The Mets are on the verge of having a dominant starting staff and Zack Wheeler is a key component. Armed with an upper-90’s fastball and knockout curveball, the 24-year old enters the 2015 season primed for a breakout. In nearly 300 innings and 49 starts at the big-league level, great strikeout and ground ball rates point to ace potential. However, command has always been Wheeler’s Achilles heel and pitchers who walk too many batters don’t become frontline starters. The Solo Home Run Situations series has tackled added stress resulting from pitch selection — Wheeler presents an opportunity to revisit the series to explore how walks affect the young right-hander’s prospects.
An early season match-up between the Marlins and Braves saw a Major League-record for total strikeouts without a walk (28) and helped to launch our Solo Home Run Situations study. Miami ace Jose Fernandez struck out 14 in eight innings, while his counterpart, Alex Wood, whiffed 11. Though Fernandez succumbed to Tommy John surgery less than a month later, Wood logged 171.2 innings and 2.5 WAR in his first full season in the bigs. The young lefty possesses the stuff and the stats of a budding ace, but are his notorious mechanics ready for 200 innings?
Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom put together a Rookie of the Year-type campaign in 2014, much to the surprise of dynasty owners everywhere. The 26-year old started the season behind fellow righties Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero at Triple-A Las Vegas. After a mid-May call-up and a 9-6 record over 140.1 innings, deGrom now looks set to slot in behind Matt Harvey at the top of the Mets rotation in 2015. Has the former ninth-round pick shown enough to warrant such lofty expectations next season? Or are fantasy owners better off cashing in on a cheap investment?
Tragically, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras (ROTOscouting Report) was killed in a car accident on Sunday. The news is devastating for his family and friends, and the baseball community at large has lost an individual who, from all accounts, was a joy to be around. Beyond his immeasurable talent, Taveras was a 22-year old young man taken from this world before his time.
Danny Duffy enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2014, logging over 100 innings for first time since 2011, the Royals product notched 2.2 WAR across 25 starts with a 2.53 ERA. This was a revelation to dynasty fantasy baseball owners who’ve held on through the bad times, but Duffy’s performance was met with trepidation by non-believers. With a spotty health history and poor pitching peripherals undercutting the ERA, is Duffy a tweak away from consistent fantasy success, or is he a sell high candidate after a fantastic season?
The Giants are in the midst of another deep October run and Madison Bumgarner is leading the charge. The lefty starred in the wild card match up against Pittsburgh and kicked off the NLCS with 7.2 shutout innings against the Cardinals. During the start, he set the record for most consecutive scoreless playoff innings pitched on the road. In 2014, as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain limped to -0.5 WAR combined, Bumgarner paced the pitching staff with 3.6 WAR and 30-plus starts, something he’s done every season since joining the rotation full-time in 2011. But, for all of the 25-year-old’s success, fantasy owners seem reluctant to make San Francisco’s ace their SP1. Is it time to fully embrace Bumgarner’s ascendance?
Few pitchers entered October with as much momentum as Kevin Gausman. In each month this season, the lanky right-hander’s strikeouts increased while walks decreased. On the second half WAR leaderboard, Gausman was sandwiched by Stephen Strasburg and Felix Hernandez. After going fourth overall in 2012, the Orioles’ top prospect entering the season has advanced to Baltimore’s big-league rotation ahead of schedule and will be a mainstay for the AL East champions. But while the O’s have a young starter for years to come, fantasy owners need to determine whether or not Gausman will continue to develop into an elite starting pitcher.
Entering the season, question marks surrounded Royals rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura. At 5-foot-11, could the diminutive righty channel Pedro Martinez and sustain the workload of a Major League starter? Would added innings affect the velocity of Ventura’s prodigious fastball? He answered by logging over 175 innings and maintaining the highest fastball velocity amongst all qualified starters. Now in the wild card round against the Los Angeles Angels, is the Royals’ prized rookie destined for greatness? Or should fantasy owners cash in on a fine debut campaign?
Mike Newman’s piece on T.J. House emphasizes the opportunity for dynasty fantasy owners as the regular season nears completion: adding assets for 2015 on the cheap. Logging more than 20 starts this season for just the third time in his career, Clay Buchholz has been remarkably less effective than he was in 2013. On the year, the righty holds a 5.29 ERA, a sharp contrast to his 12-1 campaign with a 1.74 ERA and 7.98 K/9. Despite the warts, Buchholz is exactly the type of pitcher savvy owners acquire at the end of the season. Why is ROTOscouting suggesting a 30-year old injury-prone pitcher as a valuable acquisition for dynasty owners in 2015?
Entering the 2014 season, few Blue Jays farmhands elicited as much excitement as Alberto Tirado. The Dominican-born right-hander started the season with an aggressive assignment to Single-A Lansing, though his command never materialized (39 walks in 40 innings). A move to Short Season Vancouver came in June, where the 19-year old was still more than two years younger than the average player in the Northwest League. With easy velocity and developing secondary pitches, how did Tirado help his stock this year?
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