by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s not always easy to decide if the hot hand starting pitcher is worth trying to sell high on or if the breakout is for real. Let’s take a look at two of the interesting decisions and decide if they “Real” or if you should “Deal” as soon as possible:
Matthew Boyd – Detroit Tigers – Left-Handed Pitcher
CBS Sports – 33%, ESPN – 17.2%
It’s been a strong start to the season for Boyd, who now owns a 3.19 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 48.0 IP (8 starts). That’s a far cry from last year’s 5.27 ERA, so you have to wonder if he’ll be able to maintain the numbers (or come even reasonably close). As far as the skills go, there are questions:
- Strikeouts – 7.69 K/9
- Control – 2.44 BB/9
- Groundballs – 32.4%
The owner of a 2.2 BB/9 in the minors, that appears to be the one skill we can count on at this point. The strikeouts look fairly pedestrian, though an 11.0% SwStr% tells a different story. He’s started throwing his slider more, going from 10.32% in ’17 to 34.73% thus far in ’18. As his best swing and miss pitch (18.11% Whiff%) and with opponents hitting just .173 off it, it makes sense. With a 9.0 K/9 in the minors (including an 8.5 K/9 at Triple-A), it’s easy to envision the upside.
The real question is in his groundball rate. Thus far he’s kept the ball in the ballpark (0.56 HR/9), but it’s far from a given as the weather warms (and given his career 1.47 HR/9 over 337.2 IP). The thing is, he’s been generating a significant number of popups in May (19.2%), and that correlates with an even greater emphasis on his slider (38.66%) and a few more sinkers (9.02%). Even at his current rate could he continue to avoid home runs?
Even if he “regresses” to a 1.00 HR/9 type range the value will be there. While he’s not a given, in deeper formats he’s becoming a pitcher worth taking a flier on to see how he develops.
Verdict – Potentially Real
Jeremy Hellickson – Washington Nationals – Right-Handed Pitcher
CBS Sports – 54%, ESPN – 35.6%
Hellickson isn’t a new name to fantasy owners, having been in the Majors since 2010. He’s shown us some good and some bad along the way, and at 31-years old with a career 4.06 ERA why would we be willing to jump on the bandwagon now?
With a strong team behind him and a 2.20 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over his first six starts it obviously is easy, though when you start to peel back the layers the risk becomes obvious:
- Luck Metrics – .239 BABIP, 79.4% Strand Rate
- Control – 1.38 BB/9
- Home Runs – 0.55 HR/9
No one is going to say that he doesn’t have good control (2.69 BB/9 for his career), but does anyone believe he can come reasonably close to maintaining this number? That, when coupled with the BABIP, is going to lead to a ballooning WHIP.
He’s also never been an exceptionally big strikeout pitcher, and his 10.0% SwStr% is on par with his career 9.8% mark. His current 7.16 K/9 is likely the top of his ceiling, and expecting any growth would be misguided.
Hellickson has changed his approach, throwing his curveball 24.39% of the time, but the bigger explanation is likely the matchups he’s had:
- New York Mets
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Arizona Diamondbacks (x2)
Those have not been the strongest offenses, especially lately, and all signs point towards things going south. Maybe not in the short-term (his next start comes against the Padres), but it’s coming so be prepared.
Verdict – Deal
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference, ESPN, CBS Sports
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.