After covering the position players a few weeks back, we’re back today with some crazy pitcher predictions. Let’s get right to it . . . after this standard disclaimer:
Predictions are for the player’s full season, regardless of whether or not they are traded, but only count major-league performance (unless otherwise noted).
You can look at Shields’ 2015 season in two ways.
- He stunk. He allowed a league-leading 33 home runs in pitcher-friendly Petco, and he posted a below average ERA once accounting for ballparks. He also pitched “just” 202 1/3 innings, his lowest total since his rookie campaign, while also notching a career-worst 3.6 walks per 9.
- He was sneaky good. Shields’ 25.1 percent strikeout rate was the highest mark of his career, up nearly six percentage points from 2014—even though his velocity was down 1.5 miles per hour. His HR/FB was an unsustainably high 17.6 percent, and it’s bound to regress significantly going forward.
Huh, strange year. The glass half full outlook says Shields can keep his strikeout rate up while cutting down his walk rate and home run issues. That version of Shields would put him back on the fringes of the Cy Young race, but he’s 34 now—we won’t go quite that far.
The Prediction: 3.37 ERA, 22 percent strikeout rate, 24 home runs allowed
Ross feels like the type of pitcher ready to breakout as a true staff ace at any moment, and he’s come tantalizingly close already. He has his warts—trouble holding runners, higher than desired walk rates, injury risk due to heavy slider usage—but he also excels at just about everything you want from a pitcher. His 25.8 strikeout rate in 2015 marked a new career high, and that figure has been on the rise every year for Ross. His groundball rate has trended in the same direction, and last year it also reached a new peak at 61.5 percent. With sustained health and improved control, there’s no reason why Ross can’t take another jump forward in 2016.
The Prediction: 18 days on the DL (blister)
Every time I think about Cashner, I think about that start he had a few years back against the Tigers. It feels like a long time ago, though, at least after his 2015 season. Cashner’s 4.34 ERA last year was bad enough in itself, but he allowed a staggering 22 unearned runs, giving him a 5.41 RA/9. Some of that’s on his defense certainly, but that number—posted in a pitcher’s park in a (moderate) pitcher’s era—just jumps out at you.
The good news is one season doesn’t make a pitcher, and once you factor in Cashner’s past success and his solid peripherals and his 95 mile-per-hour two-seam fastball and the off-field issues he was dealing with last season and . . . well, you get the point. There’s a decent chance he can rekindle some of that past magic, even if you’d still rather have Anthony Rizzo.
The Prediction: 3.22 ERA, 9 unearned runs
The big question with Pomeranz is whether he can cut it as a starter. He’s struggled with some injury issues in the recent past—he hit the DL last year with soreness in his left shoulder—and he’s never thrown more than 100 innings in a big-league season. Perhaps even more worrisome than his durability are his splits, where he’s been death to lefties (.493 OPS against) but much more hittable against righties (.775 OPS against). In a starting role, he’s obviously going to face a lot of right-handed hitters.
As a starter so far in his career Pomeranz has posted a 4.60 ERA with a 1.84 strikeout-to-walk ratio, which is part of the reason he’s been yo-yoed back and forth between the rotation and the ‘pen. The Padres are in good position to see if he can make the starting thing work, both because they don’t have a lot of other great options in the back of the rotation and because they aren’t exactly expected to be competitive all season. If it doesn’t work out Pomeranz could revert back into a nasty late-inning reliever, which ain’t bad as far as consolation prizes go.
The Prediction: 7 saves
Rea falls squarely in the unexciting young pitcher category—sure, he had a big 2015 and his major-league debut went well enough, but the stuff or peripherals don’t jump out at you. That said, there’s a place in every rotation for an unexciting young pitcher, and Rea—like any unexciting young pitcher—has a chance to develop into something further.
The Prediction: 2.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio
Morrow’s pitched just 66 1/3 innings since 2014, and before then he’d earned the injury-plagued label. He’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t break camp on the big-league club, but he’s likely to enter the rotation—or bullpen—at some point. That is, if he can stay healthy. He had some promise when he was younger, but the health problems and ever-increasing age have dampened the outlook.
The Prediction: 9 starts
Rodney led the league in saves in 2014, but his far-and-away best season was 2012 with Tampa Bay, when he posted a 0.60 ERA with a K/BB ratio better than five. The problem is that 2013 and 2015 were bad, and last year he recorded career worsts in FIP (4.92) and home runs allowed (9). He’s also 39 with gradually declining velocity. Then again, Rodney’s a reliever so there’s a non-zero chance he puts up a 1-something ERA. We’re not going there.
The Prediction: 3.57 ERA, 21 saves (traded to Cubs on July 23rd)
A career-best 47.7 percent groundball rate helped Maurer’s home run stinginess, as he allowed just three homers in 51 innings after allowing 1.2 per 9 over his first two seasons in Seattle. The rest of his peripherals weren’t as sexy, as he k’ed just 18.9 percent with a 2.6 K/BB ratio. FanGraphs notes there’s some hidden upside due to Maurer’s improved changeup and the potential return of his curveball, and it does feel like there might be more in the tank here.
The Prediction: 2.87 FIP, 14 saves
You need a few Quackenbushes in every good bullpen (or garden). He’s not particularly flashy, but he’s been reliable over his first two seasons in San Diego, and you don’t reflexively reach for the remote when he strolls to the mound. In fact, he might be the second best pitcher out there—behind Maurer—which isn’t necessarily a good sign for the strength of the ‘pen. PECOTA says he’ll strike out a batter an inning, which is also what he’s done in his big-league career.
The Prediction: 9.0 K/9
Once a dominant lefty reliever, Thornton’s found a way to remain successful despite declining strikeout numbers.
It’s tough to succeed when batters are putting the ball in play at that rate, though Thornton managed a 2.18 ERA in 41 1/3 innings in the Nationals’ ‘pen last year. A repeat seems unlikely.
The Prediction: 3.55 ERA
I wrote about Villanueva at Baseball Prospectus back when the Padres acquired him in mid-January.
The Prediction: 24 multi-inning relief appearances
Sometimes when I’m not all that familiar with a player, I like to run through that player’s PECOTA comps to help add some context. Here are Buchter’s top five:
I didn’t say it always worked.
The Prediction: 1 walk-off home run allowed
Here’s what I wrote about Perdomo back in December (look, I’m getting lazy):
No, not that Luis Perdomo.
Perdomo might be the most likely player to hang around. BP’s Chris Crawford:
Perdomo has the most upside of any player taken today. He’ll touch 97 from a four-seam fastball with movement, and his slider has loads of hard vertical movement.
(BA’s J.J. Cooper echoed similar sentiment.)
Performance-wise, Perdomo doesn’t look great—he’s posted a career 4.10 ERA and 2.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he’s 22 years old and still hasn’t cracked Double-A. Then again, he’s worked almost exclusively as a starter in the minors, and his high velo fastball-slider combo makes him as good a starter-to-reliever conversion candidate as any.
The prediction: 4.55 FIP
An undersized lefty, Baumann’s starting the year on the DL, but he’ll likely join the club at some point. As a reliever, his strikeout numbers in the minors are pretty good, but he’s struggled with free passes at times. We’ll see.
The Prediction: 27 games pitched
PECOTA wasn’t phased by Mazzoni’s disastrous major-league debut last season, giving him the best projected ERA (3.44) on the staff. Ignoring his performance in 2015 with the Padres, Mazzoni actually had a good year overall, racking up 46 strikeouts without allowing a home run in 34 relief innings at hitter-friendly El Paso, his first regular relief work since 2011. Mazzoni’s starting the year back at Triple-A, but he’ll almost certainly return to the 25-man roster at some point barring a trade.
The Prediction: 24 innings, 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio
A lot of people seem to think Edwards is a sleeper breakout candidate, but I just can’t get past the walks. The dude’s walked 6.0 per 9 for his professional career, and he’s worked exclusively as a reliever. Worse, 171 of his 199 1/3 professional innings have come in the minor leagues. Worse, he once walked 27.0 per 9 in the Puerto Rican Winter League—okay, okay, it was 1 1/3 innings, but you get that point. That’s a lot of walks, and walks ain’t good.
The Prediction: 5.3 BB/9