The Weights Of Rankings

What a season it’s been for Zack Wheeler, capping it off with a bit of Careful Icarus via 8.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks, allowing a pair of gopherballs in the eighth to smear a shutout performance. I was all-in on Wheeler in the preseason, ranking him in the Top 20 and buying the foundation of his heater from the second half of 2018. All he needed for a true breakout was one of his three secondary pitches – slider, curveball, splitter – to take the next step and…none of them did. Not even during this fantastic six-game stretch to end the year did anything other than his fastball take over in a game, simply granting up brief tastes of what could be in each. Even here against the Marlins, it was 20/53 CSW on just four-seamers alone, and while his curveball was decent, nothing stood out to properly pair with his heat. 

And that’s the problem. It’s something I’ve learned this year in particular about my analysis, something to put a different weight on moving forward: pitchers who rely heavily on their heaters need to have a complementary second pitch to truly be consistent. I’m debating if Brandon Woodruff’s slider is there already or not, but even with a variety of options for someone like Wheeler, it’s a hard bet to make that the development will come along. Not to say this Wheeler example is the standard, this is more about refocusing the discussion.

I’ll likely have Wheeler in the mid-30s or so next year, though there is a chance his location entering next year will influence his rank in February. I wonder what a new organization will be able to get out of Wheeler and if he truly does nail down a fantastic slider and refines his fastball approach, there could still be plenty of magic to witness.

Let’s see how every other SP did Thursday:

Tyler Beede3.1 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks. Wow. Here’s a case of a pitcher absolutely cruising as owners felt like geniuses…until he tweaked his left side during a pitch and was removed from the game. Baseball just isn’t fair. 22/53 CSW is fantastic as the kid was really feeling his curveball – 10/19 CSW and pairing it with 95+ heat. He’ll be a sleeper to some in 2020 and I understand it, I just hope he gets those breakers in order.

Clayton Kershaw6.0 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 1 BBs, 7 Ks. Aces gonna ace. For someone that we all expected to miss plenty of time, Kershaw made 28 starts for just the second time since 2014. A 3.05 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 188 strikeouts with a 16-5 record is everything you could have hoped for from the former “best pitcher on the planet”. Man I hope he avoids back trouble again.

Jose Ruiz1.2 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BBs, 1 Ks. Because our streaming pick Dylan Cease had a sudden hamstring strain, Ruiz got the start in this bullpen game. Still stuck at a 101-67 streaming record for the year. Here’s to fewer than 70 losses…

Travis Lakins2.0 IP, 0 ER, 0 Hits, 1 BBs, 1 Ks. Speaking of bullpen games, the Sawx have little choice but to follow suit and Lakins got the most innings yesterday. Cool.

Jordan Yamamoto6.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 Hits, 3 BBs, 10 Ks. Fair Jordan was the best kind of a fair. THE SCHOLASTIC BOOK FAIR. Not what I was going for initially….but yes. Sure shocked me after six of his last eight starts came with at least four earned runs, but hey, he did it when it mattered most for y’all. The Marlins rotation won’t be changing for 2020, but with Gallen gone, expect Yamamoto to easily have his slot in the rotation next year. Am I interested? Sadly, I’m not. Maybe if you’re trying to find anything decent at the end of a 15-teamer draft, but I don’t think his stuff is all that great. It’s Fair.

Chase Anderson5.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks. I’m proud of you Chase, you lasted the full five frames and earned the desired Win for all your hopeful owners. I’ve been a bit down on Chase all year and people will point to his September of a 2.35 ERA, I’m sure, but it was 23 frames. With a 5.38 SIERA. I don’t see why this would be a good probability play. And for what reward?

Kyle Freeland3.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BBs, 0 Ks. I was curious if Chi Chi Gonzalez would follow Freeland as he did last week, but it didn’t come to fruition and this game was yet another lost cause for a Rockie starter. At least Freeland wasn’t overtly bad? Man, how far he’s fallen.

Joey Lucchesi6.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. I had my worries with Lucchesi against the Dodgers, but he sure silenced them. His 2019 final numbers are a 4.18 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 23% K rate at sub 5.5 IPS and I’m not sure we’re happy with that. He has been labeled as a Toby

Sean Manaea6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 5 Ks. Oh Manaea, what a wonderful surprise you were. I had zero expectation that you’d be pitch a single inning, yet he gave us five starts of 1.21 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 27.5% K rate with four wins to boot. Simply lovely. I think a lot of owners are going to be jumping all over Manaea in the spring and I’m down as long as it doesn’t cost me a sizeable pick. I’m still cautious of his slinging delivery that produced his inconsistency prior and in essence one start of 10 strikeouts that is inflating his strikeout numbers to confuse those seeing ~20% prior. Think a 23% strikeout rate with a 3.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP next year. That’s great and with room for more, but he isn’t going to be your SP #2/3 all year.

Stephen Strasburg6.0 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BBs, 10 Ks. One of the more underrated aces this year as a 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 30% strikeout rate and 18-wins was a bonafide #1 through your season at the price of a #2. 209 innings is incredible to see from Stras as he didn’t miss a beat, though I wouldn’t bank on this repeating. I’m sorry, I just don’t think his declining velocity can be nullified by yet another increase in curveballs for a full season. Not saying I like the guy, I just anticipate him going a little too early, is all.

Joe Musgrove6.0 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BBs, 8 Ks. What a roller-coaster year. Of course Musgrove ended it showcasing his highest velocity of the season. This was a month already featuring increased velocity. This was 31/91 CSW with 50% CSW on 30 breakers. The dude was locked in for your playoffs and now we’re going to hope it carries over next year. Looks like we’re going to get rankings of Musgrove in the 40s again, aren’t we. Hooooo boy.

Jaime Barria4.1 IP, 3 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BBs, 4 Ks. Barria, Faria, and the Santa Maria. What do they have in common? Well, they rhyme, duh. Oh. Barria sadly doesn’t have the same hopeful ceiling of Faria, while the Santa Maria is a ship. Barria is not.

Felix Hernandez5.1 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 3 Ks. The King got his proper send-off in Seattle in a heartwarming mid-inning exit last night, definitely check it out if you haven’t yet. I wonder where he’ll go next year, it won’t feel right not seeing him in a Mariners uniform.

Wade Miley4.0 IP, 3 ER, 5 Hits, 2 BBs, 2 Ks. Hmmm. It wasn’t the one inning disaster, but it was poor nonetheless. You’re looking at a pitcher who will be well undervalued in 2020 because of a string of terrible outings to close out a season – we’re talking undrafted in many leagues. For 12-teamers that favor Quality Starts, monitor where he lands in the off-season. This could be a gold mine once again.

Devin Smeltzer5.0 IP, 3 ER, 10 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks. This wasn’t the year for Smeltzer to get his groove. When looking ahead to 2020, I’d expect Smeltzer to be in the mix come spring training. Let’s say he earns a spot, he’s your standard Toby. Not a huge ceiling, but would be picked up two starts into the year in traditional QS leagues.

Aaron Civale3.1 IP, 4 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BBs, 4 Ks. Blegggggh. I wonder how much we’ll be seeing of Civale moving forward, maybe some deals will be struck and Civale will get another chance next year. He’s a Toby to me, though, so I wouldn’t go chasing for that.

Jason Vargas4.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 Hits, 5 BBs, 3 Ks. Yep, the Vargas Rule ended a long while ago. Now you’re just the wrong JV!

Jordan Zimmermann4.1 IP, 4 ER, 7 Hits, 1 BBs, 2 Ks. The end result was a 6.91 ERA this year – his worst of his career by a wide margin. Poor fella.

Luis Castillo5.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 Hits, 4 BBs, 8 Ks. Oh come Casty, I appreciate helping us get you at a slightly cheaper cost next year, but we needed you – VanMeter, catch that ball next time, thanks. A 3.40 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP and 29% strikeout rate later than the other aces was a fantasy MVP for many, and those that think I’m sad to see this one year after I fell for him, you’re wrong. I’m thrilled to see Castillo be the pitcher I thought he could be in the summer of 2017. Don’t expect a massive regression next year as that 10% walk rate is sure to fall, while the 16% swinging-strike rate is legit. The man dominates.

Mike Minor8.2 IP, 5 ER, 10 Hits, 2 BBs, 9 Ks. There’s been a lot of talk about if Minor deserved his 200th strikeout. To that I say “that’s a lot of breath on nothing.” I’m glad he gave those who started a near CG despite allowing five ER, and I also like how this continues to lower Minor’s draft stock for next year. Not to say I expect more of the same – I don’t think his fastball/changeup combination is as good as it was this season – but I’d expect him to be shoved into SP #4 discussions and I’m for that there. 

Jose Quintana5.0 IP, 5 ER, 12 Hits, 0 BBs, 4 Ks. And Quintana will likely still be drafted in all 12-teamers. In essence, you’re chasing a good month, of which Quintana had about 1.5 this season. Maybe a full two. That’s a whole lot of blegh to deal with for that. I’d spend my picks next year on something else.

 

Today’s Streamer

 

For those unaware, I’m forced to make my streamer picks under the condition of sub-20% owned in Fantasy Pros’ consolidated ownership rates.

 

Jose Urquidy vs. Los Angeles Angels – This may be my stream of the week as Urquidy could unload on the Angels. The question is how many innings the Astros will let him go, but 5/6 are not out of the question and it could be a difference-maker. Anthony DeSclafani against the Pirates is safer, but not streamable for most, while Justus Sheffield is a similar play but with more risk.

 

Tomorrow’s Streamer

 

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Detroit Tigers – He got pushed to Saturday and during a day of terrible options, ReyLo is your best hope for a big upside swing. I don’t see a safe streaming option here, so let’s cross our fingers. I know, I said I was done, but what else should I chase? Adam Plutko against the Nationals? They have the same floor. Bleeeegggggh.

 

Day After Tomorrow’s Streamer

 

Spencer Turnbull vs. Chicago White Sox – There are some other desperate options for the final day – Sandy Alcantara against the Phils if he’s available, Trevor Williams against the Reds, and why not, maybe Dylan Bundy performs well one last time against the Red Sox – but I’m going with Turnbull’s recent hot streak for a date against the Tigers. It’s been a long year, here’s to hoping we go out the right way.

 

Game of the Day

 

Tyler Glasnow vs. Toronto Blue Jays – I want him to impress. Like a lot.

 

(Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire)

Nick Pollack

Founder of PitcherList.com. Rotographs and Washington Post contributor and has worked with CBS Sports, Grantland, and SB Nation. Former pitching coach and Brandeis alum.

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