SPECULATOR: Recency bias rebounds, 2020 pitchers

Last week in this space, we started a crusade against "recency bias" with hitters whose draft costs are overly influenced by last year's stats.

This week, the journey continues with a trip to the mound. There are several pitchers who were being drafted as aces or top relievers this time last year, but for whatever reason—injury, a drop in previously-stable skills, or just plain old bad luck—the market has soured and their prices have sunk. A couple of simple filters for our list:

  • Pitchers with a Top 300 ADP as of March 1, 2020.
  • Hitters with more than a $5 drop in "pick value" ($$$) from 2019 to 2020.

Pitchers with write-ups are in bold; feel free to ask about others in the comments:

                    2019        2020
Pitcher           ADP ($$$)   ADP ($$$) 
================  =========   =========
Corey Kluber       25 ($26)    98 ($13)
Carlos Carrasco    36 ($23)   109 ($12)
Trevor Bauer       31 ($24)    82 ($15)
Miles Mikolas      96 ($13)   241 ($ 4)
Edwin Diaz         51 ($19)   123 ($11)
James Paxton       54 ($19)   126 ($10)
German Marquez     80 ($15)   177 ($ 7)
Aaron Nola         25 ($26)    54 ($19)
Chris Archer      131 ($10)   265 ($ 3)
Noah Syndergaard   38 ($22)    72 ($16)
Sean Doolittle    109 ($12)   204 ($ 6)
David Price        98 ($13)   183 ($ 7)
Cole Hamels       151 ($ 9)   271 ($ 3)
Masahiro Tanaka   132 ($10)   228 ($ 5)
Mike Foltynewicz  119 ($11)   204 ($ 6)
Kenley Jansen      75 ($15)   127 ($10)
Jose Quintana     192 ($ 6)   320 ($ 1)
Craig Kimbrel      90 ($14)   143 ($ 9)
Jose Leclerc      115 ($11)   173 ($ 7)
Brad Hand          81 ($15)   118 ($11)
Ross Stripling    207 ($ 6)   297 ($ 2)
Zack Wheeler       87 ($14)   119 ($11)
Madison Bumgarner  91 ($14)   124 ($11)
Raisel Iglesias   114 ($11)   149 ($ 9)
Mychal Givens     259 ($ 3)   332 ($ 1)
Forrest Whitley   256 ($ 3)   327 ($ 1)
Dallas Keuchel    211 ($ 5)   268 ($ 3)
Kyle Hendricks    128 ($10)   161 ($ 8)
Robbie Ray        123 ($11)   153 ($ 9)
Jonathan Gray     198 ($ 6)   245 ($ 4)
Julio Teheran     278 ($ 3)   342 ($ 1)
Steven Matz       247 ($ 4)   292 ($ 2)
Joey Lucchesi     194 ($ 6)   226 ($ 5)

American League

Corey Kluber (RHP, TEX)

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  ======   ===
2016  215  3.14/3.45  2.4   9.5  4.0  62%/13%  28%/74%  129
2017  204  2.25/2.67  1.6  11.7  7.4  64%/16%  28%/81%  191
2018  215  2.89/3.22  1.4   9.3  6.5  63%/12%  29%/77%  151
2019   36  5.80/4.95  3.8   9.6  2.5  65%/13%  39%/65%   88

Technically, this column is a "last year vs. this year" comparison, but in reality, Kluber was a Top 30 pick just 36 innings ago. Sure, those innings—mostly thrown in cold weather last April— were awful and the velocity was down, but that's hardly a large enough sample for the market to write off a former ace. Kluber broke his arm on a comebacker and suffered an oblique injury during rehab, effectively making 2019 a lost season. His age (34) adds some risk, but a pitcher with three straight sub-3.25 ERAs, three straight 200+ IP, and three straight 220+K seasons from 2016-18 going at pick 100 could pay off handsomely.

Masahiro Tanaka (RHP, NYY)

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl  Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ===  ===  =======  ======   ===
2016  200  3.07/3.68  1.6  7.4  4.6  64%/11%  28%/76%  116
2017  178  4.74/3.51  2.1  9.8  4.7  64%/15%  32%/68%  147
2018  156  3.75/3.44  2.0  9.2  4.5  68%/14%  29%/74%  136
2019  182  4.45/4.38  2.0  7.4  3.7  69%/11%  30%/69%  105

Tanaka's famed split-finger fastball completely abandoned him last year (22% SwK in 2018, 11% in 2019), helping drive a massive drop in strikeouts and an uptick in ratios. As noted in the 2020 Baseball Forecaster, Tanaka pinned its ineffectiveness on the seams/grip of 2019's ball, which certainly has some merit. Tanaka put up elite peripherals in 2017-18 (3.49 xERA, 15% SwK, 143 BPV), and if early reports from several SP that the grip on the ball feels better this spring are true, Tanaka could snap right back to an SP2 going outside the Top 200.

James Paxton (LHP, NYY)

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  ======   ===
2016  121  3.79/3.59  1.8   8.7  4.9  62%/12%  36%/72%  134
2017  136  2.98/3.36  2.4  10.3  4.2  65%/13%  31%/74%  143
2018  160  3.76/3.22  2.4  11.7  5.0  66%/15%  31%/71%  165
2019  151  3.82/4.08  3.3  11.1  3.4  65%/15%  33%/76%  127

Paxton's 126 ADP is misleading, as early drafts still carry a heavy weight in that formula, but it drops to 187 since he had back surgery on February 5. Drafting already-injured pitchers is far from a winning strategy, but hear us out: you weren't planning on a full season of innings from Paxton anyway, all signs point to his rehab going as planned, and our in-house injury expert Matt Cederholm wrote that it wasn't major surgery in his recent Big Hurt column, noting the success rate for baseball players is near 100%. In leagues where you have IL-slot flexibility, stashing Paxton's ace-level skills outside could pay off big-time by Memorial Day.

Carlos Carrasco (RHP, CLE)

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  ======   ===
2016  146  3.32/3.41  2.1   9.2  4.4  62%/13%  30%/78%  137
2017  200  3.29/3.23  2.1  10.2  4.9  63%/14%  31%/74%  150
2018  192  3.38/3.07  2.0  10.8  5.4  65%/16%  33%/74%  165
2019   80  5.29/3.73  1.8  10.8  6.0  65%/15%  36%/68%  165

Carrasco's leukemia diagnosis last May put things in perspective—the fact that we can even speculate on his 2020 pitching outlook is fantastic news. Tossing last year aside, Carrasco was one of just two SP to post 190+ innings, a 150+ BPV, and a 14% SwK in 2017 and 2018. The other? Max Scherzer. Carrasco has dropped out of the Top 100 due to workload concerns, but outside of a hip injury this spring, he seems like a full-go in CLE's rotation. If Carrasco can even approach 190 innings again, these skills could drive another $30 season.

 

National League

Edwin Diaz (RHP, NYM)

Year  IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ==  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  =======  ===
2016  52  2.79/2.22  2.6  15.3  5.9  58%/19%  41%/80%  230
2017  66  3.27/3.78  4.4  12.1  2.8  56%/17%  26%/79%  118
2018  73  1.96/2.01  2.1  15.2  7.3  67%/20%  30%/79%  240
2019  58  5.59/3.19  3.4  15.4  4.5  63%/18%  40%/68%  199

Diaz has certainly dropped after 2019's disaster, but not as far as you'd think. In fact, he's the only player in the last 6+ years with a Top 150 ADP coming off a 5.00+ ERA season the year before. Save for a minor uptick in walks, Diaz's skills were unchanged from his 2018 breakout, as a brutal 27% HR/F was mostly to blame for the ERA mega-spike. Diaz was the top closer off the board this time last year, and there's no reason to think he can't return to that level should the gopheritis subside. Just keep in mind some of that rebound potential is already baked into his price.

Chris Archer (RHP, PIT)

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  ======   ===
2016  201  4.02/3.50  3.0  10.4  3.5  58%/13%  31%/73%  133
2017  201  4.07/3.50  2.7  11.1  4.2  62%/14%  34%/72%  148
2018  148  4.31/3.72  3.0   9.8  3.3  62%/13%  35%/72%  120
2019  120  5.19/4.47  4.1  10.8  2.6  61%/13%  31%/69%   96

Archer has fooled us many times before (to put it mildly), and it seems the market has finally given up on him with an ADP outside the Top 250. Previously a 200-IP workhorse, Archer had shoulder issues that led to the lowest IP total of his career in 2019. But Archer ditched his two-seam fastball after a June 6 start in favor of more four-seamers, and the skills were fantastic (12.3 Dom, 3.3 Cmd, 133 BPV). Even if Archer never posts another sub-4.00 ERA, his history of strikeouts coupled with the late pitch-mix change make him a fine stab in the end game, particularly if you have ratio stabilizers (Hendricks, Ryu, etc.) built into your rotation.

Craig Kimbrel (RHP, CHC)

Year  IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ==  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  ======   ===
2016  53  3.40/3.33  5.1  14.1  2.8  68%/15%  27%/70%  123
2017  69  1.43/1.83  1.8  16.4  9.0  63%/20%  28%/88%  262
2018  62  2.74/3.16  4.5  13.9  3.1  56%/18%  23%/78%  135
2019  21  6.53/4.62  5.2  13.1  2.5  56%/15%  30%/75%  102

After a long and drawn-out free agency, Kimbrel didn't make his debut with CHC until June 27 and never got on track from there. But are we so eager to dismiss one of the best closers over the past decade after a 21-inning dud? Sure, Kimbrel had control issues in 2018 as well, but he still misses plenty of bats and has put up a 2.75+ ERA just one other time (2016) in his nine-year career. Kimbrel is locked in as CHC's closer for 2020, and while limiting the free pass is a must, he's young enough (and still throws over 96 mph) to put off an age-related collapse for a couple more years.

German Marquez (RHP, COL)

Year   IP   ERA/xERA  Ctl   Dom  Cmd  FpK/SwK   H%/S%   BPV
====  ===  =========  ===  ====  ===  =======  =======  ===
2016   21  5.23/4.15  2.6   6.5  2.5  63%/10%  38%/69%   80
2017  162  4.39/4.23  2.7   8.2  3.0  60%/10%  32%/73%   97
2018  196  3.77/3.22  2.6  10.6  4.0  65%/13%  32%/73%  144
2019  174  4.76/3.69  1.8   9.1  5.0  64%/13%  31%/65%  141

Marquez wasn't going to repeat his 2.52 ERA from 2018's magical second half, but is he as bad as the 4.76 mark he put up last year? The skills were nearly identical to 2018's breakout (141 vs. 144 BPV), yet Marquez's draft price has sunk from the sixth round to the 12th in 15-team leagues. Coors Field showed why it's still undefeated against any type of sustained SP success—Marquez had a 6.26 ERA/1.55 WHIP at home vs. a 3.67 ERA/0.94 WHIP away from Coors—but he's going late enough in drafts where you can start afford to play matchups and fade him at home. And there's always that possibility he gets traded...

 

The Speculator is not designed to make definitive assertions about the future; rather, it is designed solely to open reader's eyes to possibilities they may not have previously entertained, and in doing so, provide a different perspective on the future. Many of the possibilities will be of the "out on a limb" variety. All are founded on SOME element of fact. But none should be considered any more than 20% percentage plays.


Click here to subscribe

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