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FaBIO Analysis: Flyballer Starting Pitcher Prospects, Left-Handed Edition

Reid Detmers fantasy baseball rankings MLB prospects

In the opener of this pitcher prospect twinbill we introduced FaBIO and presented data from its application to flyballer righthanded starting pitcher prospects. Now let's do the same for flyballer lefthanded starting pitcher prospects.

I'll keep the summary of FaBIO short here as the prior RHSP article more fully explains the FaBIO methodology. Every plate appearance is sorted into 1 of 12 event type bins (BB+HBP, K, IFFB, Pull OFFB, Center OFFB, Oppo OFFB, Pull LD, Center LD, Oppo LD, Pull GB, Center GB, Oppo GB) and the pitcher is charged with league's average runs value for that event type. In prospect evaluations we should not focus too much on the all-in-one Overall Rating (based on expected run avoidance per batter faced over all of that pitcher's batters faced). Instead favor Control (or CTL, based on BB+HBP per PA), Strikeout (or K, based on K per PA), Batted Ball Profile (expected run avoidance per batted ball) Ratings so as to better understand each pitcher's route to Overall. Then examine individual batted ball ratings [GB Rating (based on GB per batted ball), IFFB Rating (IFFB per batted ball), LD Avoid (LD per batted ball), etc.] to both qualify and quantify what the pitcher's approach (fastball arsenal, mainly) yields on contact.

While FaBIO is blinded to base hits and extra bases we will use AVG and ISO on Batted Balls as additional frames of reference in our evaluations.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball lineup tools and weekly lineup resources:


Application of FaBIO: Flyballer Left-Handed Starting Pitcher Prospects

As before, the flyballer's success lay in getting extra K via their fastball around the upper reaches of the strike zone versus what pitchers generally accrue on heaters. Ideally the 4-seamer's ride/carry traits also produce many IFFB, which are equivalent to K in expected runs. The approach's drawback is increased risk of longer outfield flyballs, with Pull-Third OFFB much more likely to produce extra-base hits. The runs penalty of those longer balls varies with the pitcher's ability to avoid walks (see CTL) and singles (see LD Rating, esp.).

Top Flyballer LHSP Seasons in MLB, 2013-2021

Below are the 11 MLB pitcher seasons from 2013-2021 in which a moderate to extreme flyballer (below half minus at GB Rating and OFFB Avoid Rating) LHSP qualifier rated plus at Overall. In the prior RHSP article Scherzer and Verlander owned 11 of 17 such plus RHSP seasons; here, the 11 plus Overall pitcher seasons feature 10 different LHSP. Our lone LHSP repeater is Robbie Ray whose 2021 AL Cy-winning FaBIO profile was nearly his 2017 NL one with the CTL and Batted Ball Profile Ratings reversed.

Ray's seasonal FaBIO lines gradually declined from that 2017 92 Overall to a 2018 81 Overall (2 CTL/98 K/59 BBP) to a 2019 60 (6 CTL/97 K/3 BBP) to a 2020 14 (0 CTL/89 K/2 BBP) and almost entirely so due to control and batted ball profile woes. Neither Ray's nor Rodon's 2021 resurrection shocked me as FaBIO had identified very stout fundamentals from both in 2021 spring training games (Ray had a 96 OVERALL via a 49 CTL/95 K/95 BBP slashie; Rodon had a 98 OVERALL via a 96 CTL/78 K/94 BBP slashie; YouTube the Fabio award ceremony scene from "Zoolander", if you must).

Boyd lost 2 standard deviations of K Rating versus 2019 when it sank to 40 in an aerially traumatic 25 Overall 2020. He then seemed to both accept fewer whiffs and find FaBIO batted ball profile religion in a solid 2021 (54 Overall: 46 CTL/32 K/82 Batted Ball Profile) in which he deftly avoided Pull OFFB (79! Avoid) and OFFB (42 Avoid) while still getting many an IFFB (91), effectively completing a metamorphosis from 2019 risk assumer to 2021 risk avoider. Remember Cingrani? Or Bumgarner, the Tatis Jr of the mid-2010s?


Flyballer LHSP Prospect Analysis: Reid Detmers

No flyballer LHSP prospect has more current relevance to dynasty and redraft leagues than Reid Detmers, the 10th overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft. His 0 Overall MLB debut line brutally illustrates what ensues when the extreme flyballer does not get their K and IFFB and does allow relatively many BB, LD, and Pull OFFB. The decision to MLB Detmers one calendar year after drafting him was dubious given how low his AVG (3, which should have been nearer the 81 LD Avoid) and ISO (5) avoidance on Batted Balls were against mostly AA batters; the subsequent MLB 3 AVG and 6 ISO on Batted Balls were hardly surprising given that LD Avoid fell to 1 and those Pull OFFB weren't going away. A 54 IFFB in MiLB afforded another reason to keep him in AAA and effectively capped the MLB ceiling on that key fundamental. While CTL and K expectedly fell in MLB versus MiLB neither should have sank to these depths.

Was Detmers a MLB victim of his prior success? Why change if so many NCAAers and MiLBers were striking out? So far, we have seen the Angels draft and MLB roster Detmers too soon, twice dismissing batted ball profile flaws of consequence. They are not alone in underestimating the defects on contact as Keith Law, Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, etc. now rank him as MLB's 19th, 21st, 28th, etc. best prospect and those groups would not do so without also weighing opinions from external evaluators. Minus stouter batted ball profile fundamentals in spring training games and/or earlier MiLB play he might not be rosterable save for spot starts in 2022 MLB.

To the extent that Detmers skews so feast on strikeouts and so famine on batted balls, revising the fastball arsenal and approach while being more risk-averse with pitch location set up to be 2022 minor league developmental aims. If a longer-term MLB SP career results, and it is far too soon to rule one out, the FaBIO profile come then could look very different versus what he has posted in NCAA and to date in MiLB (expect fewer K, for one).

Flipping the page back to my Flyballer RHSP Prospects article fellow extreme flyballer Joe Ryan was simply much more prepared (superior CTL, superior IFFB, superior LD Avoid) to face MLB batters toward the end of 2022 than the overly K-dependent Detmers was. The extreme differences in their FaBIO MLB debut lines (each faced 100 else 101 batters over 5 starts) are not surprising, save for the large gap in K Rating. Detmers serves as Exhibit A for why the manner in which CTL, K, and Batted Ball Profile Ratings combine to produce Overall Rating is more important than what the prospect's Overall Rating is.


Other Flyballer LHSP Prospects

That Ian Seymour, DJ Herz, Adam Macko, and Sam Weatherly most recently paired sub half minus to sub minus CTL Ratings with sub minus to sub minus minus Pull OFFB Avoid Ratings bias their current MLB projections to K+IFFB short LHRP roles (is Seymour the Rays' next Colin Poche?). Jonathan Bermudez, Ethan Elliott, and Jared Shuster have control on their side but also multiple batted ball profile holes to patch.

That leaves Detmers (who again may be a year or more away from being a viable MLB SP), Cody Bradford, Logan T. Allen, Drew Parrish, and Blake Walston as more polished MLB SP candidates owing to their potential to K+IFFB with relatively few BB preceding their OFFB; yet the MLB SP ceilings for the quintet would not appear overly high barring gains in K and key Batted Ball Profile fundamentals by the presumably more malleable Walston. Still-a-rookie Stephen Gonsalves, who made his MLB debut in 2018, serves as a cautionary reminder that the transition from successful MiLB flyballer LHSP to MLB LHSP may not pan out immediately, if at all.


Fantasy Considerations with Flyballer Starting Pitching Prospects

In seeking future MLB SP candidates among moderate to extreme flyballers favor prospects who rate higher at the core K+IFFB fundamental AND control as they will:

1. better avoid runs on aerial pulls and long flies to other fields

2. be less sensitive to natural fluctuations in LD avoidance

3. be at lesser risk of K and CTL sinking too far while cutting MLB SP teeth

Also lean toward those who flash above average line drive (single) avoidance on batted balls over multiple seasons as these pitchers tend to have other movement within their hard arsenal beyond the carry/ride which generates K+IFFB. When the flyballer SP prospect successfully settles into a longer-term MLB rotation role, a consistent run of SP1- to SP2-caliber seasons is highly improbable unless you have unearthed the seldom seen K+IFFB standout whose control and line drive avoidance are also very above average.

As a fallback appreciate that the core K+IFFB fundamental of failed flyballer SP prospects fits well in a later short RP role so save, hold, and some modicum of win potential exists within this crowd... even more so for those whose primary fastball and top offspeed pitch tend to produce favorable outcomes and who have fewer oppo-handed batter and same-handed batter platoon flaws.

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