2019 Projection: Can Mike Foltynewicz Followup On His 2018 Breakout Or Does Disappointment Loom?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

After a strong 2018 campaign there were high hopes as Mike Foltynewicz was seemingly set to anchor the Braves’ postseason rotation.  In two appearances, though, the results were disappointing as he allowed 5 ER on 5 H and 7 BB over 6.0 IP, watching the Braves get knocked out by Los Angeles in four games.  Those struggles will add to the potential doubts facing him, something fantasy owners already should have had despite these strong numbers in the regular season:

183.0 IP
13 Wins
2.85 ERA
1.08 WHIP
202 Strikeouts (9.93 K/9)
68 Walks (3.34 BB/9)
43.1% Groundball Rate
.251 BABIP

Obviously if you simply look at the surface numbers you are going to be all in on his “breakout”.  However there are a slew of numbers that would lead us to conclude that a significant regression could be on the horizon, starting with the strikeouts and moving from there.

While it was an impressive strikeout rate last season, do these types of numbers help to support a near double-digit strikeout rate:

  • SwStr% – 10.3%
  • O-Swing% – 26.8%

Those marks aren’t far off from his career 9.7% SwStr% and 29.2% O-Swing%, yet he was striking opponents out at better than a batter per inning than for his career (8.70 K/9).  Right away that seems unrepeatable, and a 7.88 K/9 in September could be a sign of things to come.

He’s never shown elite control (3.15 career BB/9) or groundballs (39.4% career rate), and that helps to lead to the questions.  The latter is the more concerning mark, especially after setting a career best HR/9 of 0.84.  If that rises, when coupled with the potential strikeout regression, and the risks are getting greater and greater.

Now we factor in the “luck”, as his BABIP seems guaranteed to regress considering a career worst 35.1% Hard%.  That number was consistent all year long (34.5% in the first half, 35.8% in the second), and while maybe he can bring it down slightly is that enough to offset the other risks that are looming?  You put it all together and you have the following makeup:

  • A strikeout regression is coming…
  • Pedestrian control…
  • Home run issues loom…
  • His luck could fall off a cliff…

Is that the type of pitcher that you’d want to invest in, especially considering a cost that will likely far exceed it given the surface numbers?  It’s not going to be recommended, especially with this type of 2019 projection:

190.0 IP, 13 W, 4.17 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 182 K (8.62 K/9), 70 BB (3.32 BB/9)

Those numbers would come courtesy of a .299 BABIP, 76.4% strand rate and 1.23 HR/9.  Are any of them really unrealistic?  Let other go “all in” on a breakout, but instead move on and look towards the next up option.

Sources – Fangraphs, ESPN

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