Breakout or Bust: Will The Royals’ Jake Junis Finally Emerge Or Does Disappoint Await…

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At times there has been some hype surrounding the Royals’ Jake Junis, though with 450.2 IP in the Majors over the past three seasons it’s getting harder and harder to believe. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t value, and coming off a year with these numbers suggesting buying is much more difficult:

175.1 IP
9 Wins
5.24 ERA
1.43 WHIP
164 Strikeouts (8.42 K/9)
58 Walks (2.98 BB/9)
42.4% Groundball Rate
.318 BABIP

Even last year’s overall control was solid, though he had been better than that in previous years (BB/9 of 2.29 and 2.19), and he improved as the season dragged on:

  • First Half – 3.22
  • Second Half – 2.61

That’s solid control, and something we can expect moving forward. It’s his ability to generate strikeouts and avoid home runs that’s the problem. The strikeout rate may be surprising to be in question, considering his career 8.15 K/9 (a solid, though unspectacular, mark). However the underlying metrics don’t support that type of number. Does a 9.8% SwStr% and 30.4% O-Swing% indicate high upside strikeout ability? How about the lack of swinging strikeout ability on any of his pitches:

  • Slider – 14.74%
  • Changeup – 9.03%
  • Fourseam Fastball – 7.43%
  • Sinker – 4.70%

As it is his changeup is a hardly used pitch (5.30%), and while he uses his slider 43.07% of the time it is not a put away pitch. It doesn’t matter how many times you throw a pitch, if it’s not effective enough.

In terms of groundballs, it’s never been an asset for him and has always led to home run issues (groundball rate // home run rate):

  • 2017 – 40.1% // 1.37
  • 2018 – 42.0% // 1.63
  • 2019 – 42.4% // 1.59

While most people struggled with home runs last season, his track record makes it harder to say that was the case here. So we have a pitcher whose strikeout rate could fall, is likely going to continue yielding home runs and has solid, yet unspectacular, control. That sounds like a streaming pitcher and nothing more so make sure to value him as such.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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