2015 Fantasy Baseball: Rookie Report — Rest-of-Season Pitcher Rankings
The rookie pitcher crop hasn’t been as wildly successful or as hype-worthy as the rookie hitter crop. There have been several outstanding performances, whether one game (Heston) or through several starts (McCullers, Syndergaard). The following rookie pitchers are the only ones I feel comfortable – and I’m reaching on some – recommending for rostering in deeper leagues. (Stats through 6/24.)
1. Lance McCullers – McCullers hasn’t let the warming Texas summer temperatures get to him, as the 21-year-old hasn’t seen any drop in his production from his May 18 debut. In seven of his eight starts McCullers has fanned at least a batter an inning, and he’s allowed more than two earned runs only twice. His .265 BABIP and only one home run allowed show that his true ERA level’s possibly closer to his 3.36 xFIP. But the Astros shift as much if not more than anyone so his BABIP should stay lower than what you might expect. He’s got two nuts swing-and-miss pitches, and on his two off-speed pitches he’s allowed one extra-base hit all season.
2. Noah Syndergaard – Thor has had a rough June, compiling a 6.75 ERA after a 1.82 May ERA. His home-run rate has almost quadrupled, but his strikeout-minus-walk rate is better than his May number. His June BABIP is also almost 200 points higher, .439 to .278. I’m willing to bet on talent here, and even in a rough month Syndergaard has two double-digit strikeout games.
3. Trevor May – Not nearly as flashy or highly publicized as the two names above him, May has been quietly very good for Minnesota. His ERA sits at 4.03, but his FIP is 3.09. His strikeout and home run rates seem legit, but his 1.83 BB/9 rate doesn’t go with his 4.10 minor-league rate. However, it seems he’s changed his pitch selection to try and walk fewer batters. His slider was the pitch he threw most often for balls, but this year he’s throwing fewer sliders and more sinkers, which has helped him increase his ground ball rate from 35 percent to 40 percent. Over his last six starts, May has 38 strikeouts and seven walks in 37 innings.
4. Chris Heston – Heston has continued his very good season into June, and most of his regression indicators (BABIP, left on base percentage, home run rate) are right around what can be considered league average. His 3.83 ERA is half a run worse than both his FIP and xFIP, so if anything he’s gotten a little unlucky. Combine those indicators with his ground ball rate of 54 percent, and that shows me that he should continue to do what he’s done so far.
5. Carlos Rodon – Rodon has steadily improved his control issues, decreasing his walk rate from 18 to 13 to 9 percent in the first three months of the season while increasing his strikeout rate from 12 to 20 to 24 percent by month. His 3.56 FIP and 3.91 xFIP sit below his 4.07 ERA thanks to a .356 seasonal BABIP. He’s throwing his slider more, which is his best pitch when it comes to getting whiffs and strikes. So better things should be ahead for Rodon.
6. Eduardo Rodriguez – Rodriguez got roughed up by Baltimore Thursday, but he struck out five and walked none. He gave up a two-run home run, but allowed a .500 BABIP and only a 17 percent left on base rate. I’m willing to forgive him for that outing. His seasonal line now sits at 35.1 innings, 32 strikeouts, 11 walks and three home runs, good for a 3.50 FIP and 3.74 xFIP. In four of his six starts he has at least five strikeouts, and he’s actually been able to pitch deep into most of his games.
7. Nate Karns – Karns’ strikeout (8.15 per nine), walk (3.6/9) and home run (0.95/9) rates are pretty much what you’d expect after looking at his minor-league numbers. His .261 BABIP and 78 percent left on base rate hint at some possible future regression coming as they’re both better than league average. But his 45 percent ground ball rate and his home run rate combat that and say it shouldn’t be too bad. He’s been remarkably consistent throughout the season allowing more than two earned runs in only four of 15 starts.