Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

Champ or Chump: Tyler Mahle & Caleb Smith


Popular waiver wire arms are once again today's topic of discussion. If you're in need of a new pitcher for your staff (and nearly everyone is), both Tyler Mahle of the Cincinnati Reds and Caleb Smith of the Miami Marlins have probably crossed your mind. Neither has much of a track record though, so you may be hesitant to take the plunge.

Both have some promise in their profiles, but are dinged by the quality of their supporting cast. Ultimately, Mahle is likely to be more trouble than he's worth this season, while Smith should be owned in most formats.

Let's take a closer look at the details!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Draft Kit, premium rankings, projections, player outlooks, top prospects, dynasty rankings, 15 in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research. Sign Up Now!

 

The Fantasy Jury is Out

Tyler Mahle (SP, CIN) - 19% Owned

Mahle's 4.35 ERA over 39 1/3 IP this season isn't great, but his underlying 3.49 xFIP suggests a quality pitcher. The latter number is rooted in strong K% (25.9%) and BB% (6.8%) numbers, but they seem unlikely to last. Furthermore, his 39% GB% does not bode well at Great American Ballpark.

The first argument against Mahle is the fact that he didn't really strike anybody out in the minor leagues. He debuted in the High Minors for Double-A Pensacola in 2016, tossing 71 1/3 innings of 4.92 ERA baseball. His xFIP (3.60) was better, but hardly enough to intrigue fantasy owners considering his meh 21% K%. Mahle's GB% (40.7%) was only slightly higher than his current mark, leaving him at the mercy of his environment. Pensacola favors hitters (1.016 park factor for runs scored from 2014-2016) by way of boosting HR (1.067 factor), and Mahle struggled with it (14.6% HR/FB).

Mahle returned to the level to begin 2017, throwing 85 IP there. He dominated, posting a 1.59 ERA, 2.73 xFIP, 26.9% K%, and 5.3% BB%. The only thing that didn't change was his ground ball rate, which held perfectly steady at 40.7%. Part of his success was an unsustainable BABIP (.245 vs. .320 the previous year), but he clearly progressed enough to deserve the promotion to Triple-A the Reds rewarded him with.

Mahle was great by surface stats at Triple-A Louisville, compiling a 2.73 ERA over 59 1/3 IP. His xFIP (3.60) wasn't as strong, and his Ks dried up again (21.2% K%). He remained a fly ball pitcher (39.2% GB%), but wasn't hurt by the home run nearly as much as his first taste of Double-A (6.8% HR/FB). Louisville is one of the fairer ballparks in the minor leagues, close to the league average in HR (0.982), hits (1.026), and total runs scored (1.017). His .281 BABIP made sense for a fly ball guy, suggesting that the campaign was a reasonable indication of Mahle's abilities.

Unfortunately, the performance does little from a fantasy perspective. The Ks are not there, and Cincinnati is likely to inflate Mahle's HR/FB on all of the flies he allows. The problem is exasperated by a closer look at his repertoire.

Mahle features a three-pitch mix (fastball, slider, change) plus a show-me curve. He's throwing the curve 1.5% of the time, so it effectively doesn't exist for our purposes. His heater averages 93 mph and has been getting plenty of whiffs (9.2% SwStr%), but lacks the velocity or spin rate (2,164 RPM) to expect that to continue moving forward. Its 58.6% Zone% is impressive, but the pitch isn't as good as it has looked thus far.

Mahle's slider is more of an offspeed fastball than a breaking pitch, boasting a high 50% Zone% but relatively lacking 13.6% SwStr% and 30.5% chase rate. It should help him avoid walks, but it's not a true put away pitch. Mahle's change exists, but its SwStr% (11.3%) is mediocre for an offering with a 43.3% Zone% and 29.1% chase rate. It needs a lot of work to be a viable weapon against MLB hitters.

Thus, we're left with a fly ball pitcher offering middling stuff in a hitter's park. His team is also terrible, preventing him from compiling fluke wins. Mahle is a viable streamer for some road starts, but he's not a fantasy stalwart at this stage of his career.

Verdict: Chump

 

Caleb Smith (SP, MIA) - 38% Owned

Smith has a 3.67 ERA and 3.54 xFIP over 34 1/3 IP this season, but that is not why he is consistently among Rotoballer's top 10 searches. That has everything to do with his 33.8% K%, an eye-popping number that easily warrants further attention. His walks are high (12% BB%), but you just want to believe in a K% that high. Is it for real?

Smith was Yankee property before this season, so we're revisiting Double-A Trenton (0.928 runs scored, 0.805 HR, 0.993 hits) and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (0.919, 0.879, 0.985) for this analysis. He made his High Minors debut for Trenton in 2015, throwing 130 2/3 IP and compiling a 3.38 ERA against an xFIP of 4.25. His Ks were low (16.6% K%), his BBs were high (9.2% BB%), and fantasy owners couldn't care less.

Smith became interesting when he repeated the level in 2016. His K% increased to 25.1% over 63 2/3 IP while his BB% declined (7.2%). His ERA increased to 3.96 thanks to an inflated BABIP (.344 vs. .280 the year prior), but his underlying xFIP improved to 3.53. The Yankees were impressed enough to let him try Triple-A in 2017.

Smith threw 98 IP for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, where he maintained his gains in both K% (24.6%) and BB% (7.1%). His ERA was a sterling 2.39, though his 3.59 xFIP wasn't quite as confident in the sustainability of his 7% HR/FB or .264 BABIP. Still, it was a solid performance that the Yankees rewarded with some big league innings. They were an utter disaster (7.71 ERA in 18 2/3 IP).

Thus, Smith has a minor league history of favorable strikeout totals, though not to the extent of his performance to date. An analysis of his arsenal reveals that he should continue to strikeout enough batters for fantasy owners to care about him.

Smith is a three-pitch guy, throwing his 93.3 mph fastball 59.6% of the time, a slider 29.4% of the time, and a change 10.6% of the time. His heater offers a strong spin rate (2,407 RPM) that supports strikeouts (8.5% SwStr% and 57.8% Zone%) and pop-ups (53.7% FB%, 36.4% IFFB%). That is a lot of pop-ups, lending credibility to his low .260 BABIP on the season. This is a very good pitch.

His heater's high Zone% also sets up two legitimate wipeout offerings. His slider could use a slightly higher chase rate (37.5% this year), but performs very well otherwise (18.3% SwStr%, 37.8% Zone%). His change is seldom chased outside of the zone (27.9%), but induces plenty of whiffs (18.5% SwStr%) when it is. It's definitely Plan B to the slider's Plan A, but few repertoires have two offerings with an 18% SwStr%.

Moving forward, Smith's K% is likely to fall to something like 27%--not as strong as it has been, but still really good. Considering his minor league history, a corresponding decrease in walks could keep his K/BB roughly where it is now. Wins will be hard to come by on a glorified expansion team, but this 27-year old is the real deal.

Verdict: Champ

 

More 2018 Player Outlooks




More Recent Articles

 

Engel's Angles: ADP Insights, Perspectives on Aaron Judge and Ketel Marte (Premium Content)

Spring training exhibition play has just opened and expert draft season is here. The trends are being firmly established on how to draft, and where to draft certain players. We all know pure ace top starters are going to be taken very early, and there will be a high emphasis on garnering top speed merchants.... Read More


RotoBaller Friends & Family Industry Mock Draft: What the Experts Were Thinking

The RotoBaller Friends & Family Mock Draft has become an annual tradition where we gather some of the biggest names from the fantasy baseball world and put together a mock draft just as spring training has commenced. Thanks to RT Sports for once again hosting and providing a custom draft site where readers could follow... Read More


H2H Points League Draft Strategy

Points leagues are essentially the rawest version of fantasy baseball. These are not players, these are stat-lines and you want to put up as many points per week as possible. Do not get too attached to underperforming players who have name-value and potential. There is a stark difference in draft strategy when it comes to... Read More


2020 Catcher Rankings - Fantasy Baseball Dynasty Leagues

Spring Training is upon us! Pitchers and catchers have reported and we finally have some box scores to desperately over-analyze. The catcher position can really be a headache for dynasty owners trying to plan for the future. Needless to say, it is not a position that many MLB teams count on for offense, leaving fantasy players... Read More


Questionable Closers: An Early Look at Some Unsettled Bullpens

As anyone who has played fantasy baseball for even five minutes knows, bullpens around the league are always in flux. There are fewer and fewer closers who are no doubt, always in for the ninth inning, always healthy, never slumping, and always celebrating wins for their team. We're seeing more and more teams go with... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Aaron Civale

With Mike Clevinger sidelined to start the year and Corey Kluber off to Texas, the Indians will rely on the emergence of Aaron Civale to bolster their typically-formidable rotation. Civale impressed in his rookie season with 10 starts, 57.2 innings pitched (IP), a 3-4 win-loss record, 2.34 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 46 Ks. Due to the... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Didi Gregorius

The Philadelphia Phillies finished 2019 with a record of 81-81, which was only good enough for a fourth-place finish in the NL East. They have since added the likes of Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius to improve their chances of a division title in 2020. They have also brought in highly-touted manager Joe Girardi to... Read More


2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Shortstop

If you're keeping up with the Keeper Value Rankings, you know we've already covered First Base, Second Base, and Third Base. Today, we will address Shortstop. These rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based... Read More


ADP Showdown: Anthony Rendon vs. Rafael Devers

The first two rounds in your fantasy draft can be challenging because each available player is tremendously skilled with significant upside. Every pick looks desirable, so it’s important to try to determine which player has a greater likelihood of producing superior fantasy production. This can be accomplished by examining overall production and team context.  This... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Staff Rankings

Below you will find RotoBaller's 2020 fantasy baseball rankings, tiers and auction dollar values for the 2020 MLB season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Mixed, Head-to-Head, Points, AL/NL Only, Two-Catcher Top 2020 prospects, Dynasty leagues, Keeper values Export the rankings easily... Read More


MLB Closers and Saves: Fantasy Baseball Depth Charts

Saves are an important component for many fantasy baseball leagues. Closers are one of the most volatile positions in fantasy baseball, and one of the highest turnover positions in MLB. Each year, closers drop like flies and many MLB teams make in-season changes due to injuries or poor performance. Stay on top of all closer depth... Read More


Industry Expert Mock: ADP Surprises

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut break down the recent RotoBaller Friends & Family industry mock draft to see how the experts fared and look at some of the most surprising picks, for better or worse. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and... Read More


Fantasy Insider Angles - Thor, Jeff McNeil, J.D. Davis and More (Premium Content)

Success in baseball isn’t always just about pure numbers. For those who play the game and are inside the clubhouse, it’s also about creating the right chemistry and environment. As the New York Mets opened spring training this season, there was a fresh air of optimism around the team. It also seemed to extend to... Read More


Points League Ranker Tool - NFBC

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Brought to you by RotoBaller's Nicklaus Gaut (@Nt_BurtReynolds), this Points Rankings tool uses RotoBaller's 2020 MLB projections to build out custom rankings for NFBC Points Leagues. The tool uses the default NFBC scoring settings. All fantasy baseball platforms have different scoring settings for their points leagues.... Read More


Points League Ranker Tool - CBS

All other Premium Tools can be accessed on the premium dashboard. Brought to you by RotoBaller's Nicklaus Gaut (@Nt_BurtReynolds), this Points Rankings tool uses RotoBaller's 2020 MLB projections to build out custom rankings for CBS Points Leagues. The tool uses the default CBS scoring settings. All fantasy baseball platforms have different scoring settings for their points leagues.... Read More