Pitching 3D: Risers

Pitching 3D: Risers

This article is part of our Pitching 3D series.

It has been about six weeks since I began ranking fantasy starting pitchers, and now that we've gone through the top 80 (and beyond), it's time to take a look at how the system stacks up against the NFBC consensus.

Here is a spreadsheet that has all of the rankings, in their entirety, broken down by category and arranged according to how the players fare in my system. I encourage the readers to make this their own, to copy and paste the spreadsheet into Google Spreadsheets, Excel, OpenOffice or whatever you use, and then tweak the categories as you see fit. We can disagree all day long about any individual's profile, but by categorizing the pitcher's contributions we can better appreciate those differences.

Here's a quick rundown of what we've covered so far:
Introduction to the ratings
Rating NFBC SP 1-10
Rating NFBC SP 11-21
Rating DT SP 22-30 (and 19)
Rating DT SP 31-40
Rating DT SP 41-50
Rating DT SP 51-60
Rating DT SP 61-70
Rating DT SP 71-80
Ten Pitchers Who Missed the Cut

The case of David Price provides an illustrative example of why these rankings are merely a snapshot and why they need to be updated regularly. He has dropped from No. 8 to No. 12 in my rankings (he's currently No. 12 according to NFBC ADP as well), with specific knocks to his projected innings and wins that hurt his overall score. These shifts can be seen in the spreadsheet, as any categorical

It has been about six weeks since I began ranking fantasy starting pitchers, and now that we've gone through the top 80 (and beyond), it's time to take a look at how the system stacks up against the NFBC consensus.

Here is a spreadsheet that has all of the rankings, in their entirety, broken down by category and arranged according to how the players fare in my system. I encourage the readers to make this their own, to copy and paste the spreadsheet into Google Spreadsheets, Excel, OpenOffice or whatever you use, and then tweak the categories as you see fit. We can disagree all day long about any individual's profile, but by categorizing the pitcher's contributions we can better appreciate those differences.

Here's a quick rundown of what we've covered so far:
Introduction to the ratings
Rating NFBC SP 1-10
Rating NFBC SP 11-21
Rating DT SP 22-30 (and 19)
Rating DT SP 31-40
Rating DT SP 41-50
Rating DT SP 51-60
Rating DT SP 61-70
Rating DT SP 71-80
Ten Pitchers Who Missed the Cut

The case of David Price provides an illustrative example of why these rankings are merely a snapshot and why they need to be updated regularly. He has dropped from No. 8 to No. 12 in my rankings (he's currently No. 12 according to NFBC ADP as well), with specific knocks to his projected innings and wins that hurt his overall score. These shifts can be seen in the spreadsheet, as any categorical values that have changed are color-coded to represent the shift, red for a notable decrease and blue for a notable increase.

Let's take another look at the pitchers who fare well in this system, as there are a number of players who shot up the ranks when compared to how they're being drafted. They are the risers whom I'll target in drafts this season, as I see profit potential above and beyond the consensus value.

Yu Darvish
DT: 6 (43 points)
NFBC: 8
Difference: +2

When I first did the ratings, Darvish was one of the biggest risers when considering the difficulty of climbing the ladder near the top of the list, as he jumped from a no. 12 ranking per NFBC to the no. 6 spot on my list. In the month since that article was published (Darvish was in the 11-21 piece, which was done according to NFBC ranking), the right-hander has shot up boards in NFBC drafts such that his current ADP is all the way up to 8, just two slots behind his standing in this system. Perhaps this now disqualifies him from being a riser, but I will reiterate the reasons for my optimism: He's a strikeout maven (career 11.3 K/9) with incredible stuff and an excellent delivery, and I expect the Rangers to allow Darvish to pile up the innings in his last season of his six-year deal and with his Tommy John surgery further in the rearview mirror. The free-agent-to-be will benefit financially from an ace-level workload this season, so I see the situation as all systems go from both sides.

Julio Teheran
DT: 19 (34 points)
NFBC: 27
Difference: +8

Prior to Teheran, the largest discrepancy between my ranks and the latest NFBC ADP was four points in either direction, so the difference of eight spots in the rankings is significant in the shallow end of the starting pitcher pool. Teheran gets a bump in leagues that count quality starts instead of wins, but overall I like his combination of age-related upside and right-now skills, the type of player with both a high floor and a high ceiling of potential performance. I consider 2015 to be an aberration that is unlikely to be repeated.

Lance McCullers
DT: 28 (33 points)
NFBC: 43
Difference: +15

Similar to the case of Teheran, the distance between McCullers ranking in the DT system versus the NFBC ADP is nearly twice that of any player who comes before him on my ranking list. McCullers is the rare pitcher who is coming off an injury-marred campaign yet earns my optimism, given his incredible combination of stuff, mechanics and strikeouts. He had a long arm path in the past, bringing the throwing arm low after breaking his hands, but he has made an adjustment to shorten that arm path. The early spring returns have been excellent, as it appears that McCullers has adapted quickly to the change, despite the fact that many pitchers struggle with making changes to their arm action. I was high on McCullers before seeing the results of this mechanical tweak; I'm even higher on him now.

Julio Urias
DT: 29 (33 points)
NFBC: 41
Difference: +12

The obvious caveats with Urias are related to his youth and expectedly light workload, though it seems that the assumption is Urias will be babied by the Dodgers in 2017 just as he was last season. However, Urias is far from your typical prospect and may convince the Dodgers to buck convention. I have seen Urias morph his delivery twice in two years, add five mph to his fastball in the course of a single season and show off the best quick pick-off move in baseball, in which the southpaw steps off the rubber with his back foot and makes a snap-throw to first base. His developmental acumen is off the charts, his right-now talent is good enough to carve hitters in the bigs, and the pessimism surrounding his workload makes a worst-case assumption about a situation that is speculative, at best, and which only impacts the least predictable of the four categories available to fantasy starting pitchers.

Adam Wainwright
DT: 35 (23 points)
NFBC: 61
Difference: +26

I think it's telling that Wainwright does so much better in my system despite the fact that he has a modest projection for strikeouts, which is the most heavily weighted stat in the DT system. I think we have a classic case of fantasy managers avoiding the fire after they've been burned, as a pitcher with the pedigree and track record of Wainwright was seen in previous years as a safe option with high upside in the other three roto categories. Then he went out and got bombed for a couple months of 2016, destroying fantasy ratios and exiting the circle of trust. But this is basically the same pitcher who has won 19 or more games in four different seasons, has posted a sub-3.00 ERA four times and a WHIP under 1.07 three times. He has supposedly rediscovered his curveball this spring and could have a couple good years left under his belt as the right-hander enters his age-35 season.

Carlos Rodon
DT: 36 (32 points)
NFBC: 52
Difference: +16

When it comes to Rodon, I have been the optimistic guy in the room for a long time. He took flak in college for his mechanics, yet I see a B+ delivery that has improved each season of professional ball. His minor-league training was essentially bypassed such that Rodon had to learn the ropes at the highest level, and though it gave him access to White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, it also meant that Rodon had to trust his stuff against the best hitters on the planet. He's basically a prospect whose numbers don't need an adjustment and who has shown all the precursors of a breakout in his third season at the highest level. There's optimism built into this projection.

Jeff Samardzija
DT: 37 (32 points)
NFBC: 53
Difference: +16

The Shark is a silent assassin, as the only statistical blip on his career radar came in a bandbox ballpark. Transported back to the National League and now pitching in one of the majors' best parks for preventing home runs, Samardzija is in prime position to exploit his friendly home environs once more. Fun fact: Samardzija gave up a higher batting average, OBP and slug on the road as compared to AT&T Park, but his ERA was a half-run higher away from home because he gave up 10 more home runs on the road than he did at home (17 HR on road, 7 HR at home). Maybe it's the delivery, maybe it's the split or maybe it's the hair, but I've often found myself in Samardzija's corner. I find myself there once again.

Gio Gonzalez
DT: 53 (30 points)
NFBC: 79
Difference: +26

The delivery is exceptionally well-balanced, allowing Gio's modest stuff to play up a notch and forming the baseline for command that is much better than his high walk rate would seem to imply. It's difficult to trust low hit rates, as Gio consistently posted a rate below 8.0 H/9 every season from 2010-14, but the southpaw has gone the other way and given up more than a hit per inning in each of the past two campaigns. What really set 2016 apart was a sudden spike of home runs, as Gonzalez had posted just 0.6 HR/9 — never cresting above 0.8 HR/9 — for six straight seasons prior to last year's 1.0 HR/9. I expect him to bring down the homer rate significantly and the hit rate slightly, with enough innings to help the counts but not enough to spoil the ratios (I gave him 6 points for innings, or 165-180 frames).

Luke Weaver
DT: 54 (30 points)
NFBC: 91
Difference: +37

The big risk here is the count of innings, and the Cardinals depth — even down one Alex Reyes — creates a conundrum for the back-end of the rotation, which includes the likes of Weaver, Lance Lynn and the next guy on this list. Keep in mind that Weaver's first six starts consisted of a 3.48 ERA with 12 runs allowed (all earned) across 31.0 innings, including an astounding 39:8 K:BB. He then got shelled in his final three turns, giving up 17 runs (11 earned) in just 5.1 innings, but it's worth noting that these were at the tail-end of the longest season that Weaver has ever endured (the minor league season ends around the start of September), and that one of the games (6 ER over 2.0 IP) was in the pitcher's hell of Colorado. His track record in the minors is impeccable, including a miniscule 1.79 ERA in 197.2 innings and a rate of 5.5 strikeouts for every walk.

Michael Wacha
DT: 63 (29 points)
NFBC: 101
Difference: +38

Wacha is in the opposite scenario as Darvish. When Wacha was first ranked, he fell within five spots of his NFBC ADP, but his ranking in that system has since cratered all the way down to no. 101 overall. Perhaps this has to do with the aforementioned depth of the Cardinals pitching staff, though I tried to account for this factor in the expected innings; I gave Wacha 5 points in the category, which translates to a projection of 150-165 innings. Combine that with the 4 points that I gave Lynn in the innings category (135-150 IP) and the 4 points for Luke Weaver, and we arrive at the 430 or so innings that will be doled out to the last two spots in the rotation, plus the chance that one (or more) of the top three in the rotation (Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake) misses some starts during the season. So far this spring, Wacha has a 1.38 ERA with an 11:3 K:BB in 13.0 innings of work, a performance that certainly shouldn't be hurting his fantasy draft stock. He's the third Cardinal on this list, so clearly I'm valuing something with this rotation above the consensus. Fun fact: St. Louis has won 86 or more games in each of the past nine seasons.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doug Thorburn
Doug started writing for RotoWire in April of 2015. His work can be found elsewhere at Baseball Prospectus and RotoGrinders, and as the co-host of the Baseballholics Anonymous podcast. Thorburn's expertise lies on the mound, where he tackles the world of pitching with an emphasis on mechanical evaluation. He spent five years at the National Pitching Association working under pitching coach Tom House, where Thorburn ran the hi-speed motion analysis program in addition to serving as an instructor. Thorburn and House wrote the 2009 book, “Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: Building a Million Dollar Arm,” using data from hi-speed motion analysis to tackle conventional wisdom in baseball. His DraftKings ID is “Raising Aces”.
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