by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Entering the season we obviously had expectations about every player, but when it comes to Blake Snell and Robbie Ray things seemed fairly clear. Nearly a month into the season those thoughts have been shattered, with each pitcher heading in different directions. Will Snell continue to emerge? Will Ray continue to disappoint? Let’s take a look and reevaluate or 2018 expectations:
Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays
2018 Statistics – 28.1 IP, 2.54 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 10.16 K/9, 3.18 BB/9
We were high on Snell entering the season, but I don’t think anyone expected him to pitch to these types of numbers. The key has been his control, which he showed signs of finding late in 2017 (BB/9 of 2.67 and 2.93 over the final two months). Even if we believe in that development (and keep in mind he had 10 BB over 15.0 IP in his first three starts), is there any reason to believe that he can maintain this type of strong start?
First is the luck metrics, which obviously could come spiraling back down to earth:
- Strand Rate – 84.0%
- BABIP – .231
Then we have the lack of groundballs, with a 34.3% rate. Sure he showed an improved mark last season (43.9%), but even at that level there would be risk of home run issues pitching in the AL East. Thus far he’s avoided the problem (0.95 HR/9 in ’18), though keep in mind the Yankees got him for 2 HR in his second start of the season. We can’t overlook the matchups over his past three starts, taking on the White Sox, Rangers and Twins, which has allowed him to really find his footing (3 ER over 19.1 IP).
More HR + Luck Regression + Risk of Control?
That sounds like the formula for an ideal sell high candidate, doesn’t it? That’s not to say we don’t like Snell long-term, because we do, but a regression is coming and if you are simply looking at 2018 now may be the ideal time to cash out and make top dollar.
Robbie Ray – Arizona Diamondbacks
2018 Statistics – 5.13 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 14.70 K/9, 5.81 BB/9
Ray was a highly hyped starter heading into 2018, but he’s been plagued by abysmal control as well as home run issues. Strikeouts are nice, but if he can’t pair it with any other skill what exactly are we buying?
Even last season, when he was breaking out, he was getting hit hard and that trend has further regressed over his first five starts (Hard%):
- 2016 – 36.6%
- 2017 – 40.4%
- 2018 – 46.6%
His velocity is down (93.0 mph, down from 94.3 in ’17), and he’s further reduced the usage of his fastball (59.3% to 52.6%). You also have to wonder if the constant hard contact is getting him to dance around the strike zone, as he’s thrown just 40.7% of his pitches in the strike zone thus far. With at least 3 BB in each of his five starts, it’s impossible to think that things will suddenly change.
Since his first start he’s allowed just 2 HR over 21.1 IP, but he continues to fail to generate groundballs so that risk looms large.
The strikeouts are going to keep him appealing, and those aren’t going anywhere, but unless he can find his control or the ability to generate groundballs he will ultimately be a bitter disappointment. If there’s someone in your league willing to still pay for him like an ace, it’s worth kicking the tires and seeing what you can get. If you are the one doing the buying, be skeptical.
Source – Fangraphs
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.