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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 17


Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

This week we're breaking two ex-top prospects. One with a lot of major league time in Kevin Gausman, and one still getting his feet wet in Tyler Beede

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 07/22/2019. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers widely available that could be useful in fantasy, whether they have been recently added by a ton of teams or are still sitting on waivers.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Tyler Beede, San Francisco Giants

9% Owned

2019 Stats (prior to this start): 51.1 IP, 5.44 ERA, 5.31 FIP, 9.4% K-BB%

07/19 vs. NYM: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

It may be hard for some to believe, but Tyler Beede was once the crown jewel of the (relatively weak) San Francisco Giants farm system. Unlike many former top prospects, it wasn’t injuries or personal struggles that did Beede in, it was the Pacific Coast League. Beede coasted through the lower minors, but posted a 4.79 ERA in his first year in Sacramento. Rough year, but surely Beede would figure things out the next year, right? Not quite, as Beede was knocked around to the tune of a 7.05 ERA and even got demoted to the bullpen at Triple-A. Beede’s chance at making it in the majors looked slim. He had been rather awful coming into this month as well, putting up a 6.45 ERA in 37.2 innings before getting sent back down. However, Beede has a 1.45 ERA in July and is looking much improved since being recalled.

Beede has made one significant change since returning to the majors, and that is the addition of a slider into his arsenal. Beede was a three-pitch pitcher through and through as a prospect, with a four-seamer, changeup, and curveball. The changeup was supposed to be his key offspeed pitch, but it hasn’t been very effective for Beede at the big league level. Batters are hitting .277 with a .354 wOBA against the pitch this season. Beede can bring the heat, with an average fastball velocity of 94.3 MPH, but he needs a quality secondary pitch to transform from spot starter into rotation mainstay.

Whenever a pitcher develops a new pitch and suddenly does well, the easy answer is to attribute his newfound success to the new offering. The slider has been effective for Beede thus far, as batters are hitting a mere .111 with zero extra-base hits against the pitch. On paper, the pitch doesn’t stack up nearly as well. It’s below average in both horizontal break and drop, and clocks in about 200 RPM below league average. The .111 batting average against should be tripled according to Statcast, as batters have a .333 xBA against Beede’s slider. It also has a 90.2 MPH average exit velocity and 50% line drive rate against, making Beede quite lucky to have allowed just a .250 BABIP with the pitch. He’s only thrown 57 sliders,  so we’re kind of digging into the granules of an already small sample size, but the surface results are a little tough to believe nonetheless.

Beede’s true potential still lies in the changeup, which has much more favorable Statcast metrics

with a .229 xBA and .278 xSLG. His changeup also has a 19.6% SwStr rate compared to a rather

pedestrian 13% SwStr on his slider. Adding this slider certainly won’t hurt Beede’s development, but it’s not going be what causes him to turn the corner. Gaining better command with his existing repertoire should be goal number one for Beede. He won’t be successful while he’s walking 11% of opposing hitters, as he’s doing now. Monitor him, but don’t feel the need to add Beede.

Verdict:

New pitch? Check. Hot streak? Check. Second half breakout? Let’s pump the brakes on that one. Beede’s slider grades below average in movement and has gotten unsustainable batted ball results. The slider could be a nice little piece to his arsenal, but Beede needs to get his other pitches working to achieve long term success. He’s firmly in the streaming category right now.

 

Kevin Gausman, Atlanta Braves

32% Owned

2019 Stats (prior to this start): 62.1 IP, 6.21 ERA, 4.18 FIP, 14.1% K-BB%

07/21 vs. WSH: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

The path to success for Kevin Gausman has always been clear and simple, throw the splitter. He’s embraced that approach this season throwing the pitch a whopping 38% of the time, by far the highest of his career. Gausman threw just two unique pitches in this start, his four-seamer and his splitter, which has been the norm for him this season. Other than 23 sliders, Gausman has only thrown fastballs and splitters. Some pitch-tracking websites may categorize some of Gausman’s splitters as changeups, but that’s because Gausman throws a split-change. The velocity and movement on the pitches categorized as splitters and changeups are virtually identical. So, Gausman is doing what many hoped he would do, junk his garbage secondary pitches and attack with his splitter. Can it work?

Instinctively, I would say no, this pitching style is not conducive to long term success. How many two-pitch pitchers make it the majors? The most prominent example is Chris Archer, who isn’t exactly known for his reliability. Other examples include Freddy Peralta, Joey Lucchesi, Tyler Mahle…yeah, a volatile group to say the least. Being a two-start pitcher is tough enough, but Gausman’s splitter also hasn’t been as effective this season. Batters are hitting .252 against the pitch, though the underlying numbers are still top notch. He has a .264 xwOBA and 20% SwStr rate with his splitter, and is getting 3.5 inches of break above league average. One could make an argument for Gausman’s splitter as the best in the majors, but it’s a lock for top three along with Masahiro Tanaka and Frankie Montas. With how good Gausman’s splitter is, the strikeout numbers seem sustainable. Gausman’s career strikeout rate has always lagged behind considering where his stuff was at, but this season he’s at a career high 23.4%. Owners can buy into that number with confidence.

The strikeouts are there, and with a 3.86 FIP compared to a 5.71 ERA, fantasy owners might think they have a sneaky second half pickup on their hands. Things could work out that way for Gausman, but I’m skeptical his ERA can approach that 3.86 FIP. Sure, Gausman’s .335 BABIP and 58.8% LOB rate suggest he’s been unlucky, but his fastball has just been hammered this season. Opponents are hitting .292 against the pitch with a .281 xBA and .509 xSLG. Without a third pitch to take some of the pressure off, batters will be able to sit on this fastball in most situations. The answer isn’t to bring back the slider either, as Gausman’s slider has been the cause of extreme pain and turmoil for him over the years. As good as Gausman’s splitter is, his slider is a meager offering that wouldn’t cut it against a Triple-A lineup.

If Gausman could somehow develop an moderately effective third pitch I’d go all in on the breakout. Until that happens he’s a high risk, high upside streaming or two-start option. In deeper leagues I wouldn’t mind riding Gausman out, but know you will be burned at some point, and burned hard.

Verdict:

Gausman’s gone to the extreme with splitter usage. While that’s great for his strikeout totals, it’s not conducive to long term, reliable success. Use him as a streamer or a two-start pitcher, but know that bad outings will come for Gausman, and they’ll hard to predict given his profile.

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