by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
You can argue that 2018 was a breakout season for the Twins’ Kyle Gibson, a pitcher who has often been labeled as one with upside but has generally failed to live up to expectations. That changed last season, as the strikeouts rose, the ERA fell and he posted an overall strong season:
179 Strikeouts (8.19 K/9)
79 Walks (3.62 BB/9)
49.8% Groundball Rate
Of course the WHIP was hardly impressive and outside of the solid, though unspectacular, strikeout rate what other skill does he bring to the table? That makes you wonder if the “breakout” is truly sustainable, or if he’s due to take a significant step backwards in 2019.
His SwStr% has now risen for three straight seasons, going from 9.8% to 10.0% to 11.5%. The improvement came as he increased the usage of his slider, though marginally, going from 17.67% to 21.01%. The pitch was more effective then ever, with a 27.17% Whiff% and opponents hitting .171 against it.
Of course even with that the strikeout rate isn’t going to make him a standout performer and it’s not like he throws it enough to offset the damage done against his fourseam fastball, a pitch that he’s always struggled to have production with (AVG // SLG):
- 2015 – .388 // .613
- 2016 – .500 // .893
- 2017 – .318 // .579
- 2018 – .335 // .494
At least the SLG has declined, though he allowed 8 HR on his sinker and doesn’t own a tremendous groundball rate. That makes you wonder just how efficient the pitch is, and overall opponents hit him extremely hard (39.0% Hard%). The latter makes you question his ability to maintain the BABIP, and that and his 3.89 second half ERA makes you wonder exactly how high his upside is.
Throw in the potential for his strikeout rate to fall once again (7.22 K/9 in the second half) and what exactly are we hanging our hats on?
Do we want to buy mediocre control? How about a groundball rate that doesn’t stand out? A pitcher who is hit hard and doesn’t have significant strikeout upside?
It all comes together for this uninspiring projection for 2019:
200.0 IP, 12 W, 4.14 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 175 K (7.88 K/9), 78 BB (3.51 BB/9)
In other words let someone else pay for the perceived upside, because the fact is that it may simply not be there. Someone is going to overreach for him, and that’s not a mistake you want to make.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
Make sure to check out all of our 2019 projections: