GM's OFFICE: 2019 Prognosticating Successes, Part 2

Our beloved game looks different than it did even a few years ago, as seen in the record-setting number of HRs and Ks. Despite the winds of change (and, apparently, a juiced baseball), the staff here at nailed some great calls last spring, as seen here and in the Baseball Forecaster (order the 2020 edition today!). Those projections and calls lead to a great showing in various industry expert leagues. Hopefully they helped you take home a title or two as well.

Last week and today, we go into more detail on our many 2019 hits — times when our process foretold a spike or dip in performance. Most all of following commentaries appeared either on the site or in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster during the pre-season. Each provides a concrete example of how our projection model and the analysis that stems from it continues to put you in a position to win your league. 

Hitters were covered last week; the pitchers' successes are collected here: 

Shane Bieber: From Low-A ball at start of 2017 to majors in a little over a year thanks to pinpoint Ctl. 36% hit rate undermined his debut, so his 3.53 MLB xERA may slip under the radar. Still some Dom uncertainty, but otherwise this is a skilled young SP looking at a potential breakout year. (Kruse)
2018: 11 wins, 4.55 ERA in 115 IP
2019: 15 wins, 3.28 ERA in 214 IP

Archie Bradley: As his 2017-18 xERAs and BPVs show (those were his first two seasons as a reliever), no matter what version of Bradley we see in 2019, he should have closer-worthy skills. He's still in a spring training competition with Yoshihisa Hirano and Greg Holland for the closer role in Arizona, so his saves remain in question, but he easily had the best skills of the trio in 2018, and should be considered the best option to invest in for 2019. (Kruse)
2018: 3 saves, 3.64 ERA in 72 IP
2019: 18 saves, 3.52 ERA in 72 IP

Walker Buehler: But for rib injury that cost him a few weeks, first full MLB season could have hardly gone better. Ground ball tilt, equal platoon splits, and worst news for hitters may be 2nd half SwK/Dom bump. Too much H%, S% luck in 2nd half to say "that, times two"; but no reason he couldn't do... UP: 15 Wins, 220 K. (Olson)
2018: 8 wins, 2.62 ERA, 151 K in 137 IP
2019: 14 wins, 3.26 ERA, 215 K in 182 IP

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Luis Castillo: Castillo sunk plenty of fantasy teams in the first half with a 5.85 ERA through 17 starts, but those who stuck with him were handsomely rewarded. Castillo's 2.63 ERA in his last 14 starts were supported by some elite skills: 3.32 xERA, 5.0 Cmd, 136 BPV. What changed? Some luck correction, sure, but Castillo threw more sliders to complement an already killer change-up, while his fastball velocity jumped from 95.3 mph in the first half to 96.4 in the second (and even up to 97.0 in September). Castillo comes at a pretty steep draft cost, but if he can hold those late velocity gains and mix in his two best pitches more often, there's significant breakout potential. (Bloomfield)
2018: 10 wins, 4.30 ERA in 170 IP
2019: 15 wins, 3.40 ERA in 191 IP

Gerrit Cole: You could certainly make the regression case for Gerrit Cole (RHP, HOU; 26 ADP), but a decent chunk of 2018's breakout can be pinned on his move to Houston, and he put up similar numbers in 2015. Cole revamped his pitch mix with more breaking balls and fastballs up in the zone, and he's now reached 200+ IP in three of the last four seasons. He's one of just a few with a realistic shot at 300 strikeouts this year. (Bloomfield)
2018: 15 wins, 2.88 ERA, 276 K in 200 IP
2019: 20 wins, 2.50 ERA, 326 K in 212 IP

Wade Davis: NL Saves leader held role despite midseason rough patch and S% misfortune; claimed to have spotted mechanical flaw in early Aug. Don’t let 2nd half Ctl fool you though, as FpK reached ulcer-inducing levels. Velocity fade continues and H% won't always be around to help. Leash should be long, just note the risk. (Slack)
2018: 43 Saves, 4.13 ERA, 3.6 Ctl in 65 IP
2019: 15 Saves, 8.65 ERA, 6.1 Ctl in 43 IP

Anthony DeSclafani: DeSclafani hasn’t topped 145 IP since 2015, and his “F” health grade in the 2019 Baseball Forecaster certainly can’t be ignored. However, the 29-year-old displayed lots of encouraging signs in 2018, particularly in the second half when his SwK, velocity and slider usage/effectiveness all spiked. Additionally, his BPV rose with each passing month (77, 96, 122 and 133) While there are durability concerns, DeSclafani carries significant profit potential at his current 362 ADP. (Pyron)
2018: 7 wins, 4.93 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 115 IP
2019: 9 wins, 3.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in 167 IP

Mike Foltynewicz: After years of 4.00+ xERAs, meager IP totals, and marginal Cmd ratios, Foltynewicz finally posted some post-hype profit with a 2.85 ERA breakout in 2018. The odds of him doing it again? Use our pre-2018 skills and volume as your guide. Foltynewicz is being priced for a repeat of a career year, and while he ditched his sinker for a far more effective slider last year, the skill baseline says that's a losing proposition. Foltynewicz's price might drop in March if recent soreness persists in his elbow, but that's all the more reason to avoid him for 2019. (Bloomfield)
2018: 13 wins, 2.85 ERA in 183 IP
2019: 8 wins, 4.54 ERA in 117 IP

Kyle Freeland: One of 2018's top SP profit centers (ADP 491), he even posted a 2.40 ERA at Coors Field. Three reasons he'll be overvalued: 1) FpK gains offset by high ball%; 2) that strand rate won't stick; 3) improving BPV still below average and unsupportive of such a low ERA. xERA tells the true tale. That's the prudent baseline. (Nickrand)
2018: 17 wins, 2.85 ERA in 202 IP
2019: 3 wins, 6.73 ERA in 104 IP

Max Fried: Former top prospect finally showing signs of tapping into that upside. Soaring FpK and SwK put further Cmd growth on table, which will keep BPV trending up. And GB tilt gives him some cushion with command. With another year of growth vR? UP: 3.60 ERA, 180 Ks (Nickrand)
2018: 1 win, 2.94 ERA, 44 K, 2.2 Cmd in 34 IP
2019: 17 wins, 4.02 ERA, 173 K, 3.7 Cmd in 166 IP

Kevin Gausman: [He] is another popular breakout target, but we're having trouble seeing it. He pitched well in his first month in Atlanta (August) after his 2018 trade, but his September (2.0 Cmd, 5.06 xERA) was ugly… He was pretty sharp in May and June, bookended by a poor April and July. There's a word for this: inconsistent. Sure, he could "put it all together," but we just don't see the upside here. (Cederholm)
2018: 10 wins, 3.92 ERA in 184 IP
2019: 3 wins, 5.72 ERA in 102 IP

Domingo German: Demoted due to ugly ERA, then sidelined with elbow pain. Before arm issue, skills supported a sub-4 ERA. In fact, glossy 1st-half Cmd came with full support, including top-tier SwK. History of good Cmd in minors gives foundation for more growth. A premium buy-low target. UP: 3.50 ERA, 200 Ks (Nickrand)
2018: 2 wins, 5.57 ERA in 86 IP
2019: 18 wins, 4.03 ERA in 143 IP

Lucas Giolito: Sure, Giolito has been a full-fledged disaster thus far in the majors, and his skills last year (5.29 xERA, 13 BPV) might make even the keenest observer move on. But consider: 1) Giolito can miss bats with a decent change-up/slider combo, 2) the fastball velocity that vanished from his prospect days jumped up from 91.8 mph in the first half to 93.0 in the second, and 3) he ditched his four-seamer for a sinker in the second half, which produced an equal whiff rate and 56% GB%. It's a long shot, but the 24-year-old Giolito is just three years removed being a top-five fantasy prospect. (Bloomfield)
2018: 10 wins, 6.13 ERA in 173 IP
2019: 14 wins, 3.41 ERA in 177 IP

Mychael Givens: Will be viewed as a sneaky Sv source given late cameo in that role. Problem is, that second half hit rate hid some warts. Rip off the bandage, and you're left with a 4.00-ERA bullpen arm whose xERA keeps getting worse. Chronically subpar FpK won't allow late control to stick. A risky bet to stick as stopper. (Nickrand)
2018: 9 saves, 3.99 ERA in 77 IP
2019: 11 saves, 4.57 ERA in 63 IP

Sonny Gray: Just when we thought he figured it out *again*, Yankee Stadium happened. Near-7.00 ERA there was result of HRs and ugly 1.3 Cmd. On road, he was great (3.17 ERA, 3.5 Cmd). Overall xERA in recent seasons says we need to use 4.00 mark as new baseline. But if he finds a new club, there's profit here. (Nickrand)
2018: 11 wins, 4.90 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in 130 IP
2019: 11 wins, 2.87 ERA, 1.08 WHIP in 173 IP

Zack Greinke: [He] is definitely being undervalued by the market. Now, there are some risks here, particularly his age (35), but his sub-90 mph FB velocity is not one of them, as he's still missing bats at a solid pace. Combine that with his elite control, and he's still a solid SP… Aside from his age, you can expect the same pitcher as he was in 2018. (Cederholm)
2018: 15 wins, 3.21 ERA in 208 IP
2019: 18 wins, 2.93 ERA in 209 IP

Josh Hader: Swiss Army knife posted top-5 skills in majors that were backed by tons of whiffs, so top-tier K rate is here to stay. And 2nd-half surge in first-pitch strikes gives hope for even better control. Even as that hit rate moves north, xERA confirms he's firmly elite. With more 9th-inning opps... UP: 40 saves (Nickrand)
2018: 12 saves, 2.43 ERA, 15.8 Dom in 81 IP
2019:  37 saves, 2.62 ERA, 16.4 Dom in 76 IP

Kelvin Herrera: Two-run gap between ERA and xERA shows this wasn't the rebound it appears. Hot start obscured gradual fade before Sept foot surgery. Still throwing hard, but FB% spike and Dom dip concerning. So were second-half shoulder woes, his 2nd straight year with arm issues. DN: 4.50 ERA (Truesdell)
2018: 17 saves, 2.44 ERA in 44 IP
2019: 1 saves, 6.14 ERA in 51 IP

Raisel Iglesias: Outpitched his skills for three years running, so ERA appears (over)due for a bit of a jump. But that shouldn't affect save totals, which is why you buy him. (Truesdell)
2018: 30 saves, 2.38 ERA in 72 IP
2019: 34 saves, 4.16 ERA in 67 IP

Hector Neris: Neris started 2018 as the Phllies’ closer and ended it on a hot streak. In between, he lost his role and got banished to the minors, before righting the ship in a big way. Neris now finds himself behind David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez. All three right-handers are lethal. Neris, however, is the one slated for only four saves and a 624 ADP. That makes him an end-game bargain with a projected 3.37 xERA and 1.21 WHIP that is fully supported (see the 137 BPV). The skills are elite and the upside is enormous. (Dennis)
2018: 11 saves, 5.10 ERA in 48 IP
2019: 28 saves, 2.93 ERA in 68 IP

Wily Peralta: Starter-turned-reliever began season in the minors, but was anointed to MLB closer gig in late June. Don't be fooled by the pristine Sv%. These horrid skills (Ctl, BPX, xERA) don't belong anywhere near that role. Stay far away, especially if he benefits from March proclamations. (Pyron)
2018: 14 saves, 3.67 ERA in 34 IP
2019: 2 saves, 5.80 ERA in 40 IP

Michael Pineda: Recovering from July 2017 Tommy John surgery, made four minor league appearances before needing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in right knee. When last in action, he displayed his typically strong skills, but a sky-high hr/f wreaked havoc on ERA. Prior skills are certainly worth a look if he answers spring bell in MIN. (Pyron)
2017: 8 wins, 4.39 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 96 IP
2018: DNP
2019: 11 wins, 4.01 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 146 IP

Hansel Robles: Claimed by LAA off waivers from NYM in late-June. Change of coast seemed to help, as FpK and velocity spiked in 2nd half. Returned from brief August DL stint (shoulder impingement) using change-up more (9% vs. 3% earlier in 2018) during impressive Sept (1.74 ERA, 3.5 Ctl, 10.5 Dom). An intriguing late-inning speculation. (Pyron)
2018: 2 saves, 3.70 ERA, 1.39 WHIP in 56 IP
2019: 23 saves, 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in 73 IP

Eduardo Rodriguez: Some promising concurrent trends here: stable Ctl and rising Dom pushing Cmd into the good zone, all while continuing to make progress vR. Chronic leg issues (knee problem in spring, ankle in 2nd half) likely will continue to cap his innings, but paying for a repeat will leave you with some room for potential profit. (Murphy)
2018: 13 Wins, 3.82 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 130 IP
2019: 19 Wins, 3.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in 203 IP

Taylor Rogers: Unlocked a new skill level when he introduced a slider to his arsenal in May. Besides spiking his Dom and SwK, it also gave him the weapon vs. RH batters that he was lacking (see 2H vR). Newfound Dom, GB tilt, answers vs. both sides of the plate, improved FpK... this is now a premium closer-in-waiting. UP: 35 saves (Murphy)
2018: 2 saves, 2.63 ERA in 68 IP
2019: 30 saves, 2.61 ERA in 69 IP

Fernando Rodney: Boasted best Ctl since 2012 in 1st half, then lost the zone again. Threw top pitch, a change-up, less in 2018 (23% SwK, 29% usage) and upped sinker usage (51%), resulting in SwK/Dom dip. GB% decay is scary; 2nd half Ctl plus LD% are giant warning light to get off this train. Only S% kept it from being a lot worse. (Pyron)
2018: 25 saves, 3.36 ERA in 64 IP
2019: 2 saves, 5.66 ERA in 48 IP

Jeff Samardzija: Injuries limited Samardzija to just 45 IP in 2018, but his solid track record can’t be ignored. The early spring returns have been encouraging, as his fastball has been sitting at 94 mph, its customary level since 2012, and he reportedly feels great. Prior to 2018, he had developed into a reliable workhorse, tallying 200+ IP annually from 2013-17. While it’s unwise to expect another 200 IP season, the 34-year-old makes for a sneaky buy at his current price tag (457 ADP). (Pyron)
2018: 1 win, 6.25 ERA, 1.63 WHIP in 45 IP
2019: 11 wins, 3.65 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 181 IP

Marcus Stroman: A spring shoulder injury derailed Stroman's 2018 season; his attempt to pitch through it just made his skills look worse, and a late-season blister didn't help either. If we give Stroman a pass for 2018's injury-related disaster, we see an age-28 pitcher with notable rebound potential: 1) his elite GB% and strong control cement a high value floor, 2) he misses just enough bats to keep Dom afloat, and 3) he'd been one of the few to post back-to-back 200+ IP seasons. Early health reports from Jays camp have been positive, for what they're worth, and Stroman's ADP suggests he'll essentially be free in most drafts. He's a fine lottery ticket who's been there before. (Bloomfield)
2018: 4 wins, 5.54 ERA in 102 IP
2019: 10 wins, 3.22 ERA in 184 IP

Michael Wacha: Wacha's surface stats looked pretty impressive last year, the third time in five seasons he's posted a sub-3.40 ERA. But his recent xERA history is where we should set expectations, and that mediocre mark is accompanied by so-so strikeout totals, and an F Health Grade. Wacha is a serviceable option when on the mound, but his ceiling is limited, and it's almost guaranteed he'll miss some time. All told, he looks overvalued at his current 273 NFBC ADP. (Rudd)
2018: 8 wins, 3.20 ERA in 84 IP
2019: 6 wins, 4.76 ERA in 127 IP

Trevor Williams: Trifecta of luck (H%, S%, hr/f) delivered amazing 2nd half ERA/WHIP, but peripherals scream regression as he doesn't possess a single plus skill. Yielded 20% less hard contact than typical SP but that's unlikely to be repeatable. High xERA, tepid K rates don't indicate a pending breakout. (Florimonte)
2018: 14 wins, 3.11 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in 171 IP
2019: 7 wins,, 5.38 ERA, 1.41 WHIP in 146 IP

Kirby Yates: Yates proved that his 2017 emergence was no fluke, as he performed at an even higher level in 2018. He once again posted a tremendous Dom/SwK combo, sparked by expanded usage of a superb splitter that stymied hitters to the tune of a 27% SwK, .170 BAA and .232 SLG in 2018. His ability to pound the strike zone (33.9% Ball%) helped him improve his walk rate despite a dip in FpK (2.3 xCtl). The dramatic decline in FB% from 2017 to 2018, along with some hr/f regression, reined in the gopheritis that plagued him in 2017. The aforementioned splitter was a key factor (54% GB%). He was aided by some S% luck, but xERA is still in fine shape and BPV confirms this is a truly elite skill set. (Pyron)
2018: 12 saves, 2.14 ERA in 63 IP
2019: 41 saves, 1.19 ERA in 61 IP

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.