2019 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers: Overly Cautious

by Tyler Thompson
2019 fantasy baseball overvalued pitchers

Something weird is happening to me in drafts this year.

Don't get me wrong, I understand as much as the next fantasy baseballer that boring drafts win championships. I've made a fantasy living off of that in fantasy sports of all genres. Baseball, football, golf, Big Brother - you name it!

However, this year presents a different challenge for me when it comes to starting pitchers. It appears as though I am actually higher on the risky, upside arms than the expert consensus as you can see from my undervalued pitchers' article. Meanwhile, some of the high-floor arms are getting drafted a little higher than I would expect (or want) them to be.

I was surprised at some of the starters that I felt were overvalued because I am typically the one drafting these types of guys to be inning-eaters. However, in an ever-changing landscape, you have to be willing to adapt on the fly and zig where others zag. So, it appears that this year I will be drafting some boom-or-bust teams. There's nothing wrong with that and I will just have to find my inning-eaters elsewhere!

Therefore, I present some inning-eaters that are overvalued in drafts. Again, while this theme is dramatically different from my typical draft strategy, I cannot deny that I will own little-to-no shares of these pitchers.

Aside: Where did the term 'inning-eaters' even come from? How does it differ from a 'workhorse'? I think all workhorses are inning-eaters, but not all inning-eaters are workhorses. The whole finger-thumb thing. Bartender!

2019 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers

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Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs (50, 34)

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It pains me to say that I won't be drafting Hendricks this year. Why? Because I've been a Hendricks fan since 2013. I will be showing my youth here, but Hendricks was on my first championship team back in 2014 when the only league I played in was a home league. Ah, the good ol' days, when I could focus all of my attention on one league. Six leagues later...

Oak nuggins, so why the hate on Hendricks from this author? Well, all I want to say is this - 34th is too high for a boring option. I get wanting to draft inning-eaters to round out the middle of your rotation but as your SP3 or SP4? Come on, you aren't gaining anything. It would be the equivalent of drafting someone like Shin-Soo Choo as your OF2. Like, it won't hurt you, but your ceiling for success suffers.

Last year, it was a 3.44 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over almost 200 innings. That makes the 7.3 K/9 doable because of the number of innings. However, what if those ratios get worse or he suffers an injury? You are suffering in the K-department while gaining no steam elsewhere. Steamer projects Hendricks for a 4.04 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, which is almost fair considering Hendricks' underlying ratios last year (3.78 FIP, 3.87 xFIP, and 4.03 SIERA). That's basically a streamer on which you are spending high draft capital. Even if we split the difference and call it a 3.74 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, with a 7.3 K/9, that's not going to win you any leagues as an SP3.

While I want to continue my belief in Hendricks, the draft price is going to be out of my reach in 2019.

Kyle Freeland, Colorado Rockies (79, 60)

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This list is Kyles-only! Jokes aside, I found few differences between Freeland and Hendricks other than the home ballparks. That would explain the ADP difference between the two, but not quite the ADP difference relative to the industry-average considering his masterful 2018 season. How can I rate a pitcher that had 32 starts with a 2.85 ERA as an SP7? It becomes especially clear to me that I am in the minority on this when I search his name on Twitter and see him compared to youngsters like Mike Foltynewicz and Jose Berrios.

Well, not a lot about his 2018 season screamed 'repeatable' to me. I understand watching his spring starts, seeing his velocity up, and expecting him to continue developing. However, we've been burned by that before and he's got a long way to go to revolutionize his statistics from 2018. First off, we are looking at an xFIP and SIERA over 4.20. That's a far cry from the sub-3.00 ERA we saw last year. He's getting hit hard as made apparent by his 32% Hard-Hit rate despite only having a Zone% of 40% (league average is 45%). So, when he throws the ball in the zone, he gets hit hard in a park that is conducive to high BABIPs. Additionally, with an absurd left-on-base percentage (LOB%) of 83%, there's only one direction to go.

So, let's imagine a world where he permits a 77% LOB% (still way above league average) and maintains his average 12.2% K-BB%. That yields something like a 3.75 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in a hitter-friendly ballpark. That's not even full regression. With Steamer projections even more bearish on him, Freeland could be in for a rough year. As much as I enjoyed watching him dominate against the Cubs in the wildcard game, it's going to be foolish to expect anything close to his 2018 production this year.

Sean Newcomb, Atlanta Braves (80, 65)

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It's always scary when the irrational Braves fan doesn't like one of his guys. However, I have to keep it real and say that Newcomb is outside of my top 8 potential starters for Atlanta this year. Injury risks and service time issues aside, Newcomb would not be in my starting five.

Why do you ask? Well, for starters, he profiles more as a bullpen arm to me. He's got a decent strikeout rate for a starter, but that walk rate is brutal and not improving with time. In fact, he's hovered around a 12.5% BB% since his A-ball days back in 2015. Next up, we have a lack of a strong secondary pitch. He's been going back and forth between his curveball, changeup, and slider over the past two years and the league has figured each of those pitches out. So, with his four-seamer as his only method of throwing strikes consistently, he could be in real trouble.

Everything I see here tells me to fade Newk. The home/away splits are not in his favor for potentially half of his starts. The second half numbers tell me that the league figured him out. He consistently gives up homers as seen by the 11.1% career HR/FB ratio. Therefore, I'm going to let him be someone else's problem. (Maybe that's because, for my real-life team, he is already my problem. I still have nightmares about the Braves trading Andrelton Simmons for him!)

Zack Godley, Arizona Diamondbacks (81, 64)

Strangely enough, Godley may be the starter I'm most likely to draft among this group. There are underlying statistics that would say his 2019 will be better than his 2018 and his second half told an odd story of a worsening ERA despite an improving K/BB and wOBA allowed.

However, at his current ranking, people are buying the turnaround as if it has already happened. While I do believe he can get back to a 4.00 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, I don't think there's much upside to project. He still gets hit hard consistently and has always been prone to giving up dingers. Shoot, he gave up two homers to one guy (Travis Shaw) in four innings of Spring Training work the other day. If his groundball rate continues to trend in the wrong direction, that would spell absolute doom for Godley.

At the end of the day, I was hoping to get Godley on the cheap this draft season considering what he did last year. However, his draft price reflects that of a pitcher who, after a poor season, will outperform his projections. That's a dangerous venture and, unfortunately, I will have to sit out on the Godley sweepstakes.

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