It’s easy to forget that Matt Shoemaker was a highly productive pitcher from 2014-2016, showing a solid strikeout rate with elite control (BB/9 of 1.59, 2.33 and 1.69). However injuries over the past two years have completely derailed his success, throwing a total of 108.2 innings.
While there is a bit of a small sample size at play, over the past three seasons he’s actually shown improved swing and miss stuff:
- 2016 – 13.1%
- 2017 – 11.6%
- 2018 – 13.0%
It’s interesting that he incorporated a changeup into his arsenal in ’18, and while it was just 31.0 innings it clearly gave a new wrinkle as he threw it 14.63%. That pitch yielded a 32.88% Whiff%, and when coupled with his slider (18.58% Whiff%) and split-finger fastball (22.06% Whiff%) it gives him an intriguing look as far as an upside strikeout pitcher.
Obviously we can’t currently say that he can maintain the 9.58 K/9, which came in too small of a sample size, but it’s not impossible.
That leads to the bigger questions:
1. Can Shoemaker rediscover his control? This isn’t the biggest question, because even during his “struggles” he’s been at 3.24 and 2.90 the past two seasons. Still, if he can get back to being a sub-2.00 BB/9 pitcher the upside would be that much higher.
2. Can Shoemaker keep the ball in the ballpark? He owns a career 40.0% groundball rate, and moving to Toronto and the AL East adds even more question into his ability to avoid home runs. However he did see his sinker usage rise to 34.07% and his changeup also appeared to be a good groundball inducer (90.00% groundballs per balls in play). That led to a 43.5% groundball rate, and while that’s hardly an elite mark it at least is a step in the right direction.
3. Can Shoemaker stay healthy. This is really the biggest issue, given what’s transpired over the past two years. If he can make 30 starts, even in the AL East, he has the potential to be a Top 30-35 starting pitcher.
Obviously there is a lot of risk, whether it’s the health, the new locale or being able to maintain the improved strikeout rate. That said there’s enough signs that point towards him being able to put things together and rediscover his spot as a solid fantasy play in all formats. While you won’t have to pay the price of a Top 30 starter, that’s the upside he possesses. In other words have him on your draft list in all formats, as the potential reward far outweighs the risk/draft day cost.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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