We continue our ADP analysis today with a deeper look at a handful of starting pitchers who could provide value based upon their current draft day price. If you’re new to this series, I’d recommend going back to check out the original piece, which includes my thoughts on how and why ADP information should be used. The tables for which this post is based upon are also located in that article.
Some might be wondering why only starting pitchers are being looked at both today and also in the pitcher table of the original post. Perhaps it was the data set used (NFBC ADP), but Closers just seem to always be drafted at or above par value. In leagues that still only use saves (the majority of 5x5 leagues), there’s a finite number of them available, which in turn leads to an aggressive draft approach towards the limited number of Closers in the player pool.
So instead we’ll focus on the starting pitchers. Once your draft moves beyond the first handful of starters typically selected, the ADP minimum and maximum pick range begins to expand. This is largely due to the fact that a projection engine (and in turn a dollar value or ranking) is driven by innings pitched. Innings pitched will tell the projection model how many wins and strikeouts to project. Being that pitchers are more likely to get hurt, nailing down an innings projection can be difficult. This means projecting pitchers with any sort of certainty can be difficult and hence why some pitchers have a wide minimum pick and maximum pick range of outcomes.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some starting pitchers who have the largest variance between my personal 2017 fantasy baseball rankings and where the NFBC marketplace is selecting them:
Chen is an interesting starting pitcher option entering the 2017 fantasy baseball season. A world beater he is not, but his 2016 results seem to have pushed many fantasy owners away from reinvesting this season. You’ll remember that entering last season Chen was a popular addition in many fantasy baseball leagues. He was coming off of a season in which he threw 191.1 innings for the Baltimore Orioles. He was able to manage a 3.34 ERA (4.16/4.01 FIP/xFIP), all while pitching in the AL East.
Of course Chen changed addresses following the 2015 season and ended up in the pitcher’s haven of Miami Florida. Unfortunately for Chen, he was hurt and missed about two months with an elbow sprain. All-in-all, he threw only 123.1 innings with an ERA of 4.96 (4.50/4.18 FIP/xFIP).
While the lack of innings definitely torpedoed his overall value for the year, his skills remained in line with his strong 2015 in Baltimore. The major difference was a lower strand rate (80.5% in 2015 compared to 70.7% in 2016) and even more fly balls leaving the yard. Considering Marlins Park suppresses home runs for both left-handed and right-handed hitters at an above average level, I expect this number to normalize some in 2017. Throw in the ability to reach 175 innings again and you have yourself a $6-8 pitcher in 15-team mixed leagues that is currently being selected a round before the reserve portion of drafts.
Another pitcher who fell off considerably from 2015 to 2016. With Keuchel, we’re talking about going from elite starter to nearly un-rosterable in a 15-team mixed league over the course of one season. Perhaps the 232 innings pitched in 2015 that helped Keuchel return over $35.00 of value in standard 5x5 leagues played a role in his backslide and ultimately the shoulder injury that sunk his 2016 value. While it’s speculation on my part, that is a massive workload by today’s standards. The 4.55 ERA (3.87/3.53 FIP/xFIP) was quite a drop from the solid skills displayed in 2015 (2.48 ERA 2.91/2.75 FIP/xFIP).
Since taking the step forward into a successful starting pitcher, Keuchel has shown the ability to strike out just enough batters, while limiting walks and generating a large amount of ground balls. Strike out minus walk percentage (K-BB%) is a great statistic to reference when attempting to determine a pitcher's command ability and potential future success. In both 2015 and 2016 the league average K-BB% sat around 12.8%. Keuchel’s K-BB% in 2015 was an outstanding 18.1%, however, in 2016 that number fell to a more average 13.7%. After posting ground ball rates of 63.5% and 61.7% in 2014 and 2015, respectively, that number also fell to 56.7% in 2016. As we’d expect, Keuchel’s home run rate and strand rate also worsened from his career year, leading to just enough small things all going wrong and many fantasy owners who spent an early round selection on Keuchel scratching their heads.
Hope is not lost however. Assuming Keuchel is healthy, a run at 200 innings is projectable. While the sub 3.00 ERA is not coming back, Keuchel should be able to keep his ERA around 3.50 or below. Couple this with a WHIP that should be league average or better and enough strike outs (thanks to innings pitched) to matter in the category and we find a $15-17 dollar pitcher who many owners are letting slide six to seven rounds further down the draft board than they should be.
It seems the fantasy baseball community is punishing Shoemaker more than they should be following his mini-breakout in 2016. The story has been written many times over, but for those new to the Shoemaker band wagon, let me explain quickly how his career turned around.
Split finger fastball. Yup, as simple as that.
After getting hit around hard to start the 2016 season, Shoemaker decided to rely heavily on his split finger fastball and his results improved dramatically. Shoemaker was able to take his first pitch strike rate (a proxy for pitcher control) and push it towards elite levels over the second half of the 2016 season. His swinging strike rate also remained strong, however, his strikeouts actually declined slightly over the second half. This is one area that Shoemaker could actually take a slight step forward in 2017.
Using Shoemaker’s first half / second half splits, we see ERA’s of 4.40 and 3.18, respectively. Fantasy owners should focus more on his xERA’s (expected ERA) of 3.88 & 3.94 over that same time period, as this should be your rough guide for 2017 production. Assuming health (remember this wasn’t an arm issue - Shoemaker was drilled in the head with a comebacker), 175 innings pitched with a 3.85 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and around 8.0 K/9 will provide more than enough fantasy production for Shoemaker to be selected in 15-team mixed leagues. Due to the injury it seems a three or four round discount is currently being built into the price. This lines Shoemaker up perfectly to be an SP 3 or 4 in a 15-team mixed league, making him one of the better options in that price range.
That’ll do it for today. If you’re the type of fantasy owner who prefers to stack their offense and take the discounts the room is willing to give on pitchers, I hope this article has helped to illuminate a few potential undervalued options. We’ll be back shortly with our list of over-valued players according to my ranks versus the current NFBC ADP marketprice. Until then, draft on.