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

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


You Don't Know Jack (Flaherty)

Never a lauded prospect as he made his way through the St. Louis Cardinals' system, starting pitcher Jack Flaherty nevertheless made a splash in 2018, taking advantage of the playing time afforded to him by injuries to rotation mainstay Adam Wainwright.

Part of a loaded 2018 rookie class in the National League, which included supposed generational talents Ronald Acuña and Juan Soto as well as ascending ace Walker Buehler, it was easy to overlook Flaherty with his paltry record of only eight wins and nine losses. But as the offseason passed, fantasy analysts and players alike started to notice the performance that the Cardinals rookie had put up. Namely, striking out 182 batters in only 151 innings. This attention led to Flaherty becoming a pre-draft darling for fantasy owners - his name littering the lists of breakouts and sleepers - climbing draft boards until his ADP hovered in the mid-'60s.

But so far, 2019 has brought little of the success promised by the performance of the previous year. Will the second half begin to bring back some of the results that owners were banking on when they drafted him in ahead of players like Zack Greinke and Jose Berrios? Or instead of breaking out, will Flaherty only continue to bust?

Editor's Note: Get our 2020 MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our draft kit, premium rankings, player projections and outlooks, our top sleepers, dynasty and prospect rankings, 20 preseason and in-season lineup tools, and over 200 days of expert DFS research and tools. Sign Up Now!


Why Did Jack Climb?

Even though he finished fifth in the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year voting, Flaherty was mostly an afterthought to the aforementioned Acuña, Soto, and Buehler.  But as the offseason went on,  the fantasy world woke up to just how much of a tremendous season the 22-year old rookie had put together. While only earning eight wins in his 151 innings, the strikeout ability was what really jumped off the page and ultimately led to Flaherty's climb up draft boards:

182 K - 10.85 K/9 - 29.6% K-rate

For comparison's sake, Flaherty's K/9 and K% both placed him at No. 10 among starting pitchers with 150 or more innings - putting him on the same level as Blake Snell, Patrick Corbin, and Charlie Morton. But it wasn't just the gaudy strikeout numbers that drove Flaherty's popularity, as his underlying statistics seemed to support the breakout, with batters posting a .199 BA against him that was right in line with a .205 xBA, as well as a .281 wOBA that was virtually identical to their .279 xwOBA.

Factor in Flaherty putting up these numbers as only a 22-year old and it's easy to see why fantasy players of all formats moved him so far up their rankings.


Falling Down the Beanstalk

But with 2019 came the cold reality of regression that often awaits second-year players, as the league will adjust to players that now have a book on them; leaving it to the players to return serve and adjust back. But after entering the year seen as an ace-in-waiting, Flaherty has instead spent the first half of this season sputtering. The strikeouts were still there - though at a lower rate than the year before - as Flaherty has managed to punch out 107 batters over his 97 frames.  But his 4.64 ERA is over a run higher than the year before, with an xFIP that has also risen by almost a full run.

Flaherty has also only managed four wins in his 18 starts from the first half, being backed by a Cardinals offense that has only given him  4.72 runs of support per game - a mark good for 69th among pitchers who have had at least ten starts in 2019. And it isn't just Flaherty whom the Cardinals have failed to support, as they've quietly been one of the league's worst offenses since the beginning of May. They are posting team totals since then that are in the bottom three of the league in SLG, OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+.

Playing on an increasingly offensively-challenged team, can Flaherty still bounce back to return some of the high costs that were paid for him on draft day? Or is now the time to cut your losses and trade him to an owner who still remembers the promises that Flaherty's name conjured in the spring?


Finding More Magic

While only four wins and an ERA close to five isn't ideal, particularly given his draft cost, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Flaherty still has time to turn his season around. For one, while lower than last year, his strikeout numbers are still above average, with a 26.4% K-rate and 9.93 K/9 that are both in the top-20 of qualified pitchers. And while his 1.86 HR/9 is a far cry from the 1.19 mark he posted last year, there is hope for some positive-regression, as his 20.0% HR/FB is five points higher than where it sat in 2018 and is currently fifth-highest among qualified starters in 2019.

But if Flaherty wants to fully unlock the potential of the ace waiting underneath, then a reexamination of his pitch mix may be needed, as significant changes were made to what had previously found success in 2018. Flaherty upped his overall four-seam fastball usage from 40% to 48.4% in 2019. This increased usage has come at the expense of his slider and two-seam fastball - with the slider's usage dropping from 29.9% to 26.9%, while the sinker has gone from 15.9% to 10.9% - and the results have been less than stellar. While both pitches have retained very similar strikeout numbers from the year before, they have also both seen 1.5% increases in their barrel-rates against, as well as significant increases in SLG and wOBA.

However, it's Flaherty's curveball, in particular to left-handed batters, which needs the most doctoring, as its performance has suffered considerably since being a dominant pitch for him in 2018. While his overall usage of the pitch stayed virtually the same, Flaherty upped his usage to lefties from 17.1% in 2018 to 21.3% in 2019. This was understandable given that in 2018 the pitch had a 53.1% K-rate against left-handers, along with a 0.0% barrel-rate. But the increased usage has not brought increased success, with the K-rate of Flaherty's curve dropping all the way to 15%, and now with a 10.2% barrel-rate. Getting his curveball back to form would go a long way towards getting Flaherty back on the track of an ascending Ace.

Even as 2019 has so far been a disappointment for owners who drafted him as a rotation anchor, Flaherty will continue to be a fantasy asset as long as he continues posting top-20 strikeout numbers. But wins may be hard come by as the Cardinals continue their sink in mediocrity, and a 1.23 WHIP and 4.64 ERA isn't helping anyone's ratios. But if Flaherty can get his breaking pitches back to their 2018 levels, then Jack may still have time to become a giant in the second half.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice

More Recent Articles


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Conference Championships Matchups Analysis

Welcome to our NFL Conference Championships matchups analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering both of the AFC and NFC contests from the Sunday slate, helping you make the best decisions for your DFS contests this weekend. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries... Read More

Conference Championships Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More

Running Back ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, a sure-fire player is expected to reward his owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they end up as a season-long dud, though,... Read More

Dynasty Players to Sell in 2020

Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano share their top sell candidates for dynasty football leagues in the 2020 fantasy football preseason. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210,... Read More

Biggest Surprises of 2019: Tight End

The 2019 NFL season was anything but predictable. I mean, the Tennessee Titans made the AFC title game! Andrew Luck retired right before the season! [Insert one of many, many other things here, because all lists need three items but I couldn't decide between all the possible third options.] One position where things at the... Read More

Wide Receiver ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, as sure-fire players are expected to reward his owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they put up a season-long dud, though, you'll... Read More

Biggest Busts of 2019: Quarterback

The 2019 NFL season is over, and it's time to look back on what happened. 2019 was a year where some quarterbacks -- Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen -- leaped up to the top of the fantasy charts, while other guys faded from where they were expected to perform. Today, I want to talk about three... Read More

Four and Out: Fantasy Outlooks for Divisional Round Losers

For the four teams that were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, the offseason has begun. For many fantasy football owners, the days have already started counting down to next season. Owners in dynasty leagues have started to mull over their decisions.  How some guys perform in the playoffs can certainly alter... Read More

Quarterback ADP Winners and Losers: 2019 Season Review

I've always believed that it is easier to lose a fantasy championship than to win it on draft day. It makes sense, as sure-fire players are expected to reward their owners with a lower risk-factor than the other way around and thus they're always drafter earlier. If they put up a season-long dud, though, you'll... Read More

Biggest Busts of 2019: Wide Receivers

After a very interesting season of fantasy football action, many owners were left with a bitter taste in their mouth from a few of the “elite” NFL wide receivers. While Michael Thomas dominated and Julio Jones was his usual reliable self, not all was good if you played it safe by taking a receiver early.... Read More

Quarterback Risers and Fallers: 2019 Season Review

This article will examine the biggest risers and fallers at the quarterback position, which proved to be the most impactful in fantasy leagues as is often the case. Of the top-25 players in fantasy this season, 18 of them played the QB position and none of the 18 scored less than 280 fantasy points on... Read More

XFL Fantasy Football Rankings (Preseason)

As of this writing, there is exactly one month until XFL regular-season action begins. On February 8, the latest upstart professional league will kickoff (again) with spring football. It goes without saying that we hope it goes better than the first time, back in 2001, and lasts longer than the AAF. Before you settle in... Read More

Wide Receiver Risers and Fallers: 2019 Season Review

We continue our series covering the biggest risers and fallers of 2019 with the wide receiver position. I'll look at both 2018 and 2019 statistical outcomes from every player, contrast their performances, calculate differences in each category and come up with the most prominent names going forward. This past season, receivers didn't dominate in fantasy,... Read More

2020 Early Sleepers and Draft Targets: Running Back

It is going to be almost impossible to win your fantasy football league in 2020 without a strong set of running backs, even in today’s pass-happy NFL. While quarterbacks and wide receivers have gained importance in fantasy football in recent years, building your fantasy roster around your running back corps is still one of the... Read More

Top Rebound Candidates for 2020

Is it way too early to be thinking about fantasy football for the 2020 season? Yes. Are we going to do it anyway? You bet we are. While coaches, coordinators, players, and rookies will change some things, you're still going to be able to get an idea of where certain players are going to be... Read More