For going on three years now, I’ve been doing a series of articles taking a look at late-draft dart throws—guys who aren’t just sleepers to target in the mid-rounds, but players going very late in drafts if they’re being drafted at all.
All of the players featured in March’s dart throws article had an NFBC ADP at 250 or above when the article was written—so essentially players that were worth a late-round grab that you could easily drop if they didn’t pan out without seriously hurting your team.
Last year, I decided to take a look back at how my dart throws panned out, so here we are again! Let’s take a look!
Final season stats: .241/.301/.404, 17 HR, 62 R, 52 RBI, 8 SB
Lane Thomas had posted a pretty enticing power/speed combo in the minors and looked slated to be an everyday player in a pretty anemic Nationals lineup, which made him appealing as a dart throw.
That didn’t exactly turn out the way I had hoped, though Thomas was sorta kinda useful in certain stretches of the season, certainly he had his utility in deep leagues. He was an everyday player for the Nats but just…didn’t really hit the ball hard.
He posted a 34.5% hard-hit rate, 6.5% barrel rate, and an average exit velocity of 86.4 MPH, all of which are right at the bottom tier of all MLB. It’s especially odd how low his average exit velocity was, given that in years past, he’s sported an average exit velocity closer to 91 MPH (albeit in relatively limited action).
Thomas still has three years of arbitration left on his contract, so the Nats will likely be able to keep him for cheap. I’m interested to see if Thomas will be able to figure things out in the future, as that power/speed combo is certainly enticing, especially if the Nats keep him in or around the leadoff spot next year.
Final season stats: 149.2 IP, 3.73 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 23.9% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate
It was a bit of an up-and-down season for Alex Cobb. We had starts like his Sep. 12 start against Atlanta where he pitched seven innings of shutout ball with seven strikeouts, or his July 29 start against the Cubs where he pitched six innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts. And then we had a few stinkers too, like his Sep. 24 game against the Diamondbacks with five runs given up over five innings.
Ultimately, I think Cobb was the victim of a decent bit of bad luck. His 3.73 ERA (which, all things considered, is not bad) came with a 2.80 FIP and a 3.15 SIERA, and his repertoire actually looked pretty solid.
Unsurprisingly, Cobb mainly went with a sinker/splitter combo mixed in with the occasional curveball, and it worked pretty well. The sinker produced plenty of weak contact, as hitters had a .327 wOBA and .102 ISO against the pitch, and his splitter worked as a solid strikeout pitch, posting a 42.9% chase rate and 16.2% swinging-strike rate.
In fact, all three pitches produced a wOBA against of .327 or better and an .ISO against of .140 or better. So basically, plenty of weak contact all around, and of course, The Thing was working as well as it usually does as a putaway pitch. I’m very interested to see if we see some of that bad luck regress next season, assuming health—which is always a big assumption for Cobb, especially considering he missed a bit of time this year.
Final season stats: .203/.285/.319, 8 HR, 38 R, 28 RBI
Oof. It’s funny, when I wrote the dart throws article, putting Torkelson in here felt a bit like cheating because he was one of the most popular sleeper picks out there. And then, you know, this season happened.
Tork got 110 games in this year and also spent some time in Triple-A where things didn’t go much better, as he posted a .229/.348/.389 line in 35 games.
I will say, while Torkelson’s overall season was not great, I’m pretty impressed by his plate discipline. Given the year he had, you’d expect he did the typical rookie thing of striking out all the time and swinging wildly, but Tork didn’t do that at all.
Instead, he posted a very solid 25.9% chase rate and was even fairly well-disciplined in two-strike counts, chasing pitches just 23.2% of the time in those situations. Plus, he posted a 9.2% walk rate, which is slightly above average, and while his strikeout rate at 24.5% isn’t great, it’s certainly not horrible.
So what on earth happened to Tork this year? I think a decent bit of it was bad luck, as his quality of contact stats, while not incredible, are far from bad. He had a 41.8% hard-hit rate with an 8.4% barrel rate—both of which are above average—I think he just had some bad luck out in the field. A .255 BABIP and a .278 BACON are both pretty below average and not what I’d expect from a guy making the quality of contact Tork was. I have a feeling he’ll probably be back on this list next year.
Final season stats: 186.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 16.6% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate
There are a million pitchers who have a great repertoire and a horrible fastball, and coming into this year, Cal Quantrill was one of those pitchers. In fact, in the article and in a tweet I included in the article, I wondered what might happen if Quantrill ditched his four-seamer.
Well, apparently this is what would happen, because that’s exactly what he did. In 2021, he threw his four-seamer 12.5% of the time. Last year, he threw it just 3.9%.
Instead, he kept his sinker as his primary pitch and amped up his cutter usage, making it his second-most-thrown pitch, throwing it nearly a third of the time. And the pitch worked well! Opposing hitters had just a .286 wOBA against the pitch, it produced plenty of weak contact.
Quantrill was and has never really been a strikeout pitcher, and that happened again this year, as he had a paltry 16.6% strikeout rate, but here’s what Quantrill did well—he ate innings (186.1 innings was good for 16th-best in MLB), he got you some wins, and he limited runs.
All in all, he was among the Toby-est of Tobys, but for a guy you spent basically a very late-round pick on, I think you’re pretty happy with the results.
Final season stats: .240/.318/.455, 33 HR, 78 R, 89 RBI
Anthony Santander has flashed the potential to be a solid power hitter in the past, he’s just had trouble staying healthy. In 2019, he hit 20 home runs with a .216 ISO in 93 games and in 2021, he posted 18 home runs with a .192 ISO through 110 games. But this year, he finally stayed healthy, playing in 152 games and we got to see just what Santander could do.
So what changed? Honestly, not a whole ton. Perhaps the main difference for Santander this year was he started launching the ball more and making better contact, increasing his average launch angle to a career-high 11.6 degrees while maintaining a solid hard-hit rate of 43.3% and improving his barrel rate to a career-best 8.2%.
It sounds silly, but he just was hitting the ball really well, better than he has before, making great contact. In fact, you may be wondering “well, if he was making such great contact, then why did he only hit .240?”
Actually, it looks like he may have gotten a bit unlucky. His .240 average came alongside a .248 BABIP and a .257 xBA. And here’s something else that’s super interesting—Santander is a switch hitter, but his splits from each side of the plate were like night and day this year.
As a lefty, he slashed .221/.301/.420 on the year, and as a righty, he slashed .293/.365/.548. It kind of makes you wonder what might happen if he made the same decision Cedric Mullins made before the start of the 2021 season and abandon switch-hitting to just hit from one side of the plate.
Final season stats: 148.2 IP, 5.02 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 23.7% strikeout rate, 10.2% walk rate
Josiah Gray has been part of two major blockbuster trades in his career so far. He was first sent to the Dodgers from the Reds alongside Jeter Downs for Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Kyle Farmer back in 2018. Then, the Dodgers sent him, Keibert Ruiz, Donovan Casey, and Gerardo Carrillo to the Nats as part of the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner trade.
So after seeing him in just 13 starts last year with less-than-impressive results, I was very curious to see what Gray could do in a full-time role with the Nats. The answer? Uhhh…still not great.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before—a young pitcher possesses two killer breaking pitches but throws his fastball all the time and it gets destroyed.
Yup, that was Josiah Gray this year.
Gray mainly went with three pitches in his repertoire—his fastball, his slider, and his curveball.
Here’s his slider:
It’s a relatively low-spin pitch without a ton of movement compared to most sliders, but it worked really well, as opposing hitters had just a .243 wOBA and .188 average against the pitch this year. The slider also logged a 37% chase rate, a 19% swinging-strike rate, and a 34.1% CSW. Those are all fantastic numbers.
And then there’s his curveball:
Similar to the slider, opposing hitters had just a .259 wOBA and .187 average against Gray’s curveball this year alongside a 33.3% chase rate, 13.1% swinging-strike rate, and a 31.3% CSW.
Gray threw either his slider or curveball 54.3% of the time, but 40% of the time—his most-thrown single pitch—was dedicated to his fastball, and the results were…not great.
The pitch has decent velocity, averaging 94.4 MPH, but that didn’t really matter to opposing hitters because they teed off on it to the tune of a .479 wOBA and a .430 ISO against. Now, Statcast numbers would suggest there was some bad luck involved (I’d sure hope so), as the pitch had a .442 xwOBA against it, but that’s still pretty bad.
So add Josiah Gray to the list of young pitchers who have a horrible fastball they throw all the time and great secondary stuff. Hopefully he either figures out the fastball, subs it out for a new fastball (like a sinker or a cutter), or just starts throwing his slider and curveball more. If he just keeps lobbing out this fastball a ton every game, he’s going to continue to get lit up.
Final season stats: 20 IP, 8.10 ERA, 1.95 WHIP, 11.2% strikeout rate, 13.3% walk rate
Luis Patiño had himself a rough season. He started the year off in the Rays’ rotation, went two-thirds of an inning on his first start of the year, and left the game with a strained oblique, which kept him sidelined until the middle of July.
Since coming back from injury, he only started five more games at the major league level and started nine games in Triple-A, all with less-than-stellar results. He ultimately pitched 20 innings in the majors to the tune of an 8.10 ERA, 11.2% strikeout rate, and a 13.3% walk rate.
As for Triple-A, he pitched 34 innings with a 4.50 ERA, 23.4% strikeout rate, and a 9% walk rate—a bit more encouraging.
But then in another cruel twist of fate, Patiño was scratched from a scheduled start in September with shoulder discomfort, which is never exciting to hear.
Honestly, given the injuries, I’m inclined to call this year a wash for Patiño. His raw stuff is still really impressive, with an extremely lively fastball and a really solid slider, but that could also lead him down the path of becoming a reliever, which wouldn’t shock me.
He’s someone to keep an eye on going foward, he’s still just 22 years old, but this year was definitely a bust.
Final season stats: .219/.306/.461, 35 HR, 67 R, 89 RBI
If I had to project what Rowdy Tellez’s ceiling was as a player, this would probably be pretty close to it.
He’s always had a ton of power—between 2019 and 2021, Tellez had a max exit velocity in the top 6% of baseball—but he never really got a full-time gig with the Blue Jays.
That’s why I was excited about this year—he was likely to have a full-time job (or at least one on the strong side of a platoon) with the Brewers and that’s exactly what he got, playing in 153 games, and the power was very much on display.
This year, Rowdy posted a 12.9% barrel rate (his best since 2019) and a 46% hard-hit rate (the best of his career). Oh yeah, and remember how he had posted a max exit velocity within the top 6% of the league the three years preceding this season? This year his max exit velocity was in the top 2%. The man launched some absolute bombs this year, like this 453-foot home run:
Now, if you’re like me, you probably saw Tellez’s 35 home runs and .219 average and said “ah, he’s a three-true-outcome guy. Lots of strikeouts, right?”
Surprisingly, no. He’s got the walk rate—he posted a very solid 10.4% walk rate—but he actually had a pretty good strikeout rate too, striking out just 20.2% of the time.
So what gives? Some of it seems to have been some bad luck. He got BABIP’d a good bit this season, posting a .215 BABIP on the season, though given he’s very slow and a power hitter, you’d expect his BABIP to be relatively low (though probably not that low). Plus, his .219 average came with a .252 xBA, so there’s some reason to believe he could actually hit a little better.
I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye on Tellez going forward, if that average can come up and he’s still launching 30+ home runs, I think he’ll have plenty of value. And if you snagged him with one of your late draft picks, I think you were pretty happy with the results.
Final season stats: 100.2 IP, 5.19 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 27.3% strikeout rate, 12.8% walk rate
This was the second time I had featured Kikuchi on my dart throws list and I think it’s going to be the last time (which inevitably means he’s going to put up a Cy Young season in 2023, place your bets now).
I’ve always loved Kikuchi’s stuff, and I’ve always thought he was super close to figuring things out. He’s got a solid fastball, a great slider, and very solid changeup, but with bad command and a garbage cutter, Kikuchi could never be consistently good.
Fast-forward to 2022 and what did Kikuchi do? He all but eliminated his bad cutter and went with an approach going fastball/slider/changeup. Great right? You see the statline, no, not great.
But why? Let’s start with the positives. The slider was still a great strikeout pitch, posting a 47.3% chase rate and a 19.2% swinging-strike rate, both of which are absolutely fantastic numbers. The changeup also did a solid job of getting some swings and misses, posting a 16.4% swinging-strike rate, and on top of that, hitters had just a .257 average against Kikuchi’s fastball.
Those cherry-picked stats sound great! Let’s not talk about the .243 ISO and .322 ISO opposing hitters had against his fastball and slider, respectively. Or the fact that he posted a 14.1% walk rate with his fastball. Definitely don’t mention that.
Basically, the short version of Kikuchi’s problem is still command. He can be really good at times, and that slider is a legit putaway pitch, but hitters seem to also be able to absolutely tee off on the guy. I’d love to see him put it all together, but I’m growing less and less encouraged that will happen.
Final season stats: 134 IP, 4.23 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 17% strikeout rate, 10.1% walk rate
Looking at James Kaprielian this year, he’s definitely still a work in progress, but there are still some things to like.
His slider, for example—it was a really solid strikeout pitch last year, posting a 35% chase rate, 17.2% swinging-strike rate, and a 32.7% CSW. Not numbers that will knock you out of your chair, but rock solid. On top of that, opposing hitters had just a .271 wOBA against the pitch, so it worked well.
His curveball also worked fairly well at drawing weak contact, as opposing hitters had just a .296 wOBA against the pitch. Kaprielian was fond of using it early in the count, throwing it in an 0-0, 0-1, 1-0, or 1-1 count 78.9% of the time (well above league average), so it wasn’t really a strikeout pitch for him, but for what it was used for, it worked.
At this point, you’ve probably guessed where the problem lies—his fastball. Opposing hitters had just a .253 average against it, but they also posted a .197 ISO, which points to some command issues (i.e. he would frequently serve up very hittable fastballs). He also posted a 12.5% walk rate with the fastball, so some control issues as well.
And, while he didn’t throw his changeup much, that pitch got knocked around a good bit, as opposing hitters had a .383 wOBA and a .339 average against it.
There’s still plenty of work Kaprielian needs to do before you can trust him as a consistent fantasy asset, but there’s still some potential there, provided he can stay healthy.
Final season stats: .244/.315/.451, 14 HR, 31 R, 42 RBI
Another guy featured in my dart throws article for the second year in a row, Evan Longoria sucked me in with his really good quality of contact stats and did the exact same thing he did last year—barely played but still hit the ball hard.
In 2021, Longoria posted a career-best 13.4% barrel rate and another career-best 54.5% hard-hit rate. The guy crushed the ball, he just didn’t play enough for it to translate into something useful for fantasy. This year, it was more of the same—a 12.4% barrel rate (second-best of his career) and a 46.8% hard-hit rate (also second-best of his career).
But, Longoria only played 89 games, struck out at a career-worst 27.9% clip, and hit .244 with a .233 xBA. I had hoped there might be something left in the tank, maybe a late-career resurgence for Longoria, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Final season stats: 153.1 IP, 4.46 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 20.4% strikeout rate, 9.2% walk rate
I’ve been a Dane Dunning fan for some time and I remain one, but the guy still has a lot to work on. Coming into this year, I was banking on Dunning making improvements to his command while still maintaining the great raw stuff he’s got.
And this year, his slider and changeup were both very solid yet again. The changeup posted a 45.1% chase rate and a 16.3% swinging-strike rate and the slider posted a respectable 32.6% chase rate and 16.1% swinging-strike rate. And on top of that, both were really solid at inducing weak contact, with opposing hitters having just a .292 wOBA against Dunning’s slider and a .331 wOBA against his changeup.
The sinker was pretty decent too. Dunning’s most-thrown pitch, it turned in a pretty average .369 wOBA against but with a 26.4% CSW, which is pretty high for a sinker.
The problem was, yet again, command and control. Dunning posted a 9.2% walk rate, which was unfortunately a step worse than his 8.4% walk rate last year. And while Dunning’s slider was decent at inducing weak contact, he also made plenty of mistakes with it, as opposing hitters had a .234 ISO against it (the changeup wasn’t much better, with a .193 ISO against).
So what does it mean that Dunning’s slider and changeup returned low wOBAs against but high ISOs? It means most of the time, Dunning was able to locate the pitches well and induce weak contact. But he also lobbed them in there and allowed really hard contact. So essentially, hitters facing his slider and changeup either hit into an out or they launched the ball for extra bases—there wasn’t much in between.
And unfortunately, that was the story with Dunning in 2021 too. I was hoping he’d make some progress but he seems to be the same guy he was—a pitcher with plenty of potential, but one who has plenty to work on too.
Final season stats: 69.2 IP, 2.20 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 35.8% strikeout rate, 7.7% walk rate (all in Triple-A)
This one is a real bummer. Grayson Rodriguez was lighting up Triple-A this year and looked poised to make his MLB debut pretty soon, until he sustained a Grade 2 right lat strain that knocked him out from June 1 til his return on September 1.
But man oh man did he look good. A 2.20 ERA, 2.04 FIP, 0.93 WHIP, 35.8% strikeout rate, the guy looks major league ready, and it’s going to be really exciting to see him up next season (I’d be shocked if he isn’t up assuming health).
Keep an eye on where he’s going in drafts next year—wouldn’t shock me if he goes late again short of some offseason announcement by the Orioles that he’s guaranteed a spot in the rotation. I’m not saying he’s winning the Cy Young next year or anything, but the dude looks like an ace in the making.
Final season stats: 121.2 IP, 5.18 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 16.6% strikeout rate, 8.5% walk rate
When you’ve got a really strong changeup that works well as your putaway pitch, it should be the least-thrown pitch in your repertoire, right? Apparently that’s what Zach Thompson thinks (or the Pirates, who knows).
The things that intrigued me about Thompson coming into this year were twofold: he had a cutter as his most-thrown pitch that was great at inducing weak contact and garnered some swings and misses, and he had a great changeup that, in 2021, posted a 30.9% chase rate, a 21.1% swinging-strike rate, and a .226 wOBA against. And on top of that, he had a solid curveball as a third pitch that posted a 31.6% chase rate, 15.3% swinging-strike rate, and .251 wOBA against in 2021.
So three solid pitches! That’s great! But the problem was, he had a four-seam fastball that got lit up, but my thought was, if he works with a cutter/changeup/curveball combination (think a sort of Dean Kremer approach), he could make things work.
That is very much not what Thompson did. Instead, he all but abandoned his changeup, throwing it just 8.5% of the time and went with his cutter as his primary pitch again and peppered in his curveball, a new sinker, and his four-seam fastball.
The cutter was not nearly as good last year as it was the year before, as opposing hitters had a .293 average and .380 wOBA against the pitch—though it did still induce an 11.4% swinging-strike rate and a 32.1% chase rate, which is still pretty solid.
And surprisingly, the four-seamer worked way better, producing a .213 average and .298 wOBA against. And in more good news, the curveball worked as a strikeout pitch, as opposing hitters had a 30.1% chase rate, 18% swinging-strike rate, and 33.4% CSW against the pitch.
But the new sinker was awful. It was his third most-thrown pitch and hitters knocked it around, hitting .325 against it with a .351 wOBA. It induced a lot of groundballs, but a lot of those groundballs went for hits. Now, it certainly doesn’t help that, save for the incredible work of Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pirates had one of the worst defenses in baseball last year, but even accounting for some of that, Thompson still posted a 4.87 FIP and a 4.62 SIERA, so that doesn’t solve everything.
So why would he abandon that changeup? I’m not sure, but if I had to guess, I’d guess he sort of lost it during the year. It’s not like when he threw it the pitch was suddenly working—it wasn’t. Opposing hitters had a .367 average and .474 wOBA against the pitch, they were crushing it. And while it induced a 40% chase rate and 13.6% swinging-strike rate, it had a paltry 19.3% CSW.
So I don’t know what happened with Zach Thompson last year, but it was the exact opposite direction I had hoped he’d trend. Here’s hoping he fixes things next year.
Honorable Mention: Félix Bautista
Final season stats: 65.2 IP, 2.19 ERA, 15 SV, 13 HLD, 34.8% strikeout rate, 9.1% walk rate
I didn’t mention Bautista in my dart throws article, which is actually kind of surprising, because I was pumping him up in the preseason basically everywhere else:
I was going back through some of my preseason predictions yesterday and remembered this from a really fun episode of @Pallazzopodcast—hope you picked up Bautista @robbiebaseball1! pic.twitter.com/32GvD8Xu74
— Ben Palmer (@benjpalmer) September 21, 2022
So I’m giving myself an honorable mention here because his ADP was way outside 250 in the preseason and I should’ve included him in my article and didn’t.
On top of having a god-tier closer entrance, Bautista was also a fantastic pitcher last year, posting the 14th-highest strikeout rate in baseball among relievers last year at 34.8%.
The guy was electric to watch, with a fastball that would routinely get up to 101-102 MPH (and I saw it once hit 103 on a wild pitch):
Alongside a filthy splitter that produced a 40% chase rate, 26.7% swinging-strike rate, 36.7% CSW, and a .134 wOBA against.
He also peppered in a slider 12.1% of the time that didn’t do particularly well, we’ll see if that gets refined in the offseason or not, but either way, Bautista was a killer reliever, and once the Orioles traded away Jorge López (who was another bullpen surprise this year), Bautista had the closer job locked down and he’s definitely got it locked down next year.
If you were in a saves+holds league and snagged Bautista at some point this year, you were pretty happy. And if you were in a saves-only league, after the López trade, Bautista helped out a lot too. Watch for him to do even better next year.
Photo by Anastase Maragos/Unsplash | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)