Struggling Spring Starters: Should They Be Downgraded On Draft Day (Lester, Gonzales & More)

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Everyone is always quick to buy based on a small spring sample size, but what do we do with those who are struggling?  Are we quick to pull the plug?  Or are we willing to chalk it up to a small sample size because there’s still something there that we like?  The truth is that not all cases are created equal, so let’s take a look at a few pitchers who have put up some gaudy numbers and try to decide:

Jon Lester – Chicago Cubs
2019 Spring Stats – 11.1 IP, 9.53 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, 13 K, 5 BB

It’s no secret what Lester’s big problem has been this spring, having allowed 4 HR.  Does the fact that all have come against viable MLB hitters soften the blow, at least slightly:

  • Travis Shaw – Milwaukee Brewers
  • Garret Hampson – Colorado Rockies
  • David Dahl – Colorado Rockies
  • Nick Hundley – Oakland A’s

Maybe a little (at least he hasn’t given up home runs to people destined for Double-A), but it’s not like Lester should’ve been considered a great option originally.  While he had posted a solid ERA in ’18, it came courtesy of a 1.31 WHIP with a drop in strikeouts (7.38 K/9) and groundballs (37.7%) looming large.  Home runs weren’t a big issue (1.19 HR/9), but that doesn’t mean it won’t be this season.

Already 35-years old, it’s easy to envision that he’s on the decline.

Verdict – Deny ‘Em

Marco Gonzales – Seattle Mariners
2019 Spring Stats – 13.1 IP, 9.45 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 15 K, 7 BB

Gonzales was a pitcher that was being hyped based on solid 2018 marks…  At least it was an impressive WHIP (1.22), as the southpaw carried a 4.00 ERA over 166.2 IP.  Of course all of that success came courtesy of an elite BB/9 (1.73), a number that may be unlikely for him to maintain.

While he should post a solid mark, better than he has this spring, the fact is he posted a 2.3 BB/9 over his minor league career and is showing signs of trouble already (and the problems have been there over his past two starts, with 5 BB over 6.1 IP).  Any type of regression in his control could cause a fairly significant regression overall, considering his pedestrian strikeout (7.83 K/9) and groundball (44.9%) rates.  He struggled with home runs on the road (1.34 HR/9) and it’s easy to envision that continuing to cause trouble.

We already had doubts about Gonzales, and this poor spring is going to make it worse.

Verdict – Deny ‘Em

Jonathan Loaisiga – New York Yankees
2019 Spring Stats – 9.0 IP, 10.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 11 K, 6 BB

With the injuries to Luis Severino and CC Sabathia it appeared that Loaisiga had an opportunity to break camp as part of the Yankees’ rotation.  However he’s now allowed 9 ER over 4.1 IP over his past two starts, while two others have stepped up and performed admirably:

  • Domingo German – 11.2 IP, 1.54 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 18 K, 2 BB
  • Luis Cessa – 13.0 IP, 0.69 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 13 K, 1 BB

Neither opening may be there for long (especially with rumors of the Yankees looking outside the organization for help), and with Loaisiga falling out of the competition he’s becoming more of an upside prospect worth monitoring. Outside of dynasty formats he belongs on the waiver wire.

Verdict – Deny ‘Em

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com

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