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The Real Breakout Candidates, Please Stand Up (Starting Pitchers)

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April is the best time to stack up the breakout candidates in your roster, but we need to know who are the real deals. Let's take a look which starting pitchers with fast starts can actually help our teams.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It's April. This is the time everybody overreacts to the every single pitch. As a result, some players get way too much love, while some legit breakouts go unnoticed. We don't have enough sample size to determine exact value of every player yet, but that's why this is the perfect time to take advantage before the market absorbs all the information. The key to the championship starts from a quick action. Let's take a look at some of the surprising early performers and check out who are for reals.

Before we start, let me clarify that all the rankings are based on Yahoo! Format.

Vince Velasquez

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

377th

21st

25.1

3

33

1.78

0.87

Easy one. Everyone knows he is for real. His only downside is injury/shutdown risk. Although he will pitch better than pretty much anyone in the baseball, it could be a smart move to trade him away since his short-season can limit his value in the end. Read More.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

62nd

106

6

121

3.45

1.19

Breakout Potential: Very High

-

-

Mat Latos

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

409th

23rd

24.1

4

13

0.74

0.82

Latos is back in our lives! He was a problematic commodity that no one wanted a piece neither in Fantasy nor in real baseball, but he has been one of the best pitchers in the baseball so far. If you picked him up and used him for his last couple starts, I have nothing but a respect for you.

Nevertheless, you probably guessed it, but there is no real evidence to back up his breakout. His K-rate is way down from last year (7.74 to 4.81 K/9) while BB stays same (2.48 to 2.59 BB/9). He has benefited from extremely low BABIP (.167) and HR/FB (3.2%), so it's a matter of time before he regresses back to his normal self. The White Sox defense has significantly improved from last year, but it's not enough to bring down his career BABIP more than .100 and U.S. Cellular Field isn't the best place to keep his fly balls inside the park (6th highest HR Park Factor)

His velocity is currently sitting at career low (89.5 mph), which is probably why hitters are putting the balls in the play more than ever. His current 96.9% stranded runner rate is just absurd (league average is about low 70%), so once the batted ball stops rolling into the fielders' gloves, those runners will start to score.

I honestly don't think he is even usable in Fantasy. He is probably even worse pitcher than last year by looking at his velocity and K rate. Without no apparent new weapon in his repertoire along with his diminished velocity, there is no reason to believe that he can avoid line drives at this pace. If you already took some wins from him, that's great. It's time to walk away though. I don't think anybody is even willing to trade for him, so you shouldn't be hesitant to pick up the next hot free agent for his spot.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

126th

113

6

85

4.47

1.35

Breakout Potential: None

-

-

Rich Hill

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

327th

67th

26

3

37

2.42

1.27

He is probably too hot already after his two consecutive stellar starts. He is a real deal without a doubt. Read More.

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

44th

143

9

158

3.62

1.26

Breakout Potential: Very High

-

-

Hector Santiago

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

282nd

76th

26.2

2

27

2.70

0.94

We always pay attention to the lefties who throw hard. He had his semi-breakout last season (3.59 ERA, 8.1 K/9), but his second half meltdown (5.47 ERA) scared many owners away at the draft. He also didn't have great FIP (4.77) and his extreme fly ball tendency (0.56 GB/FB in 2015. Career 0.70) made him a home run prone (1.44 HR/9 even with his modest 10.2% HR/FB).

This season, he has been punishing his doubters so far. He is throwing the best fastballs (92.7 vs 91.4 career and 90.3 in 2015) and sliders (82.0 vs 77.9 career and 79.9 in 2015) since he became a full time starter in 2013, and those lead to his improved K-BB and groundball rate (1.10 GB/FB).

He obviously has some issues though. Because of his extremely high fly ball rate, he is a relatively low BABIP pitcher (.267 career), but we can't deny that his .197 BABIP this year has been helping to keep his ERA down. His ERA will be always better than his FIP because of his low BABIP, but we should expect the number to be closer to low 3.00 than his current 2.70 even at his best.

He still has a great chance to outperform his every pre-season expectation. 2.4 mph gain in his fastball isn't something to be neglected, especially when it's already walking more hitters back to their dugouts. We should see some regressions in his ERA and GB%, but as long as he keeps his velocity at current level, his owner can enjoy his strong K-BB for the rest of the season.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

49

146

9

139

3.69

1.25

Breakout Potential: High

-

-

Steven Wright

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

380

78

26.1

2

25

1.37

1.14

Knuckleballers are always very tough to evaluate. Just like their pitches, they are so unpredictable and a lot of the traditional sabermetrics do not work on them. Their pitches are built to create weak contracts, so their BABIP will be lower than the league average, which makes their FIPs unusable. Therefore, it won't help anybody if I simply go ahead and say, "Oh his 1.37 ERA is unstainable because his FIP is 3.30" (1.37 is probably unsustainable even for Kershaw, but you see my point).

There is still no doubt that he has been surprising everybody. His repertoire is very similar to that of R.A. Dickey, so you can expect see his healthy K-rate to continue with his high-speed Knuckleball. Just like any other Knuckleballers, however, he won't be able to achieve low BB, so we should see his WHIP popping up sooner or later. Also, even with all his weak contacts, his 4.0% HR/FB is just unreal. That number should be back up to his career 10.1% (Dickey 11.0% HR/FB career).

At this point, it's very tough to project his numbers, but if you don't mind high WHIP and huge blowouts once in a while, he is potentially rosterable. The Red Sox having one of the best defensive catchers in the game (Christian Vazquez) also helps his case (Vazquez hasn't caught Wright yet this season). Just don't expect Dickey's CY Young season from him.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

121st

115

7

87

4.43

1.37

Breakout Potential: Moderate

-

-

A.J. Griffin

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

447th

100th

25

3

17

2.52

1.04

He is performing really well right now, but I don't think many people consider him seriously, and he really shouldn't be. He is a righty who throws a boring fastball (88 mph), and his K-BB backs up that his stuff is nothing but mediocre (6.12 K/9 3.24 BB/9). His career BABIP is very low (.246), but it's because of his high fly ball rate (0.74 career GB/FB). He pitches in a home run friendly ball park, so his 6.1% HR/FB will soar in near future. Expect him to get pounded by long balls. I wouldn't even recommend to use him match up based, since he can easily get destroyed in some random starts (career HR/9 1.41).

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

130th

66

4

51

4.29

1.31

Breakout Potential: Very Low

-

-

Josh Tomlin

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

311th

130th

17

3

11

3.18

0.94

He was considered as one of the deep sleepers coming into the season, and he is relatively performing well, but there aren't too much bright side to his quick start. First of all, his K is down (5.82 K/9. 7.81 K/9 last year). His fastball is also clocking career low 86.9 mph (career 88.7 mph), so it's hard to think that he can bring back up his K unless he regains his velocity, which could be very tough at age 31 right after an injury shortened season. He is also a fly ball pitcher with career 1.44 HR/9, so his long ball rate will start to climb back up throughout the season. Moreover, once the Indians get Michael Brantley back into the lineup, his glove will hurt their fly ball pitchers even more. He still can be a solid deep league starter if he can bring his velocity back up, but I wouldn't count on him.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

70th

125

8

100

3.83

1.19

Breakout Potential: Low

-

-

Ricky Nolasco

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

989th

136th

27.2

1

24

3.25

0.9

His name probably won't excite most of you, but he might be a solid starter this year. Just to make sure, there is no upside play here, but the important part is that he is the exact same pitcher we have known, which isn't easy at age 33. He still throws same pitches at same velocity, and he gets about 7 to 8 K/9. His current 0.98 BB/9 doesn't look sustainable, but he can still put up solid 7+ K/9 2+ BB/9 rest of the way as long as he is healthy.

His ERA is currently assisted by low line drive rate (11.5% vs career 21.7%), so his ERA and WHIP will be adjusted higher sooner or later. Obviously he was never a great Fantasy pitcher, so he isn't suddenly going to be a gem this year, but if you used him in 5 years ago, you should be able to expect the same thing from the veteran pitcher. This is obviously only a deep league play, but he isn't the worst addition to your roster. He is just boring, that's it.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

108th

89

5

71

4.1

1.27

Breakout Potential: Moderate

-

-

Tanner Roark

Pre-Season

Current

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

403rd

216th

24

2

24

2.63

1.38

While I'm writing this, he just came off the mound after a 7-inning shutout against the Phillies. He has been already a hot wavier add for last couple days, so I'm guessing his share will just skyrocket after tonight.

Despite his somewhat interesting name and amazing performance so far, it's hard to see him maintaining his high level numbers. He is a career 6.32 K/9 pitcher with a mediocre fastball (91.8 mph). Each of his fastball and slider's velocity dropped about a mile from last year, and he didn't show any significant improvement in his Swinging Strike % (8.1% vs career 7.7%). His current K-rate is simply a result from one outing against the miserable Twins (15K in 7 IP). His other outings read as 3K in 4 IP, 4K in 7 IP, 2K in 6 IP.

Now that he has two outstanding outings under his belt, his value could see a good bump. I still don't think it's enough to get a solid return by trading him, but at least I won't pursue him.

Steamer Remainder of Season Projection

SP Rank

IP

W

K

ERA

WHIP

100

116

7

87

4.04

1.29

Breakout Potential: Very Low