Paul Mammino examines the values changes we’ll see over a short season and identifies 5 Pitchers to Avoid if you have yet to draft.
Baseball is slated to return which excitingly means that fantasy baseball is returning as well. There are a number of factors to consider related to the shortened season for fantasy owners to consider. In my opinion, the short sprint of a season has the greatest impact on the value of starting pitchers. Many people believe that the top end pitchers have only become even more valuable while the middle tier has become depressed in value and much more bunched.
There is really one main reason for all of this. The shortened season does not allow for major differences in innings pitched totals. Fewer starts mean that the difference between the 6 IP starter and the 5 IP starter is only about 10 innings over the course of the season instead of 30-40. Additionally, many pitchers will not be pushed as far early in the season meaning more 4-5 inning starts as opposed to the longer outings.
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Altogether this means that in this short sprint of a season, the quality of the innings matters much more than the quantity. I will be highlighting a few pitchers I’ll be moving down my boards due to the premise of quality over quantity. To find these names I took all pitchers who had over 100 innings in 2019. I ran their final 2019 lines through a Standings Gain Points calculation that I found on Smart Fantasy Baseball and determined their seasonal value.
Then I ranked each pitcher based on their full-season value and their per inning value. Then I found the players who dropped the most when looked at on a per inning basis. Below are all of the pitchers who dropped at least 10 spots in the rankings.
Overall, the list seems to contain a number of similarly skilled pitchers. Many of the names on the list are pitchers who post low K rates and need to rack up significant numbers of innings just to post respectable totals. These are the pitchers like Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, and others on the list.
There are a couple of very highly drafted arms that find themselves on this list for a number of reasons.
Pitchers to Avoid for 2020
He was a bit surprising to see atop this list but diving into his numbers it is clear that he benefited from throwing a ton of innings. None of his numbers outside of his high K rate were elite but his 213 innings were third in all of baseball. Without the high wins total or above-average ERA to go with it, he was going to be propped up by his innings totals. Do not drop him too far in your rankings as he has solid bounce-back potential.
After Bauer, Nola may have been the biggest shock for me to see on this list. After looking like a CY Young candidate in 2018, Nola struggled a bit in 2019. He was still able to post respectable numbers but much like Bauer, the low win total in a short season pushes his per inning value down. Nola has broken 200 innings each of the last two seasons so he has shown he can stay healthy. I’ll be pushing him down slightly due to these concerns but also due to the extremely difficult schedule he will have, facing both AL and NL East teams.
Wheeler has never been known as a pinnacle of health, but he has actually thrown over 180 innings in each of the last two seasons. Despite harnessing high-end stuff, Wheeler has not posted a K/9 over 9.0 since 2014. Along with the move to Philly, the impending birth of his baby has the potential to cost him time this season. For all of these reasons, Wheeler is someone I’ll be moving down on my draft boards.
Minor was a revelation last season for the Rangers. Minor eclipsed 200 innings for only the second time in his career, the first since 2013. While the new stadium appears to be a pitchers park, Minor’s great 2019 season seemed to be a bit of FIP-luck. Additionally, like many of the other names on his list, he does not possess elite K-rates. He likely needs to maintain the luck of last season to perform at an elite level and I do not want to take that bet.
The most upsetting name for me on this list was Jose Berrios. I have loved watching Berrios pitch since his debut and I think he is an ace in the making. However, it is easy to see that he has yet to take that leap to stardom. He seems to just be on the cusp of it, but this shortened season is not one I want to to invest the high pick chasing the breakout.
These above names are just a sampling of players that were pushed down the end of season rankings when you look at them from a per-inning approach. Typically, these pitchers all had one thing in common, they were able to rack up high innings totals and as a result, were able to rack up large strikeout totals as well. In this short season, I am taking chances on high K totals trying to rack up high numbers despite having fewer innings to play with.
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