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Starting Pitchers Who Aren’t Improving in 2018

Opening Day is almost here and time is short, so let's cut to the chase. If you want to find great starting pitcher value in your draft, avoid these players.

Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez are aging arms heading into the final stages of their careers, and Jake Odorizzi’s arrow is pointing straight down. I outline how these guys busted in 2017 and why they’ll disappoint again in 2018.

Let’s dive in.

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SP Busts Who Might Just Keep Busting

Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers

Why he busted: couldn’t generate swing-and-misses like he had in the past, contact rate rose four points, hard hit rate ballooned, soft contact rate fell seven points below career average.

Why he’ll bust again: tail end of his career, 34-years-old, poor peripherals, declining strikeout upside.

If you’re confident taking Cole Hamels around pick 233, be my guest. There’s no risk involved that late in the draft. Spending a last-round pick on a low-ceiling, high-floor veteran arm might work for some fantasy managers, but it doesn’t work for me. I always stress drafting high-upside players in the final rounds. Hamels doesn’t possess high upside. You see, it’d be one thing if he was four years younger and coming off a season of terrible luck, but he’s not. He’s 34-years-old and has thrown 2,362 innings in his career, has a steadily declining K%, he’s pitching fewer innings by the year, he has a declining soft contact rate, a rising hard contact rate, and a 4.83 xFIP.

He still make for a great occasional streaming option in shallow leagues. Just know that you can do better in the last round of your draft.

FYI: Sean Manaea, Jordan Montgomery, and Blake Parker are going around pick 233. You’d probably be better off drafting one of them.


Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

Why he busted: career-high 1.77 HR/9, under 100 IP, career-low GB%, decreased velocity on all pitches, batters hit .319 off his fastball.

Why he’ll bust again: his upside appears capped at this point in his career, irreversible trends don’t bode well for an aging arm, 5.02 FIP.

Why would you even think about owning King Feliz if you’re not in a deep league this year? His ADP is so low (282) that you shouldn’t really be considering him, but if you operate in deeper circles, Hernandez offers nice strikeout upside and a decent floor. Check out that FIP, though. Check out that .319 opponent BA on his fastball that’s declining in velocity. Check out that ballooning HR/9.

The whole point of this piece is to highlight pitchers who are pure fades this year. Nobody embodies the “pure fade” approach more than Hernandez. Stay away.


Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota Twins

Why he busted: career-highs in BB/9 and HR/9 (allowed 30 HR in 143 innings), strikeout rate didn’t improve, hard hit rate rose four points, 15% HR/FB, loading up on fastballs high in the zone, vertical release point changed.

Why he’ll bust again: low .227 BABIP in 2017, terrible peripherals (5.43 FIP, 5.10 xFIP, 4.90 SIERA), Steamer projects a 5.11 ERA and only eight wins.

He’s the youngest player on this list and he might be the weakest pitcher out of them until he fixes his HR problem. Odorizzi constantly throws fastballs up in the zone and hitters got used to it. As this Fangraphs article explains, he would be better off making an adjustment. If he mixes up fastball location (throw them low more often), Odorizzi could be go back to the 3 WAR form he was at in 2015. Until he does that, he isn’t improving.


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