Do you draft the youngster with upside or the veteran with experience (though one who is full of questions)? It’s not always an easy answer, so who would you pick? Would you draft the Brewers’ Adrian Houser or the Pirates’ Chris Archer? Based on current NFBC ADP they have a virtually even ADP:
- Adrian Houser – 268.16
- Chris Archer – 268.45
Let’s take a look at each and try to make a decision:
In 111.1 innings in the Majors last season Houser showed all three skills that you look for from any pitcher:
- Strikeouts – 9.46 K/9
- Control – 2.99 BB/9
- Groundballs – 53.4%
He split his time between the rotation and the bullpen, though neither the strikeouts (9.37 K/9) nor the control (2.90 BB/9) were hindered by needing to pace himself and work deep into games (though he didn’t average 5.0 innings per start). Considering his 9.6% SwStr% he likely won’t be able to maintain the strikeout rate, especially considering his 7.6 K/9 at Double-A (167.1 IP) and 7.4 K/9 at Triple-A (73.1 IP) over the course of his career. While we wouldn’t expect that big of a drop-off, a K/9 in the 7.75-8.00 range is believable.
With his control and ability to generated groundballs, that would be enough (especially since he could improve upon a 1.13 HR/9). Houser may not be a fantasy ace, but there’s enough upside to put him on the SP5/SP6 range.
While injuries caused part of the problem, limiting Archer to 119.2 innings, his first year in Pittsburgh can’t be classified as anything but a disaster. Forget about the 5.19 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, virtually all of the numbers took a step backwards:
- Strikeouts – 10.75 K/9
- Control – 4.14 BB/9
- Groundballs – 36.3%
It’s all concerning, considering his 1.88 HR/9, but you have to wonder if he had started to solve the problem prior to being shut down. In 18.0 IP in August he owned a 3.00 ERA courtesy of 27 K vs. 4 BB, as he had completely stopped throwing his sinker and utilized three pitches. While that would likely continue to lead to home run issues, both his strikeouts and control should be there (for his career he owns a 9.83 K/9 and 3.06 BB/9).
The impulse is going to be to go with the perceived high upside youngster, but it’s not like Archer is ancient (he’ll enter the season at 31-years old). Assuming the HR/9 stays in the 1.20-1.35 range, with his strikeouts and expected return in his control he’s the higher upside option. Houser’s limited strikeout potential is going to put a cap on his value, and the two have similar control numbers. It all comes down to Archer and the home runs, and as long as he limits them even slightly better he will be the favored option.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference