by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Last season we saw Michael Fulmer take the American League by storm, ultimately winning the Rookie of the Year Award and putting up an impressive line across the board (159.0 IP, 3.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 132 K, 42 BB). You can argue that no one saw those types of numbers coming (though he was on our radar), and now we have to wonder if there is a pitcher who could follow in his footsteps and make a similar splash in 2017.
The Washington Nationals tried to acquire Chris Sale in the offseason, but ultimately fell short (and didn’t add another starter). Instead they shipped off two of their top pitching prospects, who also were MLB ready, to acquire Adam Eaton. Those decisions cleared a path for Austin Voth as next man up. Sometimes they say that the best trades are the ones you don’t make, and could failing to get Sale and ultimately turning to Voth work out?
Voth isn’t going to be Sale, but could he emerge as this year’s Fulmer? First let’s take a look at what we said about Voth in the Rotoprofessor Draft Guide:
“With the trade of Lucas Giolito & Reynaldo Lopez, along with the uncertainty hanging over Gio Gonzalez & Joe Ross (as well as health concerns for Stephen Strasburg), Voth will get an opportunity. He showed off a solid skillset at Triple-A in ’16, en route to a 3.15 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, as he posted a 7.62 K/9, 3.27 BB/9 and 1.46 GO/AO. He’s also showed more in strikeouts (8.5 K/9) and control (2.5 BB/9) over 176.2 IP at Double-A, so don’t look at the rather pedestrian numbers and expect them to continue (he had 50 K over 59.2 IP in the second half of ’16). There may be some growing pains, but he should be a solid option for those in the deepest of formats and has the upside to be 2017’s version of Michael Fulmer (8.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 at Double-A).”
We made mention to Fulmer and Voth holding similar numbers at Double-A, so let’s take a look:
The strikeouts and control were almost identical, while Voth has shown more groundball stuff coming up through the minors (1.18 for his career). You could argue that the regression at Double-A is a red flag, but the rebound he showed at Triple-A overrides that concern.
In totality they showed a similar skill set, and playing in the NL should help Voth maintain his overall strikeout stuff (8.7 K/9 in the minors). Maybe he’s not a strikeout per inning pitcher, but he could post a mark in the 7.8-8.2 range. For a pitcher with solid control and the ability to generate groundballs, that’s more than enough.
You can argue that Voth isn’t going to win the NL Rookie of the Year (Manual Margot, Josh Bell and others have the edge), and that’s fine. The potential is there for him to make an impact immediately and there certainly is going to be an opportunity. While he’s flying under the radar, Voth should post a line similar to Fulmer’s rookie season and that’s saying something.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
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Grade A – Elite Prospects (aka potential future perennial All-Stars)
Grade B – Above Average Prospects (aka above average Major Leaguers, could develop into a potential All-Star)
Grade C – Average Prospects (aka solid, though unspectacular)
Grade D – Nothing More Than Roster Filler
Grade F – Move On
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: