by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
When we are talking about a few weeks, 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 weeks can create an ideal selling opportunity. Let’s take a look at two young Atlanta Braves starting pitchers and determine if we should be selling or if holding onto them would be the prudent decision:
Mike Foltynewicz – Right-Handed Pitcher
A long hyped starter, Foltynewicz has seemingly figured it out with a 2.55 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over his first 11 starts of ’18. He’s done it with a strong strikeout rate, but is that enough? Just look at the skills:
- Strikeouts – 10.35 K/9
- Control – 4.35 BB/9
- Groundballs – 39.6%
He hasn’t been hurt by home runs yet (0.75 HR/9), but considering the groundball rate and a career 1.28 HR/9 it’s easy to imagine that having a negative impact before long. You also have to wonder if he can maintain his current strikeout rate, considering his 8.8% SwStr% and 23.7% O-Swing%. While he’s throwing his fourseam fastball harder (97.09 mph), he seems to lack a true put away pitch (his slider has offered the best Whiff%, at 15.36%). He’s also already seen the strikeout rate start to decline (10.97 K/9 in April, 9.64 in May) and it should continue to regress.
You could make the argument that the control is better than he’s shown thus far, but considering he’s been unable to fool people very often and get them to chase outside the strike zone it’s no guarantee. Throw in an 80.3% strand rate and what exactly is there to hang our hats on?
Verdict – Immediate Sell High
Sean Newcomb – Left-Handed Pitcher
Every time we want to believe Newcomb has figured out his control questions, we look at the numbers and they remain fairly ugly:
- 2017 – 5.13 BB/9
- 2018 – 4.53 BB/9
He needs to improve that number further, into the 3.75 range, if he wants to truly make an impact. That’s because he’s showing strikeouts (10.02 K/9) and groundballs (50.0%), and he certainly hasn’t benefited from significant luck (.279 BABIP, 76.0% strand rate) en route to a 2.75 ERA.
Newcomb has changed his approach, throwing fewer curveballs (21.99% to 13.98%) in favor of his change up (10.31% to 22.39%). It’s a change that clearly has worked, now the question is if he can refine his approach one more step forward. It’s possible, and it’s extremely interesting that the majority of his walks have come off his fourseam fastball (60 over the past two years). That would make it seem likely that an improvement comes, hopefully with just a little bit more experience.
While it’s not a given, the potential for that makes it nearly impossible to sell high on him. If we are overwhelmed we’d still consider it, but it’s not a given.
Verdict – Don’t Sell High (unless overwhelmed with a big offer)
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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