Believer or Deceiver: Are We Buying Into These Three Surging Starting Pitchers (Seth Lugo & More)?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

There were some intriguing names among the Top 50 players over the previous two weeks (through Sunday), especially in terms of starting pitching.  It feels like everyone is out there trying to strengthen their fantasy rotations, so are these “hot” starters the real deal or are they a mirage not to be distracted by?  Let’s take a look:


Seth Lugo – New York Mets
Lugo’s performance on Sunday night against the Yankees is going to garner a ton of attention, as he tossed 6.0 shutout innings against one of the elite offenses in the game.  While he’s seemingly found a home in the bullpen this season, it’s hard to argue against the numbers he’s posted in his two starts:

10.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP, 11 K, 0 BB

Obviously he’s not this good, especially in the strikeout department…  Or is he?  Could his time in the bullpen have helped him adjust his approach?  Overall he’s throwing his curveball 31.2% of the time, up from 17.4% last season (and he maintained that on Sunday, throwing his curveball 32.1% of the time in his start).  While it isn’t necessarily a swing and miss pitch, it’s allowed his other stuff to play up.

The owner of a 2.35 BB/9 over 211.0 innings in the Majors, even if he can maintain a strikeout rate in the 8.00-8.50 range it would be enough when coupled with a solid 46.9% groundball rate.  The Mets are making changes and Lugo deserves a look in the rotation once again.  Maybe he’s not THIS real, there’s enough upside that he’s worth the flier.

Verdict – Mostly Believer


Clayton Richard – San Diego Padres
He’s always been a strong groundball pitcher, and that’s no different this season (58.6%).  Put that in San Diego and there’s a lot to like, especially as he’s shown an improved strikeout rate (7.26 K/9, compared to a career mark of 5.89).  Does anyone truly believe in the latter, though?  Sure he’s posted a 10.1% SwStr%, which would mark a career best, and he’s also simplified his approach.  Suddenly he’s primarily throwing just two pitches:

  • Sinker – 55.15%
  • Slider – 27.45%

He mixes in a fourseam fastball (12.50%) and changeup (4.90%), but it’s the bigger reliance on his slider that’s important.  That’s his swing and miss pitch (19.05% Whiff%), and over the course of his career opponents have hit just .221 with a .351 SLG against it.  Throwing it more and more only makes sense, and continuing on this path should continue to yield strong results.

He’s a veteran and no one is going to want to believe, but there’s reason to buy in.

Verdict – Believe (at least as a streamer)


Mike Montgomery – Chicago Cubs
Filling in for Yu Darvish, Montgomery has made the most of his opportunity with a 1.02 ERA over 17.2 IP as a starter.  The problem is that he hasn’t shown strikeouts, regardless of his role, with a 5.23 K/9 overall.  Control is nice (2.51 BB/9) and he’s getting groundballs (62.7%) so he’s going to have value, but if he’s not striking people out his value is going to be minimal.

You can argue that he’s similar to Richard, but he’s shown less potential and isn’t guaranteed a spot in the rotation long-term.  That’s going to make him a bit of a tougher sell.

Verdict – Deceiver

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, CBS Sports

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  


  1. Marcus Storm says:

    In H2H points, please help rank these SPs for ROS:
    Barria, Boyd, Odorizzi, Weaver.

Leave a Reply to Marcus Storm Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *