ADP vs Projections: Starting Pitchers The Projections Hate
In the first iteration of this ADP vs Projection series, I took a look at some of the starters our projections like more than the ADP. We’ll be negative Nancies today and look at the inverse, starters the projections say are being over-drafted. These would be the most like starting pitcher busts of 2020. There is no shortage of players who qualify, so here we will focus on starters being drafted with an ADP inside the overall 200 since that is the most impactful group. If you want to check out these projections for yourself, you can sort by 2020 projection in every Fantrax draft room or player pool.
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Starting Pitcher Busts The Projections Hate
Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays
Fantrax Projection: 154 IP, 182 K, 13-6, 3.61 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Charlie Morton was an unmitigated ace in 2019. He tossed a career-high 194.2 innings with an 11.10 K/9, which was also a career-best. His 3.05 ERA was well deserved, although SIERA says he was a bit fortunate, supposedly “earning” a 3.54 mark. His projected 3.61 ERA would be far less ace-like, but the primary concern should be the innings projection. 2020 will be Morton’s age-36 season, making it less likely than ever that he’ll put up bulk innings.
Prior to the 194.2 innings over 33 starts, Morton averaged just 143.1 IP per season from 2013-2018 (excluding his 17.1 IP in 2016). Morton is coming off the board as SP12, meaning he would be your ace in nearly every format. One thing that makes a starter a fantasy ace is bulk innings and strikeouts. Morton is as risky a bet in that regard as anyone in the top 20. You typically want to avoid paying for a career year, which is what you’re probably looking at with Morton. Given his innings volatility as well as his potential age-related decline and the likelihood of repeating 16 wins, I would tend to lean towards the projection here than the SP12/ADP47 price tag.
Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays
Fantrax Projection: 130 IP, 160 K, 11-5, 3.85 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
I don’t hate the Rays, I promise. After all, these are just the projections talking! Tyler Glasnow had an unbelievable 12 starts with the Rays in 2019, going 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA over 60.2 innings. It was a huge breakout after spending most of 2018 pitching to mediocre results out of the Pirates bullpen. Unfortunately, Glasnow’s season ended prematurely because of the always ominous “forearm strain”. He returned in September to toss a few innings, which is a great sign, but forearm strains are often viewed as precursors to Tommy John surgery.
A big issue with Glasnow being drafted as SP21 is the same issue projections don’t love Morton: a lack of innings. Coming off his 60.2 IP season, how many innings do the Rays let him throw? 150 innings seems like a best-case scenario, which still puts him behind the other fantasy #1’s and #2’s. There is also the issue that he still didn’t really use a third pitch in his short breakout. Furthermore, that small sample size isn’t quite enough to convince me that his extreme command issues are fully solved. I skew much farther towards the projections than the ADP here, meaning Glasnow turns into one of the year’s flashier starting pitcher busts. Glasnow will be one of my biggest fades of 2020 at his SP21/ADP72 price.
Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians
Fantrax Projection: 138.2 IP, 162 K, 8-8, 3.58 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
One of the best stories of 2019 was the return of Carlos Carrasco after his leukemia diagnosis. Despite the heartwarming return, his numbers wound up looking ugly as he put up 80 innings with a 5.29 ERA. He made just 12 starts with 11 relief appearances. His SIERA was a much rosier 3.53, but his 12.8% barrel rate and 90.8 MPH average exit velocity were both near the bottom of the league.
At SP34, Carrasco is a massive boom/bust pick this year. He put up over 180 innings three out of four years prior to 2019 with the ERA and K-BB% of a fantasy ace. Heading into his age-33 season, if healthy, he could turn a massive profit. However, it’s unclear what effects his treatment will have on his endurance and performance. The projection factors in a lot of missed time, but effective innings while on the field.
Personally, I tend to draft relatively risk-averse, meaning I won’t end up with any Carrasco shares this year. That said, the price isn’t absurd at SP34/ADP115. If he is back to normal and unaffected by his treatment, he could certainly push 180 strikeouts over 170 innings with a low-to-mid three’s ERA. That would be a tidy profit. If you have locked up two rock-solid ace pitchers by the time the 115 ADP comes around, he could be a league-winning type of SP3.
Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers
Fantrax Projection: 123.2 IP, 133 K, 8-6, 3.99 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
We’re finding commonality among these starters the projections don’t like, aren’t we? Julio Urias is projected for the fewest innings yet among starters we have discussed. Urias isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg at SP47/ADP167, but he also tossed just 79.2 innings in 2019, mostly out of relief. They were stellar innings as he posted a 2.49 ERA, but his SIERA was much less forgiving at an even 4.00.
As much as the Dodgers like to flip flop pitchers from the rotation to relief, you have to imagine Urias’s innings total caps out around 140 innings even if he starts all year. His innings will be useful even if he is bouncing between roles, but in quality start leagues he takes a big hit. He had just three appearances out of his 37 in 2019 in which he made it through the fifth inning. You can’t deny that Urias has as much upside as anyone going in his ADP range. That said, he may wind up more like a poor man’s Josh Hader than a true starter.
Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks
Fantrax Projection: 138.2 IP, 142 K, 9-7, 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
Hey, another low innings projection! The low innings total is accurate here though, considering Weaver has never exceeded 137 innings in any of his four MLB seasons. He is just 26, but coming off just 64.1 innings in 2019 as well as a lot of missed time with the dreaded “forearm tightness”, you can’t expect any more than 150 innings even if everything comes together.
Weaver found a lot of success in 2019 with increased cutter usage, posting a 9.65 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, and 2.94 ERA. His SIERA was nearly a full run higher, however, at 3.84. His average exit velocity was also the worst of his career at 89.3 MPH. Weaver’s adjustments from 2019 should allow him to pitch to a high-threes or low-fours ERA with a strikeout per inning. However, his ceiling is certainly capped by a low innings ceiling, so there may not be as much upside from his SP53/ADP190 draft price as you’d like.
Which starting pitcher busts are you avoiding for the 2020 fantasy baseball season? Let us know in the comments below.
For more great rankings, strategy, and analysis check out the 2020 FantraxHQ Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit. We’ll be adding more content from now right up until Opening Day!
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