By Curtis Bailey and Matthew Rosser
My (Rosser’s) first real fantasy baseball season was in 2017. While I had always followed baseball, had dabbled in fantasy, and knew enough to draft the first 10 or so rounds on my own, I ultimately trusted the projections on many of the late-round picks. One of those picks was Eugenio Suarez.
Fast forward eight weeks into the 2017 season. I’m 7-1 and adamant that Suarez is the greatest player on the planet, putting up over 1.000 OPS and exceeding expectations week-by-week. Suarez was that diamond in the rough late-round draft pick every fantasy owner dreams of. Nothing could go wrong…or so I hoped. By early June, Suarez seemingly forgot how to hit baseballs while, at the same time, Alex Bregman was enduring one of the worst stretches of his career. Bregman’s owner, whose name happens to appear in this article’s by-line, was telling me he was a second-half player and infinitely better than Suarez. Sure enough, after the All-Star break, Suarez’s struggles continued, and Bregman was quite literally banging his bat on everything in sight.
We had just started to really get into underlying stats (mostly because of these two guys), and the underlying stats told me that there was no reason Suarez couldn’t put it all together for a full season. Curtis disagreed because “he’s a first half player, what’s the point if they crap out during the home stretch, and he sucks”. The underlying stats also told him that Bregman could actually start hot and remain good throughout the entire year. I disagreed because “he’s a second half player, what good is a playoff stud if he can’t get you there, and he sucks”. We rolled into the 2018 season arguing about these two, alternating which side of the argument we favored depending on who we were talking about.
So here comes the 2018 season. I’m all in on Suarez, and he’s all in on Bregman. Suarez put together an entire season of a career high 135 WRC+, while Bregman casually put up a (then) career high 157 WRC+. Turns out nobody told us we could both be right and wrong at the same damn time about the same damn argument, and both guys went on to be All Stars and garner MVP votes.
So what happened? What did we learn from our year long yelling match into the void? Well for one, we were both right on our respective guys, so on one hand, we read the stats right and had a good understanding of what to look for. On the other hand, we both let our personal biases and prior opinions about a particular player blind us from seeing what were, in hindsight, pretty clear breakout indicators. While there is something to be said for trusting your gut, it is always better to make sure your gut has at least some root in the tangible numbers.
That was our first real foray into the Riches and Wretches world, and we have both loved and hated plenty of players; sometimes for different reasons, oftentimes for the exact same reasons. Now that we are able to get this down in a semi-coherent written piece, we decided to have more fun with it.
We each drafted two sets of players. Both sets include one pitcher and two batters. The first set are guys we think have a chance to wildly outperform their draft position, or “Riches”. As you might have guessed the second group of players are guys we think have a chance to massively underperform their draft position. These guys will be referred to as Wretches. This is a head to head competition where we will receive points based on our draft selections performance. For the batters we will get one point for every Rich that finishes in the top 100 in our Draft ID League’s scoring. We will also receive a point for every Wretch that does not finish in the top 100. For the pitchers, we will receive a point if our Rich pitcher finishes in the top 40 starters and if our Wretch finishes outside the top 40. At the end of the season the person who has the least amount of points has to get waxed by a beautician. So suffice to say we are actually trying to win this.
Our league’s scoring: Hitters
Home Runs: 4
Total Bases: .5
Scoring for Pitchers:
Earned Runs: -2
Quality Starts: 5
150-200 range: Curtis: Tyler Mahle
Rosser: Gio Urshela
200-250 range: Curtis: David Fletcher
Rosser John Means
250-300 range: Curtis: Kole Calhoun
Rosser Nick Senzel
25-50 range: Rosser: Eloy Jimenez
Curtis Luis Robert
50-75 range: Rosser: Keston Hiura
Curtis Javier Baez
75-100 range: Rosser:
Framber Valdez Zach Plesac
Curtis Jesus Luzardo
Curtis’ Boom 1: Tyler Mahle
Last year, I had zero shares of Tyler Mahle and didn’t really have the opportunity or desire to acquire him. So I was very surprised when the rumblings of the Mahle hype train began flying down from the mountain. Where was the bad Reds pitcher that I knew him as?. Between 2018 and 2019, Mahle had over an unimpressive 5.00 ERA and under 9 K/9. So I was very confused initially as to why those on the Mahle hype train thought that a 10-game sample in 2020 was more important than his 48 previous games. Then, after just a tiny bit of research, I boarded the train and man, oh, man…I gotta say…it felt incredible. Where Mahle threw a terrible cutter and a bad curveball for a combined 30% of his pitches in 2019, Mahle didn’t throw the cutter at all in 2020 and used the curveball only 8 times. Moreover, he added a slider to his arsenal that produced an extremely healthy 41% whiff rate and his K/9 climbed to the highest it’s ever been at 11.3. With the 2021 season approaching I fully expect Mahle to continue producing at a high level, making this the last year you will be able to get him outside of the top 40 pitchers.
There are still seats available on the Mahle hype train so, if I were you, I would get on while you still can.
All of Mahle’s pitches are mediocre at best. He has decent command on his fastball, and he did bring his slider back (we saw it in ‘18 and it was GD atrocoius). It was his best pitch, but it is still well below average in horizontal and vertical movement. Mahle’s Statcast profile took a huge boost in expected stats from 2019 to 2020, which is driven mostly by his matchups in the geographic divisions. He faced one top 10 offense all year and gave up 4 runs. No other team he faced was in the top 50% in offensive rating, and all but one were in the bottom third of the league. Play bad teams; put up good numbers. For all the help those offenses gave him, he still had an almost average ERA of 3.59 and his expected FIP is a full run higher. More like Tyler Meh-le, amirite? When teams get back in a normal routine and he has to play more than just the MAC of the MLB, I expect him to fidget and die like we’re used to seeing.
Rosser’s Boom 1: Gio Urshela
The Yankees have some serious starpower on their team. Gio Urshela is not among those stars. The 29 year old third baseman has been a late bloomer of sorts; his 132 and 133 WRC+ in 2019 and 2020, respectively, is almost double his previous career high of 67.
Since joining the Yankee’s in 2019, Urshela has completely evolved from a Quad A player into a bonafide big league run producer. He has raised his hard hit rate by 10%, and cut his soft contact rate in half from around 30% to 13%. He has also improved both his maximum and average exit velocity by 5-6 miles per hour. In every facet of the art that is crushing baseballs, Gio Urshela has drastically grown, and his 133 WRC+ ranks as the 6th third baseman with at least 170 plate appearances in 2020.
Gio has had a bit of an issue staying on the field; he misses about 20-30 games a year, but he is currently the starting third baseman for a stacked yankees lineup, and he can be counted on to drive in runs and flirt with a .300 average and .860 OPS. If Urshela gives you that for 130 games, which he’s pretty reliable for, you’ve more than gotten your money’s worth, but if he can keep fit enough to stay on the field all season, he’s a top 50 player.
You hit the nail on its head there at the end; Urshela is not going to play enough to produce as a top 100 player. Urshela is a poor defender who the Yankees have no issue benching when the mood strikes. Also, Urshela will be batting near or at the bottom of the lineup. So you can expect to see him as the recipient of a mere 3 at-bats/game, which is more than any other player he is being drafted around. On top of all of this, he, like all of the Yankees, is always dealing with some sort of injury that threatens his already-threatened playing time. Urshela is a pump-n-dump. If you’re the one to draft him, be prepared and willing to trade him when he is performing because it won’t last, and trust me…you don’t want to be left holding the bag.
Curtis Boom 2: David Fletcher
If you take one thing away from anything I write I hope it’s this: Draft. David. Fletcher. He will be a top 100 player.
David Fletcher has a nonprofit named Bats for Balls. He is perhaps the only MLB player that understands how baseballs want nothing more in life than to feel the gentle, comforting touch of a regulation-sized bat. This knowledge must be the driving factor in both his absurd 92% contact rate as well as his thoughtful 22% hard hit rate. Fletcher doesn’t mash dingers or slap doubles. He simply puts bats on balls, just as God intended.
I love Fletcher and if he wasn’t taken by Curtis here, I would’ve picked him. He is absolutely a contact Gawd and has a very high points league floor, but his health remains a question, as he’s only played a full season twice in his 5 year professional career. His aforementioned hard hit rate is also too polite, as he often has a sub .400 slugging percentage. The deadened ball could also turn his frequent little flares into lazy line outs or can of corn infield outs. His floor is high (top 120) but his ceiling is so low (top 75) that any hiccup could see him finish on the wrong side of the top 100.
Rosser’s Boom 2: John Means
2020 sucked for everybody, but it sucked more for John Means. After a surprising 2019 rookie season that sported a 3.6 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, 2020 came taking no prisoners. Means had injury trouble early on, missing his season opener with a dead arm. After a poor first showing against the Yankees, tragedy struck as Means’ father passed away in early August, causing him to miss the next 2 weeks traveling with family and following Covid protocols. Means finished the month of August with an 8.59 ERA. He also never made it past the fifth inning in any of his starts.
He gave up 4 runs over 5.1 innings to the Mets to start September. Lost season, right? 2019 was a fluke, right? Orioles gonna Oriole, right? Wrong on all accounts! Well, at least the first two, Orioles will still probably Oriole at some point, but that’s not why we’re here. We are here because those 4 runs he gave up on September 2nd, were half of the runs he gave up for the whole month. Over his next 4 starts, Means threw 23.2 innings and struck out 30 batters, getting to the 6th inning in all but one (5.2), and giving up only one run in each outing. It’s worth noting that each of those runs came on a home run. More on that later.
It’s later, and Means was the single unluckiest pitcher for home runs in 2020. His expected home runs of 8.2 was substantially lower than his actual home run count of 12. Sure, Means is a fly ball pitcher, but he also is in the top 13% of pitchers for opposing exit velocity. According to Statcast, he should’ve had 3 of his home runs be routine fly ball outs, which would put him much more in line with his expected number. This disproportionate boost in home runs is the driving factor in the difference between that actual 2020 ERA of 4.57 and his expected ERA of 3.09. That’s the same expected ERA as Gerrit Cole, just an FYI. Lost in the mess that was 2020, is Means’ stellar .98 WHIP. Just on its face, you have to be supremely unlucky to have a 4.57 ERA, .98 WHIP. It’s just bananas how much the homers killed him.
Means also gained more velocity from 2019 to 2020 than almost any other pitcher in baseball. He jumped his heater up from 91.7 miles per hour to 93.8, and topped out at 96.5 mph; his fastball spin is also in the 97th percentile, up from its previous mark in the 75th percentile. More speed, plus more spin, equals harder to hit pitches. His expected stats are incredible from 2020, with his expected batting average, ERA, weighted on base percentage are all in the 84th percentile or higher. As for actual impact, Means had the lowest BAA (batting average against) of his career, coming in at a stingy .218.
So why Means in 2021? Well, on top of the expected positive home run regression and ever increasing velocity, he had a career high swinging strike rate and chase rate (excluding 2018, which was all of 3 innings), as well as reducing his zone contact. That adds up to a guy who is missing bats at a career rate. Coupled with what we saw over his last four starts (when he finally had a sense of quasi-normalcy), he should make huge strides as a reliable arm. Those damn Orioles also trotted Means out for 155 innings as a rookie. Expect him to pitch equal, if not more, innings this year on his way to being a top 40 pitcher.
Means’ breakout 2019 season, where he put up the best ERA of his professional career, was backed up by a very pedestrian 4.41 FIP. This is likely the result of his .256 BAbip, which was 40 points below the MLB average. In a condensed 2020 season, we saw the Means’ pre-2019 struggles return. However, despite these struggles, Means’ BAbip dropped even further to .216. He is due for some major regression in that category which will cause that pristine WHIP of his to skyrocket and his ERA to climb with it, eventually reaching his FIP. On top of all of this, his career K/9 is just 7.4. So his upside is very limited and we already saw what his floor looked like last season. This is an easy stay away for me.
Curtis’ Boom 3:Kole Calhoun
Calhoun is coming off the best season of his career where he mashed 16 bombs in just 54 games, yet no one believes in him. Look, I get it. Kole is a known commodity. He has been in the league for 8 years and has been good for fantasy in almost none of them. At age 32, he left the Angels and returned home to Arizona. He seemed to prove that there truly is no place like home. Last season was easily the best of his career, and the fun part is there’s still room for improvement. In 2020, Calhoun improved his launch angle and rained bombs on the cardboard cutouts in Arizona at a rate he’d never reached before. He also had the lowest BAbip of his career. Despite having a weak .226 average, he had a .253 XBA which was good enough to be in the 66th percentile in the league. If Calhoun can reverse that batted ball luck just a little, we are looking at a player with 40+ bomb potential being drafted in the late 200s. I’m a believer and you should be too. This was written before Calhoun required knee surgery. It now seems likely that Calhoun will miss most of April. This obviously makes it more difficult for him to reach the top 100 but I’m still a believer that he will be very much in the running for that.
Calhoun is a known commodity alright; he’s a waiver wire orange that you juice either when he’s hot or you run into injury trouble. That’s all he’s been for most of his career, and that what he’ll be again. While capable of hitting a few home runs, 40 home runs is a bit much considering: A) he never hit more than 26 without the happy fun ball, and B) there’s no more happy fun ball, in fact quite the opposite. He runs very hot and cold, and is un-rosterable during the cold stretches. In 2019, his WRC+ by month was: 84, 144, 71, 131,119, 86. That’s immensely frustrating at best, and season killing at worst. That’s Kole Calhoun. Save yourself the headache, stay unattached, and use him as the ultimate waiver flavor of the month he has always been.
Rosser’s Boom 3: Nick Senzel
The baseball gods broke the mold when they made Nick Senzel. Unfortunately, they forgot to take him out of the mold first. The former top prospect and 2nd overall pick has had a hard time finding the field and staying on it, but when he plays, oh boy sign me up.
As a prospect Senzel was touted as a true five category player, but most notably an exceedingly polished hitter (his prospect hit rating graded out at an ever elusive 70). In 127 major league games, we haven’t quite seen the hit tool come to life, as his average has topped out at only .256 (he has been crushed by BABIP bad luck) so far, but he has 14 homers and 16 steals over that time. That puts him well on pace for 20/20 in a full season without his best asset firing on all cylinders. I don’t have many fantasy rules, but one of them is to value 20/20 guys when looking for potential. There’s just so many ways they can decide to assist you.
About that hit tool. Baseball (and life, I guess) is about rhythm. It’s exceedingly hard to find a rhythm when you keep having freak injuries like getting pegged on the hand or bouts of vertigo. It’s even harder when your big dumb-dumb manager won’t play you over career platoon bats. Senzel has had to try and succeed in spite of these roadblocks, but finally, FINALLY, it looks like we’re going to see one of my first adopted baseball children play regularly. For one, he seems to be healthy after missing time with a mystery injury for half the season. Secondly, that big dumb-dumb manager I mentioned a moment ago got prescribed some smart-smart pills in the off-season, and has announced that Nick Senzel will be the starting, full time, center fielder for the Reds this season. That is an immense burden lifted, and I expect Senzel to settle in, not press at the plate, and finally become the fantasy stud muffin we’ve been praying for.
You think he will go 20-20? I’ll raise you with he will go 30-30. By that I mean he will miss 30 games due to injury and 30 games due to being benched. Senzel was a top prospect but then again so was JP Crawford. Turns out that neither of them are that good. Senzel found his way into the lineup just 23 times in 2020. In those 23 games he batted .186, hit 2 home runs, and went 2 for 3 on stolen bases. In his professional career Senzel has never played more than 119 games. His career OPS is .720. There are two paths available to players to reach the top 100. You either play a lot and accumulate counting stats or you can be so good it doesn’t matter that you missed a bunch of games. Senzel will do neither of these things.
Rosser’s Bust 1:Eloy Jimenez
This one is tough, because Eloy is a stud and can knock the cover off the ball. He hits the ball as hard as anyone and his average is high enough to outweigh his inability to take walks.
Last year, Eloy was elite in just about all contact statistics. He wasn’t so elite in plate discipline though, with a whiff and K rate in the 34th and 36 percentile, respectively. He swings at everything and, as previously stated, is allergic to walks (13th percentile). This doesn’t matter so much if he hits the piss out of everything, but when you add it to his elevated .340 BABIP, his average is bound to take some form of a hit. Probably not enough to knock him out of the top 100 on its own, but enough to make his WRC+ look more like 2019’s 116 than 2020’s 140.
The real reason I think Eloy comes up short, as much as it sucks to say, is his health. He just doesn’t play full seasons enough. He’s only played over 100 games three times in his career, and never eclipsed 130. If that won’t impact his plate appearances enough, it is highly likely he gets pulled in the late innings of games in favor of a more defensive outfielder. It’s a lot of little things with Eloy, but when you add it all together, I think at minimum you get someone who won’t live up to his draft position, and more likely someone who ends up ranked in the triple digits.
Eloy is a fantasy superstar. Last year in 55 games he hit 14 home runs, 14 doubles, and had a .296 average. When discussing Eloy we weren’t talking top 100 player last year. He was knocking on the door of top 30 for most of the year. So even if his batting average regresses to more like .265ish he is still the guy who hit 31 bombs in just 122 games in 2019. Last year he was in the 96th percentile in Barrel rate, 91st percentile in exit velocity, and 98th percentile in hard hit rate. Everything about Eloy’s profile says that he is a stud and will continue to be a stud. So the only way he won’t be is if he gets hurt which is possible I guess but the man hasn’t even been in the MLB for two full seasons yet. So to call him an injury risk seems ridiculously premature especially when he is as talented as he is.
Curtis’ Bust 1:Luis Robert
After a few more seasons, Robert should live up to teammate Eloy Jimenez’s expectations of him being “the next Mike Trout.” Robert is about as fun as baseball gets. Dude is a walking highlight reel. So why do I think he is going to be a bust this season? He has only played two months of major league baseball, the latter of which he looked absolutely lost at the plate, and carries a 32% strikeout rate into his sophomore campaign. Seeing as we are a points league, that is what I refer to as a big problem. Strikeouts can, however, be overcome by bombs and walks. Think of Aaron Judge. Judge is no stranger to the swing and miss stuff, but he muscles enough balls over the wall and takes enough walks that it doesn’t matter. Robert does not have the talent or the patience to be Judge. At least not yet, and certainly not in 2021. Robert’s hard hit rate was just 29.8% last year and his 87.9 mph exit velocity put him in the 34th percentile in the league. Thus, drafting Robert inside the top 5 rounds can be summarized in two words: absolutely lunacy. At only 23-years-old there is little doubt Robert has the potential for greatness, but I’m not here to predict the next 10-15 years of Robert’s career. No, I’m here to tell you what 2021 looks like for Robert and it isn’t good.
Hoo buddy, we are not making any friends on the South Side (or among North Side rebel wannabes). Robert has all the makings of somebody who I’ll let break my heart forever: More tools than a shed, oodles of power in a small sample, and just enough peripherally for me to talk myself back in. I haven’t looked at Robert too in-depth yet though, so let’s dive in.
Tools. Tools, tools, tools. One glance at his Statcast page tells me he’s a little raw, but he barrels the ball at an elite rate and, unlike the next person on this list, has a respectable expected slugging, and can absolutely haul patooty. I like this. The kid is a physical freak, the team is invested, so he’ll play as much as he can, and he has resourceful fundamentals to build on. He makes good contact but doesn’t always hit it hard, so instead he has the legs to stretch a double. When he does hit it hard, guard your heart, because Luis is going to send it to the moon.
I also like that he got a taste of adversity early. Every player has an adjustment period or two, and the ones that intrigue me the most are the ones that bump against the off-season. Robert has had 4 months to study the film and try to rewrite the book on himself. His K-rate peak in the minors was 26.4%, and often hovered closer to 20%. I think he can settle in and get back to that, while still popping the eyeballs out of heads across the Midwest. He may be a bust based on where he’s going now in drafts, but I think an everyday player with the arsenal like Robert’s will be hard pressed to have a full season outside the top 100.
Rosser’s Bust 2: Keston Hiura
You know how there are guys in your league who’s playing style you hate? Then, because you hate their general management concepts, you are instantly out on the guys they buy into? Well that was me with Keston Hiura. I saw he got picked up, and instantly knew he had to suck. At the time though, all I could go on was that there has never and will never be someone who matters in sports named Keston. It’s dumb, but dammit I went all in, and here we are two years later still banging the drum. Luckily for me, I have more to hate now than just his first name.
“K. Hiura” is what it reads on the lineup card, but it is also probably what happened during his most recent at bat. Seen as the next power hitting second baseman, most of what we’ve seen from Keston has been more like a power fan, just moving air from left to right. Sure, he barrels it up when he makes contact (91st percentile), but he doesn’t even hit barrels that hard (his EV is in the 24th percentile. Gross.). He led the National League in K rate (34.6%) and in swinging strike rate (20.4%). On top of not putting the ball in play every third time up, his ground ball rate is starting to normalize from the high 30’s to his career average in the high 40’s.
To make matters worse, pitchers haven’t really changed their approach to him, as he has seen essentially the same pitch mix the past two years. His BABIP was lower than usual, but that’s expected from the kind of routine fly ball/ground ball hitter he was last year.
Ok, so he had some growing pains, they need to just let him play through it and find his groove, right? Well, they kinda can’t afford to, because his glove is absolutely abysmal. After 6 months of MLB keystone life, he has been relegated down the fielding hierarchy to first base. That is a bad look for a 3rd year 2nd baseman, and one that says the Brewers really can’t let him play if his bat doesn’t speak loudly enough to drown out the fielding woes.
Hiura could end up being the first person named Keston I’ve ever been wrong about, but I doubt it. The fact that he doesn’t really do anything he does well well enough to silence all the things he doesn’t do could be enough to get him sent down to Triple-A again, not to mention just outside the top 100. How can I say this clearer: Keston Hiura has a better chance of finishing in the top 100 than you do of understanding that last sentence. This is kind of a win-win though because now Curtis has to defend Keston. This is my Fletch-ribution.
That is where you are wrong, Rosser. Because contrary to popular belief, I’m not going to do it.
Let me state this unequivocally: Hiura is a bad baseball player. He has more holes in his swing than a block of swiss cheese. The fact that he is already being moved to 1B says a great deal about what the Brewers think of him, and, trust me when I say this, they’re thinking unkind things. I believe that this time next year we will be talking about Hiura as closer to a 20th round pick than a 10th round. He can’t hit, he can’t field, and he has a lame name. I don’t care about Hiura’s 52% hard hit rate from 2019 or his below average BABIP from 2020. Sure he hit 19 bombs and stole 9 bases in just 84 games in 2019. That doesn’t mean he is good though. He just has a little pop and a little speed. My job is to make predictions and I can’t in good conscience tell you that Hiura will be a top 100 player but if you squint really hard and play in some weird league that doesn’t care about batting average, OBP, Strikeouts, or decent names then he could be usable. Maybe.
Curtis Bust 2:Javier Baez
For years I have hated Baez’s plate approach and said that it was unsustainable, yet he continued being a fantasy monster. However, Baez finally held up his end of the bargain and sucked in 2020 to make me look like I know what I’m talking about. He batted .203 with just 7 walks against 75 strikeouts in 59 games. If that doesn’t scare you, his statcast profile reads like a horror movie: his xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, K%, B%, and Whiff% were all in the 26th percentile of the league or lower. You can’t help but admire the fact that he didn’t mess around and make us wait through a slow decline. He went straight from an all-star season to being downright unownable. This should make your job on draft day so much easier as you get to sit back and watch as some schmuck in your draft who—unlike you—didn’t have the intelligence to read this article and signs up for a dud with an oh-so-valuable top 10 pick.
Javy Baez is one of the most freeform baseball players you’ll ever see, and that extends to his plate approach too. He swings at everything, and from 2018-2019 he was connecting so well it didn’t matter. All those stats Curtis mentioned above that were so low? Well he was in the 75th percentile on just about every single one of them over those two years. He also posted a sub .330 BABIP for the first time in 5 years (.262), as well as a sub .480 slg for the first time since 2016 (.360). This is driven by his obscenely low isolated power number (.158, the lowest since 2016, again) For better or worse, nothing seems too different in his approach, but his quality of contact plummeted this year. Baez himself has credited this to not having access to the film room during the game. As someone who watched that same issue plague one of the best approaches in the game in J.D. Martinez last year, I think that this is a legitimate reason for Baez to have been swinging to stay alive instead of swinging to punish. He has elite contact and power tools as well as just a pure love of the game and it is just as likely that he returns to a top 30-50 player as it is that he drops out of the top 100 now that he has access to in game film again.
Rosser’s Bust 3:
Framber Valdez Zach Plesac
Originally, this section was about Framber Valdez and about how he has never been able to stay on the field, so he would fall out of the top 40. Well, three days before final submission, Ol’ Framber made a winner out of me and is probably out for the season, if not a large chunk of it. Hate to see it for him, but they don’t ask how, they ask how many.
Anyway, due to Framber being too good of a pick, I am audibling to Zach Plesac. Plesac was incredible last year, and he is the anti-Framber, being able to shoulder a very heavy workload and make it deep into games. What he has in common with Framber, however is he is predominantly a two pitch pitcher. What’s different about Plesac is his two pitches depend on the batter’s handedness. He throws his fastball and slider to righties almost exclusively, and to lefties he throws a fastball/changeup mix. While that isn’t ideal on its face, it becomes more troubling when his fastball, which is mediocre by all standards, is his most used, and versatile pitch throughout his career (50% and 38% usage in 2019 and 2020, respectively). That 12% decrease in fastball usage largely went to his slider, which well overperformed its metrics and was one of the best pitches in baseball last year based on results. The actual break metrics on the pitch are below average both horizontally and vertically, and while he could get away with throwing certain pitches exclusively in certain situations during a short, limited film season, I do not think the success is maintainable across 162 games. Plesac also had an unbelievably high Left on Base rate (91%), and is due for regression both in that particular statistic and in his ERA as a whole. Each year he has pitched in the MLB, he has managed to come in more than a full run under his SIERA (Skill Independent ERA: a more accurate ERA estimator than FIP, because it takes into account a pitcher’s given skills and tendencies). While I dont expect him to regress all the way to 2019’s 5.13 SIERA, I do expect his ERA to finish more in the four and change range with less strikeouts per nine than last year. With the return of in game video too, the third time through the lineup will be that much more difficult for someone with as limited an arsenal as Plesac. Let someone else in your league draft him as their number 2 and deal with his false ceiling.
Hard to call Framber a bust when he is being drafted outside the top 300 but with that being said if you drafted him before seeing this then yeah you done messed up. Case and point for why you draft as close to the start of the season as physically possible. Hopefully Plesac can make it through the weekend and prove Rosser more wrong than Framber did.
Plesac is a very boring pitcher. All he does is throw strikes and that’s all we need from him. The Indians are one of the few organizations left that let their starters cook. So you can expect Plesac to be given every opportunity to rack up quality starts. This in turn should lead to him being inside the top 20% of starters in innings at the end of the season. So if as Rosser said in a previous draft of the article, he ends up with a 3.6 era with his elite command, walked 1 guy per 9 innings and had a .795 whip, he will easily finish inside the top 40 pitchers with an outside chance at finishing in the top 20. I believe in the Indians and if they believe in Plesac then so do I.
Curtis’ Bust 3: Jesus Luzardo
“Lizard Jesus” was a top prospect for the A’s that I foolishly waited on throughout the entire 2019 season, where it seemed like he was getting the call basically every other day only to be delayed by injuries. Those injuries are the reason why he has pitched in just 114 innings over the past 3 seasons. Yes, in 3 years of professional baseball he has pitched just over half a season’s worth of baseball. There is no world in which Luzardo is going to pitch enough innings this year to be a top 40 starting pitcher. Now, with that established, let’s look at who he is as a pitcher when he can find his way onto the field. In 9 starts last season, Luzardo produced a 4.12 ERA with a 4.19 FIP to back it up. He also struckout 9 guys per inning which is great for a lot of pitchers, but was the worst of his professional career at any level. Luzardo should develop into a great pitcher but he isn’t there yet, so don’t waste a valuable pick on a guy who won’t pitch very much or very well.
Injuries have been a thing, but that’s not uncommon for young fireballers. It’s just a hazard of making a human body move an object in inhuman ways. Luckily, Luzardo has pretty much already been rebuilt by age 24. He made every start last year, he’s ready to go this year and the A’s have no reason to be shy about his usage. His stuff is also electric. He has four pitches he throws over 20% of the time, and all have success. Last year his changeup and curveball were his best pitches, and this past year his sinker was his most reliable offering. He strikes out over a batter per inning for his career, and he’s reaching the point in his career where he could start to take the next step with a full season of relative normalcy. One of the three young arms; Paddack, Anderson, or Luzardo will finish outside the top 40. This burden could fall to Luzardo (I know it’s irrelevant, but I like the cowboy on the west coast to doo-doo his britches), but it is much less a question between the three as to who has the highest ceiling. That honor does belong to Jesus. After all, there are no ceilings in lizard heaven, just limelights to bask in.