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Strikeout Rate Risers and Undervalued Pitchers for Week 5

Welcome back to the pitching strikeout rate risers and fallers article series! A month of baseball is in the books, meaning that we have at least a decent chunk of data to start diving into. Understanding strikeout trends and the stats behind them can help you determine what a pitcher’s overall fantasy value may be for the coming weeks and rest of season, giving you the info you need to make the best roster moves.

This week I am going to do something a little different. RotoBaller’s K-Rate Risers and Fallers premium tool is just up and running, but since it compares pitchers' YTD K-rate to their Last 30 days, there aren't too many trends to highlight just yet as we aren't even out of April! So, I am going to take a look at four under-the-radar K-rate pitchers and let you know if you should be taking advantage of their lack of hype to this point.

There is a lot of baseball left to be played, so now is the time to identify these types of players before it is too late. There’s no time to waste, so let’s get going!

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!


K-Rate Under-the-Radar Pitchers

All stats current as of Tuesday, April 30.


Sonny Gray, Cincinnati Reds

31.3% K-Rate

Our first under-the-radar K-rate pitcher is one who had an awful 2018 season and was consequently knocked down hard in 2019 fantasy drafts. Sonny Gray had an up-and-down tenure with the Yankees but seems to be thriving in his new home in Cincinnati. The 29-year-old has a respectable 3.64 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with an impressive 31.3% K rate (the highest of his career) through 29 2/3 innings pitched this season. Gray is currently owned in just 53% of leagues, so should you go pick him up now?

Gray has had several strong fantasy seasons in his career, so it should not be surprising to fantasy players that he can bring value to their teams. Normally, Gray’s value can be found in inducing ground balls with decent strikeout numbers and solid ERAs. Nothing about that has changed other than the strikeouts; in fact, Gray’s profile looks pretty much the same as it has across his career. His pitch mix has been slightly different this season; Gray has relied more on his straight fastball (37.2%) than his sinker (17.4%). His K rates are higher on all of his pitches, but they are all being thrown with similar velocity and spin rates. Gray has always had great movement on his pitches, but nothing really seems to be different from last season.

Perhaps the improvement may just be the new change of scenery. New York is the biggest of stages with unforgiving fans and many athletes have crumbled under the pressure of performing there. A move out of that spotlight may have been what Gray needed. The move also brought a reunion with Gray’s college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, which is a positive thing. Overall, it is hard to pinpoint a definitive change in Gray’s game leading to increased strikeouts, but he has been a solid fantasy pitcher before. Gray is a pitcher that fantasy players should go out and get while they still can.


Chris Paddack, San Diego Padres

30.3% K-Rate  

This next pitcher caused a lot of hype in dynasty leagues as a top target and it looks like he needed little time adjusting to the big leagues. 23-year-old rookie Chris Paddack is currently 82% owned, but for the remaining 18%, it’s time to start paying attention. The righty has a sterling 1.67 ERA and 0.67 WHIP with a 30.3% K rate. Let’s take a look at how he has managed to excel so far.

Paddack relies mainly on his devastating changeup to rack up strikeouts. He throws a mix of fastball (57.3%), the change (32.6%), and a curveball (10.1%) and has a ridiculous 21.6% swinging-strike rate with his changeup. Of his 30 strikeouts, 17 have come with the changeup and 13 with the fastball. Hitters haven’t seen Paddack much given it is his rookie season, which also plays to his advantage.

Apart from striking hitters out, Paddack has been able to avoid hard contact (25%, avg. exit velo. 84.6 MPH) and has had solid command of his pitches (8.1% walk rate). His launch angle of 18.8% isn’t great, and his 3.57 SIERA suggests that he is not pitching quite as well as would suggest, but Paddack seems like a solid young pitcher that will be a solid fantasy option in single-season leagues in 2019.


Luke Weaver, Arizona Diamondbacks

27.4% K-Rate

We now turn our attention to another young pitcher who was once considered a top prospect but who has fallen out of favor in the past couple of seasons. Luke Weaver was a fantasy dud in 2018 with the Cardinals, but since being traded to the Diamondbacks, he has accumulated a respectable 3.73 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 31 ⅓ IP. He is just 56% owned; can fantasy players reignite their hope in Weaver as a fantasy asset?

There are several changes in Weaver’s game that have helped him succeed and one, in particular, that is helping his strikeouts. First, Weaver’s launch angle is down to 8.3 degrees vs 11.8 in 2018, so even though he is getting hit harder (89 MPH avg. exit velo. vs 86.9 in 2018), hitters aren’t doing as much damage. He also has the new benefit of pitching in Chase Field, which has become much more pitcher-friendly since the installation of the humidor.

The main change in Weaver’s arsenal that has led to the strikeouts is his changeup. His pitch mix is pretty much the same as in 2018, but his changeup has had a lower spin rate (1583 revolutions per minute vs 1700), making the pitch more deceptive compared to his fastball. Consequently, Weaver has generated a 18.7% swinging-strike rate with the pitch compared to 14.4% last season.

The 25-year-old looks to have returned to form in 2019 and resembles his 2017 self rather than his 2018 self. If he can continue to keep the ball on the ground and work his changeup in, he could be a middle-of-the-rotation fantasy starter.


Ty Buttrey, Los Angeles Angels

32.7% K-Rate

I wrote about this reliever a few weeks ago, saying that he has nice upside but could really do with an opportunity to see saves. Well, that time may have come. Angels closer Cody Allen hadn’t been performing well and then landed on the IL with a strained back, leaving the Angels’ closer situation in flux. Ty Buttrey could very well be their option. The 26-year-old has a 1.38 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 13 innings this season. At just 23% ownership, could now be the time to go add him?

Buttrey has the makings of a strikeout reliever. His fastball sits at around 96 MPH and he is also able to generate strikeouts with his slider. His arsenal helps him avoid contact from hitters; Buttrey’s has a respectable swinging-strike rate of 13.4% and an above-average 70.7% contact rate. While Buttrey has gotten hit hard this season (43.3%), he has avoided serious damage (.326 expected weighted on-base average on contact [xwOBACON] vs league average of .370).

Buttrey saw save opportunities at the end of 2018 and may be able to see some more now that Allen is out. The Angels have used him in a fireman’s role to this point, but they may be inclined to save him for the end of the game now. Buttrey offers fantasy value in categories leagues regardless of save opportunities, but he could get a huge boost in value if they decide to turn to him in the ninth inning.


K-Rate Risers and Fallers - Premium Tool

Identifying top strikeout rate risers and fallers for each week can help you spot the best pickups before your competition. RotoBaller's Premium K-Rate Risers and Fallers tool has you covered every day. As thoughtful fantasy baseball players, we won't lead you astray. This tool will soon be active once we have a large enough sample size in the season to be considered reliable.

This type of data is available as part of our Premium MLB Subscription. Don't settle for basic stats and surface-level advice from other sites. RotoBaller brings you advanced statistics and professional analysis that you need to win your fantasy leagues and DFS games, because we're ballers just like you. We are your secret weapon!

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