williams. I don’t even like him much, but I hate the Tigers offense more and it’s fathomable he can be helpful.

Tomorrow’s Streamer

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Kansas City Royals – Okay, I actually would expect Lopez to be owned, but there really aren’t any other options here (unless this is Stratton’s first start of the year and I might consider that against the Dodgers). Still, Lopez is better than you think and I can see him having a beautiful start that triggers a massive waiver wire parade. A sea of green as they call it.

Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer

Jake Junis vs. Detroit Tigers I’m curious to see his new curveball, but even without it, Junis’ slider could do enough work to make this a beneficial outing.

Game of the Day

Stephen Strasburg vs. Luis Castillo – Y’all know this is as heavenly as it gets for me. Castillo, make me proud.

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

7 responses to “The Snell of Spring”

  1. Rick Souddress says:

    I know he’s still just a 2-pitcher for the most part, but I think Skaggs’ success last night was partially due to the inclusion of his new changeup. If he can develop it, he might regain his former top prospect glory.

    • Nick Pollack says:

      But he barely threw it last night, at a lower usage rate than any previous season…

      • Rick Souddress says:

        Oh, well nevermind then. I just happened to hear “changeup” a lot last night so maybe I should pay more attention.

  2. not says:

    Sit Mike Minor in a deep league? Think I will against Astros

  3. Kevin says:

    Great column, thx. Where do you think Ervin Santana will rank once he comes back around June 1? He was #11 SP on ESPN end of the season Player Rater last year and he’s not ranked. Too much risk? Is he worth a DL spot?

    • Nick Pollack says:

      Thanks Kevin!

      I wouldn’t bother, I had Ervin around #60 prior to the injury news. If you have 0 DL spots taken, sure why not, but the moment he takes a roster spot I’d send him back to the wire.

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