2013 Fantasy Baseball Rookie Report, Week 18: Cole vs. Fernandez; Myers shines
Sundays in Miami are usually reserved for, I’d assume, going to the beach as well as detailing the exploits of a certain serial killer. However, last Sunday those events were put on hold, at least temporarily, for a pitchers’ duel between two of the best young arms in the game. Gerrit Cole‘s Pirates faced Jose Fernandez‘s Marlins, and the two rookies didn’t disappoint. Cole threw seven innings, allowing six base-runners and striking out seven. Fernandez did even better – eight innings of two earned runs with 13 strikeouts, no walks and just five hits.
While Cole was dominant in his own right, Fernandez was en fuego. Of his 97 pitches, 88 of them were either a fastball or curveball. He threw his curve for a strike 86 percent (!) of the time and got 12 whiffs on it. Hitters only put five of the 42 curves in play, and they didn’t record a hit on any one of them. Fernandez ended 13 at-bats with a curveball, and eight times he struck out the batter. The only rough inning Fernandez had was the second, when he gave up both runs and allowed three hits – all on first-pitch fastballs. This isn’t a surprise, because he throws first pitch fastballs over 50 percent of the time to lefties and almost 75 percent of the time to righties. But I’ll give credit where credit’s due, and Fernandez didn’t get rattled at all. After only recording one whiff in the second inning he recorded four, six, two and four, respectively, in the next four innings.
This great performance by Fernandez shouldn’t come as a shock, even though the rookie just turned 21 today (Wednesday). The rookie has improved his strikeout percentage every month in the majors, and his walk percentage has decreased from almost 11 in April to 8 in May/June and down to 7 in July. Pitching at home in Miami he has a 1.57 ERA, 2.53 FIP and a .174 opponents’ average in 63 innings. And since the beginning of June Fernandez has compiled a 1.87 ERA in 67.1 innings with 72 strikeouts and just 21 walks.
But not to be outdone, the 22-year-old Cole hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his nine starts, and he has six quality starts. Yes, it’s a small sample, but Cole has shown some improvement just in July compared to his June performance. Below are two charts from Brooks Baseball of Cole’s pitch selection in June and then July:
Cole has decreased his sinker usage and started throwing more off-speed stuff, especially his slider, which he has a 47 percent strikeout rate on in July. Cole ended 38 at-bats in June on a sinker, but only three of them were strikeouts. In July that number fell all the way to 27 at-bats and just one strikeout. Cole threw 39 curveballs in June and recorded just seven strikeouts on the pitch, but in July he threw 39 again and recorded 12 strikeouts. Cole’s off-speed stuff has been essential to his success and growth as a Major League pitcher, and you should pursue both he and Fernandez in any keeper league.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been on fire in the past month and a half, and most of that success is due to their great pitching staff but Wil Myers has been great in his 35 games as a Major Leaguer. Myers is hitting .331/.368/.532 after Tuesday’s game with below average walk (6.6) and strikeout (22.4) rates. Myers’s BABIP is a hot .386, but it’s not as unsustainable as you might think. He had a career .340 minor league BABIP, and his batted-ball profile is very similar to his minor league profile. He’s hitting more line drives, however, which is always a good thing. In the Minors Myers hit infield fly balls at an 8.4 percent rate, and that number has fallen all the way to 2.9 in the Majors. The Major League average for infield fly balls is 9.5 percent, so while the 2.9 is unsustainable he’s always hit for a better than average rate there.
Like always, we can’t expect Myers to continue to hit like he is, but the power he’s shown (seven homers, .201 ISO) is very real and he’s already added five steals even though his season-best in the minors was just 12. Myers’ other plate discipline numbers are something to worry about, but I don’t think anyone expected him to hit over .300 this season. Be happy with his homers and (hopefully) steals the rest of the way.