by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
When we are talking about two or three starts, how easy is it to determine how “real” a hot start is? Obviously there are indicators, but we don’t want to get overly excited (or overly upset) about such a small sample size. That said, a few strong outings can create an ideal selling opportunity, especially if it appears there’s little chance of a pitcher maintaining his strong start. Let’s take a look at three pitchers off to hot starts and determine if we should be selling or if holding onto them would be the prudent decision:
Jake Junis – Kansas City Royals
14.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 5.79 K/9, 1.93 BB/9
Junis has looked incredibly strong over his first two starts, though a 100.0% strand rate and .111 BABIP obviously indicate that he’s going to regress before long (though that should go without saying). Control has always been an asset (2.1 BB/9 over his minor league career), though the real question is if he’ll bring enough other skills to the table.
He owned an 8.0 K/9 over his minor league career and you have to wonder if his pitch mix won’t yield many strikeouts as he’s predominantly a fastball/slider pitcher:
- Fastball – 66.7%
- Slider – 27.7%
- Curveball – 3.4%
- Changeup – 2.3%
His slider isn’t much of a swing and miss pitch (13.46% Whiff% this season), so the strikeout rate will likely be capped. He also has proven to be a fly ball pitcher (40.3% over 112.1 IP in the Majors), and that cost him last season (1.37 HR/9). He has not yet allowed a home run in 2018, but it’s obvious that it will haunt him soon.
A regression is coming, and it could conceivably be a big one.
Verdict – Clear Sell High Candidate
Mike Foltynewicz – Atlanta Braves
15.1 IP, 2.93 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 10.57 K/9, 2.93 BB/9
Foltynewicz continually has been hyped, but he has yet to yield the results. Why should we believe that he’s suddenly an ideal post-hype sleeper? It’s a small sample size, but he has shown a change in approach over his first three starts:
It makes sense that he’d be throwing more sliders, after opponents hit .197 on the pitch last season (and .320 against his sinker, which also didn’t generate an elite level of groundballs at 50.00% of balls put in play). Of course, regardless of the pitch usage an overall 7.9% SwStr% and 22.2% O-Swing% are not numbers that elicit much hope. They indicate that he’s not fooling opposing hitters, and makes you think both his strikeout rate and walk rate are going to regress (especially since his slider is generating just a 14.86% Whiff%).
We started to see this in his last start, with 3 K over 5.0 innings against the Nationals, and that’s a trend that could continue. If someone in your league believes this start is for real, sell him before it’s too late.
Verdict – Sell High Candidate
Nick Pivetta – Philadelphia Phillies
16.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 10.26 K/9, 1.08 BB/9
Obviously the first three starts have been highly impressive, though you have to wonder if the underlying skills would allow him to maintain both the strikeouts and control. Thus far he’s generated an 11.4% SwStr% and 27.4% O-Swing%, and his numbers coming up through the minors had never been anywhere near this (7.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9).
Has there been a change in approach to justify this metamorphosis? He’s throwing his curveball significantly more than he did in his time in the Majors in ’17 (15.44% to 24.71%), and that makes sense with a 19.05% Whiff% on it in ’18. That’s not enough, though, and considering his 12.05% mark in ’17 over a much bigger sample size (133.0 IP) it’s impossible to get excited.
A regression is likely in both the strikeouts and his control, plus he has not yet allowed a home run despite a 1.69 HR/9 in ’17 and lack of an elite groundball rate (43.9%). Now just consider who he has played, and it all makes sense:
- Atlanta Braves
- Miami Marlins
- Cincinnati Reds
Those are underwhelming teams, and eventually it’ll all catch up to him. It’s a nice start, but don’t get excited.
Verdict – Sell High Candidate
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