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The Playboy mansion just added another bunny to the house.
A quality of a great team is to never settle and assume you’re good enough. If you want sustained success, you need to keep working and making your team the best it can be. That’s exactly what the Houston Astros did on Saturday. Just two and a half months removed from winning the World Series, Houston bolstered their rotation by trading for Pirates hurler and former #1 overall pick, Gerrit Cole.
The buzz around Cole has slowed to a degree over the last couple of seasons, but the 6-foot-4 righty has flashed ace potential in the past and should slot in as the #3 or #4 starter in Houston’s rotation. Cole’s best season came in 2015 when he finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. That season, he won 19 games with a 2.60 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings.
Since then, his ERA has risen to 3.88 in 2016 and 4.26 in 2017. If you look at his peripheral stats, not much has changed. But if you look closely, there have been some minor differences for Cole over the last two seasons. He’s still throwing as hard and has an overall solid arsenal with two breaking pitches and a changeup, but those pitches have been less effective recently.
Time for some Gerrit Cole GIFs. Here's his Fastball with 96mph paint pic.twitter.com/q5SdOCzDTX
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) January 10, 2018
According to FanGraphs, in 2015, Cole’s fastball and slider were both highly valuable pitches for him. When looking at pitch values (fastballs usually range from +20 to -20 and sliders from +10 to -10), Cole’s fastball value was an 18.4 and his slider a 6.9. Pitch values can be a little confusing, but here’s an excerpt from FanGraphs that sums it up nicely.
“Pitch values are about the change in run expectancy against various pitches, or the production against those pitches.”
Overall, Cole is still a highly-talented pitcher with a high fantasy ceiling. He has all the tools to be a top-10 fantasy SP and now is on a much better team in Houston. His 12 wins from 2017 are sure to rise with Houston’s lineup backing him, assuming he pitches to the level he’s shown he’s capable of.
Currently, Cole is being drafted as the SP28 just outside the top-100 at pick 108. His value this season mostly hinges on whether he can lower his ERA/WHIP some and raise his K/9, but like I said, the move to Houston gives him a bump in fantasy value due to the expected rise in his wins total.
Cole is too talented to continue posting ERAs above 4.00, making a bounce-back season a strong possibility here. Also, don’t be surprised if he finishes as a top-20 starting pitcher in 2018.
Other Fantasy Relevance
There’s more fantasy relevance to this trade than just Cole. The Pirates received a decent haul back from Houston with third baseman Colin Moran, right-handers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, and outfield prospect Jason Martin all heading to the Steel City.
The player with the most immediate value here is Musgrove, a big righty with a plus fastball and solid control. After an impressive minor league career, Musgrove was mostly up and down during his time with the Astros. Through his first 171 1/3 big league innings, Musgrove has a 4.52 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9. One thing he has going for him is his control. If he can just start limiting the long ball (career 1.4 HR/9), Musgrove could carve out some fantasy value as an SP4 or SP5.
Drafted 6th overall by the Marlins in 2013, Moran has shown a plus hit tool in the minors, but not much else. There’s a chance he could snatch the third base job from David Freese, but until he starts showing more power, don’t expect Moran to be anything more than what Joe Mauer currently is.
The last fantasy relevant name here is Feliz, another big, hard-throwing right-hander. I feel like this trade is entirely made up of big hard-throwing righties. After mostly starting during his minor league career, Feliz has worked exclusively from the bullpen in the majors and will likely assume that same role in Pittsburgh, at least at first. He can pair his mid-90’s heater with a plus slider, giving him two above-average offerings. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if he sneaks his way into the closer role later on in the season if Felipe Rivero falters or is traded.
Pittsburgh also acquired Martin from the Astros. However, he isn’t a highly regarded prospect and has no immediate fantasy relevance.
I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Then follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.
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