Fantasy Baseball Breakout Pitchers or Flashes in the Pan?
America Day is just around the corner, which means we’re inching ever closer to the halfway point. As with every season, not only is it time to start thinking Fantasy Football, it’s also time to evaluate some pitching performances that may have your eyebrows raised. Do we have real deal breakout seasons coming or just some hot streaks? Let’s find out.
Jose Berrios, MIN – Berrios is back in the middle of one of his hot runs. If you have never owned Berrios before, now is the time to sell high, as Berrios is as volatile as they come. Don’t forget that Berrios has plenty of ups and downs last year already. It was especially evident in August, as Berrios started with 7.0 innings and one earned run, followed that up with two horrid outings of 11 ERs in 8.1 innings, had a 7.0 IP, two-hit, seven-strikeout gem, got beat up the next time out and finished with 7.0 IP, four hits and 11 Ks. To start September, Berrios gave up five runs in five innings. Fun times, huh?
Berrios is similar to Francisco Liriano from a few years ago. You have to start him every time out, as you never know what’s coming, and the matchups don’t dictate his success (or failures). If you try to play the matchup, you could miss out on one of his best outings. Berrios has 28.1 IP, 20 Hits, four ERs (two, one, one, zero) and 35 Ks over the past four starts. That’s as good as it’s going to be with Berrios, as you can’t forget the 18 ERs in four straight starts (18.1 IP) earlier this year. I know people want to excuse that away and only see Berrios’ potential, but that’s why you can sell high. A fan of his will likely give you Top 15 SP value, and you can’t pass on that.
Brent Suter, MIL – The Brewers defied logic by seemingly ignoring their rotation and adding even more bats to a lineup that was already one of the better groups in the National League. It’s working so far, but is it a run of luck both on the field and in Fantasy? With Suter, everything you have seen is the real deal.
Suter has a 4.15 ERA with a 4.04 xFIP due to a mildly unlucky HR/FB%. Suter does a great job at limiting free passes with just 1.9 BB/9 on the year and a solid 14.6 SOBB. But the intriguing part is his run since May 18. Suter has improved, not by leaps and bounds, but by enough to make the Brewers think twice about their need to trade for a pitcher and for Fantasy owners to consider him in all leagues. Over those last seven starts, Suter has a 3.12 and 3.75 xFIP (the BABIP is down to .221). Not only has Suter kept the walks low, but he’s kicked up the strikeout rate, reaching an 18.5 SOBB over those starts (23.6 K%). He’s also getting a nice 12.4 SwStr%, and given his top-level control, the F-Strike% is up at 72.6.
No, Suter is never going to be a league changer or ace for the Brewers, but he is more than worth a pickup in all leagues and has proven to also be worth more than a pure matchup play.
Tyler Skaggs, LAA – Skaggs is having a breakout season, there’s no doubt about that. Will he post a sub-3.00 ERA for the season, as he currently sits at 2.69 with a 3.40 xFIP. It seems doubtful, and there could be a major drop-off coming. In fact, most of Skaggs’ metrics aren’t much different than his norm. The LD% is 0.2 of his career average, GB% just 1.1 higher, HR/FB% just 1.5 lower, Hard% 6.1 higher and Soft% 5.5 lower. Whoa, did you catch those last two? Batters are actually making better contact, but somehow, Skaggs is better than ever?
Okay, let’s check out his SOBB. This is a nice sign, seeing it at 19.0 when his career is 13.3, but he’s reached the high 20s in the minors. So, it could be better, and even at 19.0, it’s far from elite. Skaggs has seen a huge jump in SwStr% from 8.1 the past two seasons to 11.4 this year, but is it him or MLB batters’ new aggressive approach?
I lean towards the latter, as his pitch selection is around what it’s always been, and as pitching guru Nick Pollack detailed here, the pitches really haven’t changed much outside of less contact in the zone. I’d sell Skaggs as quickly as possible.
Jonathan Loaisiga, NYY – It’s hard to gather too much from Loaisiga’s first three starts. On the one hand, his two wins came with no runs, just four hits and 14 Ks (but six walks). In the middle start, Loaisiga lasted just 3.2 innings with six hits, three earned runs, four Ks and two BBs. One common theme is that Loaisiga isn’t going deep into games, topping out with 5.1 innings the last time out. In fact, Loaisiga have averaged five or fewer innings pitched even since joining the Yankees in 2016. He was originally signed by the Giants and had 13 starts in 2013, then was decimated by injuries. Even before those injuries though, Loaisiga still only averaged around 5.1 IP per start in 2013.
Loaisiga has a nice, high-speed fastball with movement, a very nice curveball and above average changeup (hasn’t used much yet in the majors). There is plenty to like about Loaisiga, and the Yankees moved quickly with him, seeing the potential. However, there is risk here given the shortness of his outings. Loaisiga had terrific control through the minors, but it’s been a rough start with those eight walks in 14.0 IP. It could be nerves, adrenalin, etc., but it’s only going to compound his inability to pitch deep. If a pitcher continues to have short outings, he needs to be elite at something, preferably strikeouts. Loaisiga does have that potential thankfully, but the bad days can be exponentially worse compared to the good days, as even the good ones see Loaisiga done by the start of the seventh.
Loaisiga has a bit more appeal in rotisserie, as that can lessen the hurt if he puts up an outing like his second start. The lack of deep-inning starts makes it tough to offset those rough outings in H2H if he even gets two starts in a week. Owners love shiny new toys, so starting floating his name in trade talks, as you might have a nice chip on your hands if he puts up a second-straight (short) gem.
Main Image Credit: AP Photo/Stacy Bengs