Breakout or Bust: Will Brandon Woodruff’s Wild Card Performance Thrust Him Onto 2020 Breakout Lists?

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The Milwaukee Brewers are always seemingly on the hunt for starting pitching, but did the performance by Brandon Woodruff in last night’s Wild Card game provide answers to one rotation spot? It was only 4.0 innings and 52 pitches, but with the spotlight shining bright he stepped up and delivered:

4.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K

His lone mistake was a home run to Trea Turner (1-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R). Is this enough to convince us that he could breakout in 2020? The underlying numbers weren’t as impressive, with 3 swinging strikes and 3 groundballs vs. 6 fly balls. Then you have his regular season stats, over 22 starts, which should help get you excited:

121.2 IP
11 Wins
3.62 ERA
1.14 WHIP
143 Strikeouts (10.58 K/9)
30 Walks (2.22 BB/9)
44.6% Groundball Rate
.320 BABIP

He averaged 96.3 mph on his fastball, helping him to an 11.6% SwStr% and 33.9% O-Swing. Couple that with the control and there’s value, though we’d like to see a few more groundballs as it’s hard to envision him replicating the 0.89 HR/9 from ’19 with this type of rate. Considering a 48.8% groundball rate from 2016-2018 in the minors a significant improvement isn’t a given, meaning a HR/9 in the 1.10-type range is possible (and it could be even worse).

We also need to see him maintain this type of control, after struggling at Triple-A in ’18 despite a track record of success in the minor leagues:

  • 2016 – 2.58 BB/9 (158.0 IP)
  • 2017 – 3.03 BB/9 (77.1 IP)
  • 2018 – 4.04 BB/9 (71.1 IP)

A regression in his control and home run rate would help to offset the potential improvement in his luck, as a 36.2% Hard% would justify better marks in both his BABIP and strand rate (74.7%). In other words he seems to be this type of pitcher, with a solid WHIP and ERA, and he should be able to pile up the W with a strong roster behind him.

Is Woodruff going to be a fantasy ace? Not quite, but as a mid-rotation option there’s more than enough potential (he needs to improve his performance on his changeup, which opponents had a .562 SLG against) and at 27-years old would it be surprising to see him take another step forward? Assuming the cost isn’t too high, and it shouldn’t be, he’s shaping up to be an ideal draft day target. Hopefully yesterday’s performance doesn’t inflate the cost.

Source – Fangraphs

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