Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Could These Late Season Strikeout Surges Lead To 2020 Value? (Deep League Sleeper Alert)

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As we always say, it’s tough to get a read on which September stats are real and which are only skewed due to some questionable competition. The roster rules will change come 2020 and that confusion will be limited, but when you look at strikeouts from September 2019 there were eight pitchers who qualified who carried K/9 of 11.0 or better:

  • Gerrit Cole – 15.86
  • Justin Verlander – 13.15
  • Max Scherzer – 13.04
  • Eduardo Rodriguez – 12.66
  • Lance Lynn – 12.51
  • Patrick Corbin – 12.15
  • Charlie Morton – 11.83
  • Spencer Turnbull – 11.06

While we’d expect to see most of the names on this list, there are a few that standout and deserve more attention:

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Spencer Turnbull

Probably the most surprising name on the list, Turnbull owned a 6.51 ERA over 6 starts so it’s likely that the strikeouts went overlooked. That said the underlying skills actually bring some promise:

  • Strikeouts – 11.06 K/9
  • Control – 3.25 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 47.5%

It was poor luck (.418 BABIP, 57.5% strand rate) more than anything, though a 46.3% Hard% didn’t help matters. Still he was missing bats at an impressive rate (12.8% SwStr%), a vast improvement over his season long mark (10.7%). You could see a change in his pitch usage as the season progressed, and in September it was throwing more fourseam fastballs (47.08%) and sliders (22.22%), while also incorporating his changeup at least a little bit (5.08%). The latter isn’t a swing and miss pitch, but you have to wonder if it helped to keep opposing hitters honest. as he had begun working it in during August (4.88%) and he also posted a 9.82 K/9 that month.

The question is going to be whether he can find a balance, limiting hard contact while continuing to pile up the strikeouts. It’s possible fatigue played a role, but as a strikeout pitcher in the minors it’s definitely an eye opening surge.

It wouldn’t be shocking if he could continue to evolve, carrying this success into 2020. We’ll really dive into him as draft time creeps closer, but he’s an early deep league sleeper to monitor.

Eduardo Rodriguez

We’ve already given our thoughts on Rodriguez, including our 2020 projection, so make sure to check that out by clicking here.

Lance Lynn

In September Lynn posted a 14.6% SwStr%, though he was missing bats all season long (12.5% SwStr%). He posted a career best 10.63 K/9, though he’s been showing improvement with each passing season since missing all of 2016 (K/9):

  • 2017 – 7.39
  • 2018 – 9.25
  • 2019 – 10.63

Maybe he’s not quite as good as he looked last season, especially in September, but he appears to have evolved into more than a strikeout per inning pitcher. Of course it came at the expense of his groundball rate (40.3%) and that could lead to home run issues. He’s going to have value and the strikeouts appear to be for real, but his upside remains more of a mid-rotation option.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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