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“The Mad Professor” 2017 Starting Pitcher Busts/Bargains

OK… it is Groundhog Day +3 and we are contemplating SP Busts.  Do you always hurt the one you love?  Or is it the other way around?  In this, the first shot of the MLFS 2018 baseball writing season by your gentle scribe, I’m hoping to answer the prompt entitled “2017: ADP bust/bargains” circulated by our fearless leader.  So, I guess that makes me Boris…or Natasha.  Actually, I feel not unlike the groundhog—just peeping out of my hole to see what’s up with winter and curious about what’s going on with a couple of SP. While not quite in full-blown stats analysis mode yet, these are akin to the thoughts one would naturally generate this early in the year.

To write on this puppy, it’s easiest to look back and see who made or broke your roster as a result of a lucky snag from the free agent pool or an over/underpayment payment in a trade. So, I’ll begin this missal with a couple of personal reflections on my 2017 drafts and then generalize based on the 2017.

To start, I won’t look to grouse about DL-casualties or violations of PED policies (meaningful glare at Starling Marte).  I did only auction drafts in 2017. I’ll focus today on several relative busts or garden variety disappointments who are currently hovering in mediocre draft spots.  In general, I’d suggest that these guys are ones to bid up and let someone else take the bait. (Of course, no one has reported to Spring Training, so these thoughts could change in a month.)

The following table looks at average overall ADP and average pitcher off the board (OTB) from several websites for Carlos Martinez, Lance McCullers, Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani.

Player Fantrax OTB NFBC OTB Rotographs OTB ESPN OTB Average
Martinez, Carlos 53 14 54 17 56 13 54 15 54.25 14.75
McCullers, Lance 135 36 55 53 151 41 123 34 116 41
Darvish, Yu 56 15 51 16 49 10 50 13 51.5 13.5
Ohtani, Shohei 67 18 75 23 94 24 59 16.25

A guy who killed me is Lance McCullers. I believe I was right about the skill set, but the durability bug got me. His K/9  was solid but I knew he was an injury or shutdown risk after not surpassing 125 IP the previous two seasons. He got shut down after 132 IP in 2017, and when he got hurt, he was horrid, even though he was solid in the postseason.  

Looking towards 2018, the skill set is there—if you display a skill you own it (Ron Shandler).  But, if you display a tendency to breakdown, you own that too.  McCullers is high risk and high reward.  He’s definitely worth a bid as a #3 or #4 SP.  But, let other folks bid higher. At $2, he’s a steal.  Once you hit double digit bids this year though, you need to weigh what McCullers can offer, discount it by the silly-arsed 10-day DL for players with bad haircuts or in need of safe-spaces, and look to see what $10 might get you from a solid middle reliever (who seem to avoid bad haircuts).   Nonetheless, while his performance outweighs his skill set, snapping him up at #116 (and for single-digit dollars) may pay dividends if he’s able to stay healthy.

Another guy who has been hurting me for years is Carlos Martinez.  He gets the K’s but his consistency makes you worry.  He displays the skills with a ~10 K/9 again in 2017.  But, his W-L was right at .500.  He can handle the workload (180, 195, 205 IP in the last three years) but he has begun to serve up HR (13, 15, 27 HR in the last three years) at a greater rate.  For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 13.8% IP increase and more than a 100% HR increase.

To offer a contrast, in the last three years Taijuan Walker (another disappointing stud-in-waiting) has yet to crack 180 IP (169, 134, 157 respectively).  But, at least, he seems to have controlled the long ball (24, 27, 17, respectively–isn’t it great to pitch to pitchers?).  None of these guys offers much in the way of K/BB ratio.  They all hover around a league average or slightly better ratio of 3.

Two guys who are giving me a lot to think about as I watch the generation of early ADP rankings are Yu Darvish and Shohei Ohtani.  With a move to the NL in 2017, Darvish’s K/BB rate jumped from 3.3 to 4.7 and his ERA dropped from 4.01 to 3.44.  Nonetheless, his ERA has trended up over the last several years and folks must wonder going on in his head (after a disastrous post-season).  He did have 186 IP in 2017—his highest IP since returning from TJ surgery. Not surprisingly, his ADP is mediocre.

courtesy mlbtraderumors

Ohtani’s ranking in the ADP sweepstakes is peculiar.  He is an unproven commodity.  In general, Japanese pitchers have struggled to repeat their successes in their first MLB seasons (with the exception of Darvish).  Buyers are correspondingly wary.  Ohtani rings in right behind Darvish and Martinez.  He’s an unknown commodity who will need to endure the rough work-and travel schedule that the MLB faces.  I’d suggest that he is actually going too early in drafts right now.  Look to bid him up or let others take him early so that they can come whining to you in late July when he runs out of gas.  You know what you are getting with folks like Walker, Martinez and Darvish.  They have the capacity to break out or, in the case of Darvish, return to form.  Ohtani has no MLB form to return to yet.

Granted, Ohtani’s capacity to play OF and SP does create the intriguing possibility of an Ohtani for Ohtani trade in some weird parallel universe.  But leave that for the physicists and philosophers to ponder in their draft.

Best wishes for the 2018 season.  By the time you all read this, I hope Tom Brady is wearing his sixth Super Bowl ring.  Good luck with your upcoming drafts.


Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday February 11th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #97 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.

Our guest this week is Joe IannoneJoe is a tenured writer with Click on his name to see his portfolio of writing. His main focus is in the pitching arena.

Unrepentant Red Sox fan and all things Boston. Deflategate was a joke. Boston Latin School is awesome. Harvard and Johns Hopkins alma maters... Besides that... Stanley D. and Nikki Waxberg Professor of Politics and Law at Washington and Lee University. Wrote for Ron Shandler's Shandler Park for two summers and have been on board with MLFS since 2011. Been at Washington and Lee since 1990 with a brief hiatus (2010-2013) in the Middle East. Currently developing that last word in Fantasy Baseball analysis. Married to Flor, Dad to William and Alex, and adopted daughter Reem. Soon to be father and law to Meaghann. Alpha male to the world's super-pup, Humphrey. Life is not bad.

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