Sleeper Spotlight: Will 2017 Be The Year Of Mike Foltynewicz’ Breakout?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Braves added a trio of veteran starting pitchers over the course of the offseason, to help tutor their young arms and also give them time to develop at Triple-A.  One pitcher whose time is running out is Mike Folytnewicz, who should get the first opportunity to fill out the rotation.  The question now is if he has the ability to flourish, or if he is destined to transition to the bullpen.

Last season’s numbers definitely left a lot to be desired:

123.1 IP
9 Wins
4.31 ERA
1.30 WHIP
111 Strikeouts (8.10 K/9)
35 Walks (2.55 BB/9)
41.2% Groundball Rate
.301 BABIP

Actually, maybe they weren’t all that bad…  He showed strikeouts and control, and a lot of the poor numbers can be attributed to a bit of bad luck (21.4% line drive rate).  Can he maintain these peripherals and produce a solid fantasy campaign?  Let’s take a look:

His SwStr% rose to 10.0% last season, and the real key to the improvement is likely the usage of his changeup.  That pitch generated a 22.22% Whiff%, though he only used it 7.9% of the time (up from 3.6% in ’15).  Maybe the veteran additions help him develop and utilize the pitch even more, which could only help to increase his strikeout mark.

As it is he owns a 9.2 K/9 over 186.1 IP at Triple-A and has a fastball that averaged 95.2 mph last season.  Is seeing him push towards a K per inning really unfathomable?

You could argue that his control isn’t as good as he showed last season, and the number did regress as the season progressed (2.91 BB/9 in the second half).  With a 4.0 BB/9 in the minors it’s easy to buy into a regression, though the usage of his changeup and his 32.6% O-Swing% helps to support an improvement.  It’s likely that he’s closer to the 3.0 BB/9 range, but that’s still more than enough.

The biggest question is his home run rate, as that has been his biggest issue in the Majors (1.31 HR/9 in ’16).  Of course he did see his groundball rate take a significant leap forward last season (33.3% to 41.2%), and that would’ve been even better had he not stumbled in September (29.2%).  That alone would indicate a likely improvement, and with most of his problems coming on the road (1.68 HR/9) the upside is there.

So we have strikeouts, solid control and the potential to improve on his home run rate.  That’s a lot of things working in his favor, despite the fact that wins could be a bit more difficult to come by for the rebuilding Braves.  As we know we don’t chase W, and Foltynewicz is going to be no different.

He may never be a must start option, though he has the potential to develop into one.  That makes him well worth drafting in the late stages of your draft and seeing what happens.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
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Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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