Are You For Real? Week 17 Pitcher Standouts

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As the saying goes, you can’t win your league during the draft. The waiver wire moves owners make during the season are the ones that will determine who wins. The art to winning at fantasy baseball is being able to determine who should be added to a roster and should be bypassed. In order to do that, an owner needs to be able to tell if someone is for real or not.

This column will focus on some pitchers who have recently thrown their hats into the ring for consideration. Below are some pitchers who performed well in Week 17, as we look towards the waiver wire for Week 18 and beyond.

These pitchers are available in many leagues, and we’ll dig a little deeper to determine whether you should be picking these guys up or leaving them be.

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Heading Out West

German Marquez, Colorado Rockies

2016 Stats (Double-A): 135.2 IP, 2.85 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 126 K (8.36 K/9), 33 BB (2.19 BB/9)

July 29, 2017 at Washington: 7.0 IP, 2.57 ERA, 0.43 WHIP, 10 K (12.86 K/9), 0 BB (0.00 BB/9)

The Colorado Rockies appear to have struck gold with German Marquez. The 22-year-old righty has put up a solid rookie campaign, and he looks like he could end up being an excellent starting pitcher for years to come. Marquez was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays as an international free agent at the tender age of 17, but he was then traded to Colorado in the Corey Dickerson deal in early 2016. He quickly showed how valuable he was by posting great numbers in Double-A and earned short late-season promotions to Triple-A and the bigs for a cup of coffee. He was sent to Triple-A to start 2017, but injuries opened up a spot for him in the majors, and he was promoted before the end of April. So far, he’s lived up to his potential, posting a 4.08 ERA and 1.29 WHIP through 97 innings in the majors this season.

On July 29, Marquez took his show on the road to face the Nationals, one of the best teams in the league. A huge part of their success has been their offense that leads the National League in runs scored, but Marquez wasn’t scared. He shut them down to the tune of just two earned runs in seven innings on only three hits. He didn’t walk anyone, and he sat 10 of them down with shiny new Ks. It was a stellar performance that happens to have come on the back of three more quality starts. Four QSes in a row is no joke, but the key is where they suddenly came from. And the key is unpredictability.

Against the White Sox, Marquez pounded the zone with fastballs and curveballs exclusively. When he hosted the Padres, he dropped his fastball usage considerably and fed them a steady diet of curve after curve. When the Pirates visited next, he broke out a slider that hadn’t appeared in weeks. Against the Nationals, the slider disappeared and he ate them up with a change-up. It’s hard enough for major leaguers to predict what’s coming from a rookie, but one who has an arsenal like Marquez’s leaves everyone off balance. This particularly resulted in a spike of ground balls and pop-ups over his last four outings.

 

Verdict

German Marquez has been a solid pitcher this season, and for a 22-year-old rookie, that’s high praise and a sign that he could be the real deal. He’s had a few hiccups along the way (four outings of 5+ ER make up over half of those he’s surrendered all season in 17 outings), but he’s got a wide range of pitches that allow him to leave hitters uncomfortable. His strikeout rate of 8.81 K/9 is slightly below average, his walk rate of 2.78 is slightly better than average, and his ground-ball rate is below average. However, there are underlying concerns that will probably hold him back from becoming an ace.

First, anyone depending on deception is playing a dangerous game. As a rookie, he’s shown that he can win the battles, but there are many sophomore pitchers who can attest that it’s a different world the second time around. Secondly, his recent success has included a spike in his ground-ball rate. Ideally, he can hang on to that newfound improvement, but that’s left to be seen. Third, he’s still a Colorado pitcher. That will always be a knock. Overall, he seems like he can be average to above average, and that’s worthy of a roster spot on a lot of squads.

 

 

Parker Bridwell, Los Angeles Angels

2016 Stats (minors): 76.2 IP, 3.87 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 63 K (7.40 K/9), 32 BB (3.76 BB/9)

July 28, 2017 at Toronto: 7.1 IP, 1.23 ERA, 0.55 WHIP, 4 K (4.91 K/9), 1 BB (1.23 BB/9)

Parker Bridwell came into the league with some minor drama due to Major League Baseball vetoing his original signing bonus from the Orioles, but he’s otherwise been plodding his way up through the minor leagues. Originally drafted at 18 years of age in 2010, Bridwell took four years to move beyond Single-A. However, a solid showing in a season at Double-A in 2015 led to a speedy rise through the Baltimore organization before unceremoniously being traded for cash earlier this year. The Angels quickly promoted Bridwell to a starting job after just eight starts in their minor league system, and he’s seemed to handle the pressure just fine. He’s carrying a 5-1 record with a sparkling 2.83 ERA and 1.19 WHIP through eight starts at the major league level.

On July 28, Bridwell faced off against his Canadian counterparts for the first time, and he put on a show. Only allowing four baserunners on the day, he held the Blue Jays to just one earned run over 7 and 1/3 innings while striking out four. Fortunately for Bridwell, this game matched a pattern he’s been having across multiple games. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, that’s not the kind of pattern one wants to see.

Bridwell’s success is built on the back of a strikeout rate of just 5.67 K/9. It’s worked in tandem with a low BABIP of just .266 and a sky-high strand rate of 89.9% to keep his ERA low and the successes rolling in. Those factors won’t hold. They’re covering up a below-average ground-ball rate of just 40%, a below-average soft-hit rate of 13.2%, and the weak strikeout rate. And that abysmal strikeout rate is actually buoyed by one big strikeout performance against Tampa Bay. Without that one game, it drops below 5 K/9. This success is not sustainable.

Verdict

Parker Bridwell is in no way the real deal. He has a name that sounds like a mean rich kid from a teen movie, and he’s got a nasty surprise in store for fantasy owners who decide to join his crew. His 2.83 ERA is a sham meant to lure people in before they notice his 4.84 xFIP. Expect corrections to arrive at Bridwell’s doorstep soon.

 

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