Are The Recent Rookie Call-Ups Worth Your Time? Plus, Overlooked Pitchers Of Value
It's the year of the rookie! Not only are rookies coming up to the majors like clockwork, they're excelling. Now, we have three young, highly-touted rookie pitchers getting their crack at things, but will they be any good? Are any worth your time? We also have two "veteran-ish" pitchers likely being overlooked in leagues this week.
For reference, see the chart below for SOBB levels.
Jonathan Gray, COL
Gray has a couple of factors working against him. First, he's not a dominate strikeout pitcher and carries a lower SOBB. In Double-A, Gray had a SOBB of 14.2, which dropped to 13.6 in Triple-A. Those aren't strong enough numbers to project great success in the majors, especially with a middling K% around 21. Second, he has control issues. His BB% in Double and Triple-A was 8.1, and in his first start, he had trouble locating some pitches. Third, it's pretty obvious, but Gray will have half of his games in Colorado. For this year, Gray likely only has a few starts left. So, you can play the matchups, but don't drop anyone of value, as he'll be shut down in a few weeks. Gray is a good long-term option, but he'll likely never reach the Top 30 for starters unless he dramatically improves his control.
Henry Owens, BOS
Owens has a bit more upside than Gray, as thankfully, he doesn't pitch for the Rockies. Some of Owens' damage in his first start came after he left when Robbie Ross allowed inherited runners to score. Overall, his line of five strikeouts and one walk in 5.0 IP was a solid debut. Owens has Top 20 starter potential, especially with a better SOBB. He struggled with walks this year after posting a 20.5 mark in Triple-A last season, but Owens can still manage a great SOBB over a full season, which will help him succeed in the majors.
Luis Severino, NYY
Severino made his first start for the Yankees and XXX. Prior to Triple-A, Severino had a SOBB in the mid-to-high 20s, flashing his great strikeout ability. His K% dipped to 20.9 in Triple-A, which brings a bit of concern, but that's likely the result of the Yankees pushing Severino through the system quickly. He's still just 21, and young pitchers regularly struggle with control. Consider Severino a matchup play with potential for more, and he ranks the best out of the three youngsters listed this week.
Drew Smyly, TB
If you haven't noticed already, Smyly is back and looks terrific. Back in 2014, Smyly posted a 3.24 ERA with a 14.7 SOBB. Obviously, the SOBB isn't great, but Smyly did post a 21.1 mark the year before with a 2.37 ERA. Since his return from injury, Smyly is posting a 28.6 SOBB, which is just 0.1 behind Clayton Kershaw. No, Smyly isn't suddenly Kershaw-ian, but he has a career best 11.2 SwStr%, O-Swing% and F-Strike%. What do we make of this? Well, Smyly was never a flame-thrower, as he never even reached 92 MPH with his fastball. As a result, his four-seam fastball was rather ineffective in 2014. Since his return, he's throwing the four-seamer way less and relying more on his two-seam fastball and slider. That extra deception and movement is working wonders, as you can see in the stats. It's only been three starts, but Smyly looks impressive so far. Consider him a potential Top 30 starter the rest of the way.
Patrick Corbin, ARI
Another pitcher that may be overlooked is Corbin, especially after his last outing versus the Nationals. It was his first terrible start since returning, and the Nationals lineup is scary again with everyone healthy. Nevertheless, through 29.1 IP, Corbin has a 3.99 ERA (3.22 xFIP) with 30 strikeouts and an 18.5 SOBB. He's also limited the Rockies, Giants, Brewers and Mariners all to two runs or less. Corbin isn't fool proof. He's definitely a matchup play, especially since he will still struggle to last deep into games. The good news is that his SwStr% is at a career best. Don't ignore Corbin just because of one bad start or that he pitches for the Diamondbacks. He's a useful spot starter for your team, even in standard sized leagues.
Recap: A little background on SOBB (StrikeOut percentage minus Base on Balls percentage) to start. You may have seen it on FanGraphs as K-BB%, as they added it last year, even without the catchy name. The reason they added it is the same reason I started and have been using it for three years: SOBB is a terrific predictor of future pitcher success or decline.
Using strikeout percentage is already a great start in evaluating pitchers, but taking it a step further to SOBB helps identify pitchers who are dominating hitters… or being dominated by them. SOBB helped predict the success of Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom last year, while also pointing to Brandon McCarthy eventually turning things around. It's not perfect - no stat is - but it's dang near close, and it's why I will be highlighting notable SOBBs from around the league each week
Photo Credit: sec116pix
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