Chris Tillman
Chris Tillman
30-Year-Old PitcherSP
Texas Rangers
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Tillman hit free agency at age 29 after a nine-year run with the Orioles. His final season as an Oriole was a total dud, and his downturn can be traced to the second half of his 2016 season when a shoulder issue flared up and later required an offseason PRP injection. Tillman never really got on track and ultimately posted the worst numbers of his career: a 7.84 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 2.32 HR/9 rate along with a 6.1 K/9 over 93 innings. Those numbers are so far below the norms Tillman had established to that point in his career that it's fair to wonder whether he was ever fully healthy. With a full offseason to rehab his shoulder, it's possible Tillman bounces back and settles back in as a back-of-the-rotation option for a new club. From a fantasy perspective, it'd be best to take a wait-and-see approach with Tillman to determine whether those 2017 struggles were an aberration, or if they were the start of a trend that's here to stay. Read Past Outlooks
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$Signed a minor-league contract with the Rangers in August of 2018.
Placed on DL
PTexas Rangers  AAA
August 21, 2018
Tillman (groin) has been placed on the disabled list, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Tillman is another reclamation project the Rangers are attempting, but it has not gone well. He allowed four runs in 2.2 innings before injuring his groin in his second start.
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Pitching Stats
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Minor League Game Log
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2016
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2016vs Left .286 594 102 82 145 38 3 18
Since 2016vs Right .281 702 114 52 177 42 2 31
2018vs Left .412 63 6 9 21 3 1 3
2018vs Right .328 74 7 8 21 8 1 3
2017vs Left .329 203 22 39 54 14 0 7
2017vs Right .320 241 41 12 71 11 0 17
2016vs Left .240 328 74 34 70 21 2 8
2016vs Right .247 387 66 32 85 23 1 11
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2016
ERA at Home
ERA at Home
ERA at Home
ERA on Road
Since 2016Home 5.49 1.55 163.0 10 8 0 6.9 4.4 1.7
Since 2016Away 5.92 1.58 127.2 8 10 0 6.3 3.8 1.3
2018Home 5.65 1.33 14.1 1 1 0 6.3 3.8 2.5
2018Away 16.05 3.24 12.1 0 4 0 2.2 8.0 1.5
2017Home 6.58 1.72 65.2 1 4 0 4.9 5.2 2.3
2017Away 10.87 2.30 27.1 0 3 0 8.9 4.3 2.3
2016Home 4.61 1.45 84.0 8 3 0 8.6 3.9 1.1
2016Away 2.97 1.13 88.0 8 3 0 6.1 3.1 0.9
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Stat Review
How does Chris Tillman compare to other starting pitchers?
This section compares his stats with all starting pitcher seasons from the previous three seasons (minimum 120 innings). The bar represents the player's percentile rank. For example, if the bar is halfway across, then the player falls into the 50th percentile for that stat and it would be considered average.
88.8 mph
Strand %
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Tillman is a great example of "better real life than fantasy pitcher." Three of his last four seasons have been solid ERA-wise despite a steady low-to-mid 4.00s FIP. The bottom line has been an average of 3.90 ERA in 190 innings with a modest 2.2 K/BB ratio supporting it. He's never posted a strikeout rate of 8.0 K/9 or better, nor has his walk rate ever been better than average. He is at the mercy of his BABIP and LOB rates, which landed at .293 and 68 percent, respectively, in 2015 when his ERA soared to 4.99. Perhaps most interesting is that he has deep, useful secondary arsenal. His three reliable secondaries have ranged from average to great, but they're usually supported by a mediocre-at-best fastball (except in 2014, which ended up being his best season). At 28, Tillman is unlikely to jump another level. He's the mid-rotation arm we've seen the last four years, best deployed in AL-only leagues, or better left for someone else's team.
Tillman entered the 2015 season trying to build on two-and-a-half seasons of success atop Baltimore's rotation, but things spiraled downward instead. It should come as no surprise that Tillman increased his BB/9 (2.86 in 2013 to 3.33 in 2015) and decreased his K/9 over the last two years (7.81 in 2013 to 6.24 in 2015). His BABIP bounced from the .260s in 2013 and 2014 to .293 in 2015, which would actually fall more in line with the league average. Surprisingly, Tillman has increased his groundball rate each of the last three years to 43.5% of batted balls last season. Despite the successes in each of the prior three seasons, all three of those seasons came with a FIP higher than 4.00, so it appears his actual ERA finally caught up in 2015. Tillman is a rebound candidate, but his historical FIP indicates he was a bit lucky in his prior success.
There was a lot to like from Tillman’s 2013 season. A gaudy win-loss record earned him an All-Star bid, but he retroactively earned it with a strong finish to the season. Hoping to build on that, he opened 2014 with a 1.71 ERA in his first four starts before a seven-run shellacking in Toronto sent him on a nine-start skid that resulted in a 7.25 ERA. The big issue during that skid is the same issue that has plagued Tillman throughout his career: home runs. His 1.3 HR/9 made it tough to buy into his 2.93 ERA from 2012, and he followed it up with a 1.4 HR/9 in 2013, which put his 3.71 ERA in doubt. With that in consideration, his 5.20 ERA through his first 13 starts last year wasn’t too surprising when paired with his 1.3 HR/9. However, he substantially improved his fastball command from mid-June on, spurring a 0.7 HR/9 and 2.38 ERA in his final 21 starts. Though he’s seemingly been around forever, 2014 was just his second full season as a major leaguer, and this is still a growth profile. If he could pump the strikeouts up some, Tillman could become a force in all formats.
Tillman capitalized on a strong finish to his 2012 season by finally putting things together and earning an All-Star selection in 2013. However, a 4.42 FIP for 2013 shows that caution should be exercised. Tillman allowed 33 home runs and had an 80.5% strand rate, which was sixth highest in the league. Tillman and A.J. Griffin were the only qualified pitchers in MLB who had an ERA under 4.00 and allowed more than 26 home runs. Nonetheless, on the heels of his quality 2013 campaign, Tillman is likely to be named the Orioles' Opening Day starter.
Tillman had consistently disappointed at the MLB level since his 2009 debut, but he finally put some success together after receiving a July promotion. The problem is that Tillman's success appeared to ride on an insane .221 BABIP in 2012. Tillman has historically struck out a batter per inning in the minors. His 6.9 K/9 in 2012 was a career best, but his average in MLB over the last four years is closer to 6.0. Tillman is out of options, which means the Orioles would have to dangle him on waivers if he does not make the team. That could help him play his way into a rotation spot out of spring training, but his 2012 pace seems unsustainable given the aforementioned good fortune on balls in play.
Tillman, one of the key pieces of the trade which sent Erik Bedard to Seattle, has yet to launch as an Oriole. He struggled again in 2011, limping to a 5.52 ERA in 13 starts. For another season, Tillman still couldn't strike out twice as many as he walked, and a .348 BABIP doomed him. At 23, there is still plenty of time for Tillman to find it, and the Orioles won't be in any rush to jettison him either. Give it another year as beneath the young pitcher struggling with his control is a talented arm that dominated throughout his time in the minors against much older competition.
While Tillman's overall numbers were disappointing last season, he occasionally flashed the form that had scouts excited about him, including a start at Texas in which he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Besides Tillman's control problems, which have been a feature at each minor league step, Tillman's velocity dropped by nearly two mph on all three of his primary pitches. It probably would help matters if the O's didn't continually yank him up-and-down from Triple-A Norfolk like they did last season. We're not ready to cut bait on Tillman's potential, but we're also not willing to advise using anything more than a reserve pick on him.
Tillman's highly anticipated debut came with some growing pains. Unlike his counterpart Brian Matusz, Tillman did not close the season well. However, Tillman threw a career-high in innings between Triple-A and Baltimore and any rookie pitcher is expected to struggle at times. The future looks bright as Tillman has the stuff of a front of the rotation starter, but the question is when the light will come on. He has proven himself in the minors and will be in the rotation out of spring training this season.
While Adam Jones was the trendy name in the Erik Bedard deal, Tillman was the biggest prize. After an 11-4 season at Double-A, with a 3.18 ERA Tillman is the farthest along of the Orioles' top pitching prospects and is one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. Tillman turns 21 in April and will not be rushed to the big leagues. Expect him to get a full season in Triple-A, with a chance for a September call-up.
Tillman was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season as he led all Mariners minor leaguers with 139 strikeouts in 135.2 innings between Low-A and High-A. Tillman earned a quick promotion after posting a 3.55 ERA and a 2.6:1 K:BB ratio at Low-A Wisconsin but initially had trouble acclimating to the hitter-friendly California League. He had a 9.29 ERA in his first seven starts through June, but slowly improved to the point that he posted a 1.82 ERA in six August starts. Tillman pitches in the mid-90s and has a plus curve but needs to improve his control (4.04 BB/9 last year). A second-round pick in 2006, Tillman is just 19 and needs more time to refine his mechanics and command.
More Fantasy News
Suffers groin strain in Triple-A start
PTexas Rangers  AAA
August 15, 2018
Tillman threw only 11 pitches in his start Tuesday at Triple-A Round Rock before exiting with a groin strain, the Associated Press reports.
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Starting Thursday
PTexas Rangers  AAA
August 9, 2018
Tillman will make his debut for Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday, Wesley Dotson of reports.
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Joining Round Rock
PTexas Rangers  AAA
August 7, 2018
TIllman will report to Triple-A Round Rock on Thursday, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports.
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Bullpen scheduled Saturday
PTexas Rangers  AAA
August 4, 2018
Tillman is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday, TR Sullivan of reports.
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Latches on with Rangers
PTexas Rangers  AAA
August 2, 2018
Tillman inked a minor-league deal with Texas on Thursday.
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