Mound Musings: Some Good Things Come to an End

Mound Musings: Some Good Things Come to an End

This article is part of our Mound Musings series.

Last week we discussed some pitchers hinting they might be ready to take a step forward as the 2022 season progresses. We're always on the lookout for these guys, and I wish there could be more of them, but the truth is, a lot of pitchers posting surprisingly good numbers early in the season are just teasing us.

Of course, the trick is to separate the pretenders from the real possibilities. There are almost always many more pretenders than pitchers likely to help your fantasy team, but it can be a challenge to sort them out. Therefore, I thought I would mention a few guys who have become somewhat popular adds to fantasy rosters, but whom I'm avoiding, at least for now, pending additional samples that suggest the better numbers are real.

I'm staying away from these pitchers:

Kyle Gibson (Phillies) – I suppose Gibson makes this list through no real fault of his own. He tends to pitch to contact, and in doing so, relies heavily on his defense to make plays. In Philadelphia, relying on the defense is like relying on the Titanic to get you there. I have watched several Phillies games (and they pretty much nightly make the bloopers part of the highlights shows). Their defense is horrendous. Gibson has just ordinary stuff so he is unlikely to start missing bats routinely. He won't be terrible, and their offense could generate a few wins, but it looks like a frustrating season for him.

Dylan Bundy (Twins)

Last week we discussed some pitchers hinting they might be ready to take a step forward as the 2022 season progresses. We're always on the lookout for these guys, and I wish there could be more of them, but the truth is, a lot of pitchers posting surprisingly good numbers early in the season are just teasing us.

Of course, the trick is to separate the pretenders from the real possibilities. There are almost always many more pretenders than pitchers likely to help your fantasy team, but it can be a challenge to sort them out. Therefore, I thought I would mention a few guys who have become somewhat popular adds to fantasy rosters, but whom I'm avoiding, at least for now, pending additional samples that suggest the better numbers are real.

I'm staying away from these pitchers:

Kyle Gibson (Phillies) – I suppose Gibson makes this list through no real fault of his own. He tends to pitch to contact, and in doing so, relies heavily on his defense to make plays. In Philadelphia, relying on the defense is like relying on the Titanic to get you there. I have watched several Phillies games (and they pretty much nightly make the bloopers part of the highlights shows). Their defense is horrendous. Gibson has just ordinary stuff so he is unlikely to start missing bats routinely. He won't be terrible, and their offense could generate a few wins, but it looks like a frustrating season for him.

Dylan Bundy (Twins) – Long the poster child for under-performance on the mound, Bundy has started off strong with the Twins, going 3-0 with a 0.72 WHIP and a 0.59 ERA over 15 innings. Has the 29-year-old found the secret to success? I'm going to say probably not, at least not over the long term. Bundy's fastball velocity is actually down a couple of ticks, averaging just 89 mph, and he's allowing quite a bit of hard contact. He has often appeared to overthrow, which sacrificed movement and command, so maybe that is being corrected, but his mediocre stuff is unlikely to fool hitters as they become familiar with the new Bundy, and he is asked to pitch deeper into games. If you own him and have a suitor seeking his services, now would be a great time to make a deal.

Tylor Megill (Mets) – I'll admit I have vacillated between modest optimism and light pessimism since Megill arrived last season. He features a decent four-seam fastball with an adequate slider and change-up, but I feel like his success is being boosted by hitters having trouble picking him up. The first time or two through the batting order he elicits quite a bit of weak contact, but things heat up as he pitches deeper into games. He throws strikes, which is a big plus, and he can miss bats at a fair rate, but I think we might see an increase in his BABIP and hard-hit rate as he logs more innings. I could be wrong on this one. He could continue to baffle hitters often enough to succeed, but I remain somewhat skeptical – at least today. That outlook could change.

Bruce Zimmermann (Orioles) – Virtually the entire Baltimore rotation is surprising people this season, and maybe ballpark prejudices die hard, but I'm not completely buying into it. Camden Yards has always been considered "hitter-friendly," but changes in the fences this season make it look as though the O's home park is now pitcher heaven. Zimmermann is more or less the leader of the pack with a 1.20 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP, but after watching a recent outing, I came away rather unimpressed. The southpaw has mediocre command of mediocre stuff. He's not horrible, but moving the fences back is not going to make him an ace. As the weather warms, the fireworks likely begin.

Paul Blackburn (Athletics) – Blackburn is an interesting study. His fastball certainly isn't overpowering (91.8 mph), but he does generate relatively good movement with it. His secondary pitches are just average or at least close to it. That may be enough to get by in a starting role in the short term, but I am concerned that teams will start recognizing the fastball and sit on it until they get something in the hitting zone. He does throw strikes, which helps, but his pedestrian stuff, and general inability to miss many bats overall, is a red flag. It may be about time to collect your dividends and sell on him.

Nestor Cortes (Yankees) – Cortes has been one of the hotter buzz boys early this season. Punching out 25 batters in 16 innings while compiling a tidy 1.15 ERA with a 0.64 WHIP pitching in the Big Apple will generate attention. Don't get me wrong. I like Cortes, but I like him best as a swingman capable of multiple relief innings and an occasional spot start. He has modest stuff, and he benefits from a deceptive delivery that makes it appear pitches get on the batter more quickly, but overexposure is not going to be his friend over the long haul. He's throwing more strikes these days, which certainly helps, but I think hitters will catch up to him.

I suppose it shouldn't be too surprising that there are some mediocre (or worse) pitchers enjoying strong starts to the season. After all, the composite batting average is at the lowest mark in history at .231, and home runs are actually down a bit. Does that mean pitching is getting better? I don't think so. It means the hitting approach of the day – "close your eyes and swing hard in case you hit it" – is having an even bigger impact. Pitchers, for their part, have realized they don't have to throw strikes. They just have to throw the ball in the neighborhood of the strike zone. Maybe the ball is different. Maybe universal humidors are making a difference. Actually, I think the offense will return.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:

  • I still want to be optimistic when I can. I watched Chad Kuhl with some interest the past couple seasons, but when he landed in Colorado, I became a bit gun shy. I watched his last start and he looked pretty good, but it was on the road in Detroit. That said, he might be a viable streaming option in deeper leagues.
  • Another guy I have been watching is Minnesota's Josh Winder. To me, he looks ready to step into their rotation. He has four viable pitches, and he can throw any of them for strikes. Right now he is working as a long man out of their bullpen, but I think it's only a matter of time before he gets an opportunity to start.
  • The past couple seasons, the Cardinals' Miles Mikolas has often appeared to be laboring and often struggled to spot his pitches. It was probably a result of him not being completely healthy. This year, his motion is back to free and easy, resulting in very productive innings. He's very good at working the corners, in and out.
  • I'm anxious to see Detroit's Matt Manning back on the mound. I still feel like he has the highest ceiling of their pretty impressive young starting pitchers, but he needs to miss more bats to reach that ceiling. Shoulder problems are always scary, and his rehab has been on and off, but hopefully he'll return soon.
  • The Mets are the true epitome of fantasy pitching question marks. I already mentioned Megill as a guy who may not continue to enjoy his early season success, but Carlos Carrasco has generally impressed me. Perhaps finally healthy, he looks much like he did during his best seasons. I'm buying.
  • Another pitcher who may be hinting at a breakout, or at least a step forward, is Kansas City's Daniel Lynch. I don't think he's quite there yet despite his impressive outing against an injury-riddled White Sox lineup in his last outing, but he's mixing it up and keeping hitters off balance. Keep an eye on him.

Endgame Odyssey:

Bullpens may be becoming a bit more predictable, at least in some cases. In Cincinnati, Lucas Sims is back and should see the majority of save chances. That may not be many opportunities, but when healthy, he is clearly their best option. The Pirates have been deploying a tactic that's growing in popularity. David Bednar and Chris Stratton have been sharing the ninth, with Bednar taking on the tougher part of the lineup in either the eighth or ninth inning. It's a logical approach, but unfortunately for fantasy purposes, it's almost impossible to predict. The Rangers are now calling Joe Barlow their "primary" closer, but I'm not sold. Matt Bush is a better option, and I still think Garrett Richards sneaks into the mix eventually. Speaking of Barlows, Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont are sharing save chances for the Royals. Staumont has the better profile long term, but they don't fully trust him yet, and Barlow has proven to be a viable option. Dylan Floro is on a rehab assignment and should return to Miami's bullpen in the near future. They may ease him into high-leverage work, but I expect to see him closing games.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
For more than 30 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.
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