There are so many changes daily in fantasy baseball that it can be challenging to keep up with it all. Thankfully, we have several data sources via FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, and more to help see information beyond box scores. Sometimes, we miss things (myself included), and the purpose of our weekly pitcher buy or sell installment involves examining these players more in-depth.
Before the season, we have pitchers we target or fade. Then the in-season data aligns, disappoints, or makes us want more. Regardless, our goal – take the data and see where it leads us instead of using the data to fit our narratives and biases. We’ll use the underlying metrics to decide whether to buy or sell two pitchers on opposite ends of the spectrum in Roansy Contreras and Michael Wacha.
Roansy Contreras (SP, PIT)
When you (me) have the Mitch Keller blinders on – the Roansy Contreras’ hype train runs away. At Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 and 2022, Contreras posted a 2.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 33.4% K%, and 7.6% BB% in 78.1 innings. The strikeout skills remained apparent with multiple above-average pitches.
Rhys White of Prospects Live evaluated Contreras in the Pirates’ preseason prospects list, noting the three-pitch mix in the four-seamer, slider, and changeup. That aligns with Contreras’ arsenal in the majors with an added curveball he mixes in.
Contreras started as a reliever in 2022 with three appearances with a 3.52 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 22.6% K-BB% in 7.2 innings. Then the Pirates recalled him in late May, and Contreras has a 2.92 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 14.8% K-BB% in 24.2 innings. The main differences in each small sample involve the BABIP (.188 to .329) and the strikeout rate (32.3% to 23.1%). That isn’t surprising given the transition from a reliever to a starter, though it’s notable that Contreras may hurt in the WHIP category.
Contreras Pitch Mix & Results
Roansy Contreras uses three pitches in the four-seamer (49.4%), slider (29.5%), and curveball (17.1%), accounting for over 95% of his arsenal. Contreras barely uses the changeup (4%), though the early results haven’t been great, with a .600 BA, 1.200 SLG, and .757 wOBA. However, Rhys White of Prospects Live noted he would like to see Contreras mix in the changeup more to keep hitters off balance.
According to @DolphHauldhagen's Pitch Leaderboard, the slider for Roansy Contreras ranks in the top-12 in SwStr% amongst sliders thrown 150 times.
— Corbin (@corbin_young21) June 18, 2022
From an SwStr% perspective, Contreras’ four-seamer and slider stand out, evidenced by the 10.9% SwStr% on the fastball and 22.6% with the breaker. According to Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard, the slider ranks No. 13 in SwStr% amongst sliders thrown 150 times in 2022. Meanwhile, the slider has a filthy 46.3% O-Swing% (No. 8) amongst sliders thrown 150 times per the Pitcher List Leaderboard. Seeing those numbers on the slider raises eyebrows, with the batted ball results to follow with a .200 BA, .400 SLG, and .289 wOBA. Contreras’ stuff might scream buy versus sell.
The top three pitches in Contreras’ arsenal possess above-average vertical movement, aligning with the SwStr% on the fastball and slider. Interestingly, Contreras relied on the slider more once transitioning to a starter in late May. It’s a small sample, but Contreras reduced the curveball usage with the increased slider.
Buy or Sell Contreras?
With just under 56 innings in Triple-A and the majors in 2022, we’ll want to monitor the innings total for Roansy Contreras. Thankfully, the overall BABIP of .302 and LOB% of 78.1% appear reasonable. It’ll be a matter of if the skills will maintain for Contreras with a strikeout rate around 22-25% with an 8-9% walk rate.
Against the Cubs on Tuesday, Contreras allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings. Although the results looked positive from a ratio standpoint, the overall 25% CSW% and low Whiff% on the slider underwhelmed us. The BAT projects Contreras for 3.92 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21.5% K%, and 7.9% BB% in 81 more innings. Unfortunately, wins and offensive support might be lacking since the Pirates rank third from the bottom with 3.6 Run Support per Game. Overall, the stuff and unknown upside hint at buying more than selling in 2022.
Michael Wacha (SP, BOS)
We all have our biases, and one of mine includes Michael Wacha performing well in 2022. After a few brutal seasons from a ratio standpoint, Wacha has turned into a staple in the Red Sox rotation. Over the last three seasons, Wacha has posted a 5.11 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 21% K%, and 7.5% BB% in over 285 innings (2019-2021). The 1.83 HR/9 looked brutal with the .319 BABIP and 74% LOB%, similar to the career norms. For context, Wacha had a home run rate below 1.00 every other season outside of those three seasons.
With the 0.91 HR/9 aligning with the career norms of 1.12, Wacha’s BABIP of .224 and LOB% at 84% seem due for regression. Also, Wacha’s 9.4% HR/FB% likely increases to the career average of 12.9%. Interestingly, Wacha has a career-low 17.4% K% with a 7.2% BB% near the career average. The dip in SwStr% to 9.2% dropped from 11.3 to 11.4% (2020-2021), though it’s similar to the career SwStr% of 9.8%.
Wacha’s Arsenal & Results
We know Wacha uses the four-seamer and changeup. However, Wacha lowered the cutter usage from 24.9% by nine percentage points due to an increase in the sinker (3.3% to 14.2%). The sinker has helped Wacha generate a 66.7% GB% versus a career norm of 54.5%. However, the overall 40.3% GB% remains south of the career GB% of 44.4%.
Unsurprisingly, Wacha pitches to contact with the sinker, evidenced by the 93.2% Z-Contact% and 87.9% Contact%, though it has the second-highest SwStr% at 7.5%. The sinker has improved results with a .108 BA, .108 SLG, and .127 wOBA in 2022. Wacha uses it as an added offering versus righties on the inside part of the plate. It’s a small sample of 66 sinkers thrown in 2021, but the .333 BA, .444 SLG, and .352 wOBA looked brutal. Although sinkers don’t typically impress us, maybe we should buy not sell Wacha as a streamer when we bake in regression.
Wacha’s changeup remains his best pitch for swings and misses with a 16.8% SwStr%, a couple of points below his career SwStr% at 18.7%. The results look nearly as elite as Wacha’s sinker, evidenced by the .157 BA, .214 SLG, and .219 wOBA. Interestingly, Wacha’s best pitches in the changeup and sinker, from a results standpoint, don’t pop via the movement profiles.
It’s probably a good idea that Wacha ditched the cut fastball, given the results. In 2022, Wacha’s cutter has a .320 BA, .760 SLG, and .457 wOBA. Throughout Wacha’s career, the cutter allows a .292 BA, .484 SLG, and .353 wOBA.
Buy or Sell Wacha?
Assuming regression in the BABIP and LOB%, we should sell, not buy high on Wacha as more than a streaming pitcher. One of the more challenging parts of fantasy involves projecting what might happen in the future and not basing our guesses mostly on history. Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one is probably buying high on Wacha, given the underlying metrics. However, there’s a scenario where Wacha’s changeup and sinker keep performing well to post quality ratios on a per-inning basis. Meanwhile, THE BAT bakes in regression for a 4.93 ERA, .301 BABIP, 68.2% LOB%, and 1.37 wHIP, closer to his career averages.