Tout Table: Evaluating Five Surprise Pitchers

Asking the Touts to put their pitching evaluation chops on display is always a recipe for success, and the did not disappoint.

Which surprising arm has the greatest likelihood of maintaining success and which is slated for the biggest fall among Matthew Boyd, Danny Duffy, Taijuan Walker, Huascar Ynoa and Kyle Gibson?

Matt Williams (NBC Sports Edge, @MattWi77iams): Taijuan Walker has seen a bump in velocity over the offseason that has paid dividends so far this year, however he has been getting into (and escaping trouble) after getting to the fifth and sixth innings, in addition to handing out too many free passes. This is something he will need to overcome in order to maintain his early season success. I believe there is true improvement here, but I believe we are likely to see a backslide for Walker leaving him closer to the 3.75-4.00 ERA mark than his current 2.20. On the other hand, Kyle Gibson looks like he may be able to maintain his current level of production. He is tossing his new cut fastball 14 percent of the time with 38.5 percent whiff rate that is making his slider all the more effective (51.3 percent whiff rate). Gibson uses his sinker to keep hitters honest and he seems to have a recipe for success that could sustain to a degree, but still expect regression to mid-3’s at minimum.

Alex Fast (Pitcher List, @AlexFast8): I’m a simple man. I see Matthew Boyd in the prompt, I’m going to go ahead and write about him. What made Boyd stick out a few years ago was …well the HR’s he gave up but also the incredible amount of swing and miss that came with his slider. Here we are now in ’21, the HR issue has largely been abated but the swing and miss is largely gone thanks to a change in approach (no pun intended). If Boyd can utilize that SL the way that he has in years past while maintaining the gains he’s made with the CH, I think he could not only maintain the success he’s currently having but actually build on the pitch. In terms of who is slated for the biggest fall, I think you could theoretically say Boyd as well! If the SL doesn’t return to form and the CH starts to get barreled up a bit more, goodness knows that defense isn’t going to help him, the fall from grace could be quick. If I can’t choose the same guy twice, I think I’ll go ahead and say Kyle Gibson. There’s a bizarre irony to the fact that the new pitch, the cutter; arguably responsible for a lot of his success, is by many metrics his worst pitch. I think pitching in TEX is certainly going to help him mitigate the long ball but a sinker led arsenal like his can always regress quick.

Doug Dennis (BaseballHQ, @dougdennis41): xERA to date: Ynoa 3.23; Gibson 3.82; Duffy 4.01; Walker 4.20; Boyd 4.56. xERA projection for balance of the season: Gibson 3.97; Walker 4.20; Boyd 4.27; Ynoa 4.38; Duffy 4.53. Back of the envelope, this narrows it to Gibson and Ynoa. Gibson has had little room for error over his career and seems less than likely to me to maintain at anything under a 4.00. Ynoa–you have to like that 3.23 so far, but it isn’t really enough innings just yet. The 4.38 projection gives me pause, but it has been coming down from a hideous number at the start of the year. And if we really want to look at a longer track history, well, the others on this list have that and it is not all that pretty. I expect all of this list to have a 4.20+ xERA for the balance of the year, except Ynoa. I have no idea if Ynoa can sustain it, but right now, Ynoa has it all going on, and it isn’t the smoke/mirrors of the other pitchers on this list. So until proven otherwise, put me in the Ynoa camp.

Brad Johnson (Patreon/BaseballATeam, @BaseballATeam): This is a meaty prompt. I think we all could burn 1500 words easily on this topic so I’ll try to keep it very basic. I have Duffy projected to be the best of this bunch so long as he maintains his velocity – a 3.85 ERA and 9.50 K/9. Boyd projects the worst – a 4.90 ERA and 8.25 K/9. The cratered whiff rate is both incredibly worrisome and also a potential source for positive regression that I’ve not accounted for in my projection. Gibby is next worst – a 4.65 ERA and 7.9 K/9. Walker is the hardest to eval because his success these past partial seasons has been tied to a very low BABIP. His peripherals are those of a high BABIP pitcher. I think he’ll collapse entirely (sell, sell, sell), but my projection splits the difference at a 3.65 ERA and 8.5 K/9. Ynoa, with his lack of track record, could fall anywhere. The K’s appear to be real. I worry about walks and workload.

Patrick Davitt (BaseballHQ, @patrickdavitt): I’ll take Ynoa, but with an ERA nearer 3.50 than 2.50, as it is now; too much luck there. There are reasons to like Boyd in this crew, as you’ll see in many of the other comments, but he’s burned me too many times for me to recommend him. That will probably mean a Cy Young this season. Duffy is much the same for me. I had him on a couple of rosters back in 2014 and hung on too long. Gibson seems much the most likely to crater—meaning an ERA over 4 and a WHIP in the mid-1.20s to low 1.30s..

Jeff Zimmerman (Fangraphs, The Process, @jeffwzimmerman): My projections have them graded on an ERA equivalent talent as Duffy (3.41 ERA), Ynoa (3.44 ERA), Gibson (3.75 ERA), Boyd (3.81 ERA), and Walker (3.95 ERA). With Ynoa and Duffy so close, I’ll go Duffy based on I think he could throw more innings.

Jim Bowden (Fantasy Alarm, @JimBowdenGM): Fall goes to Kyle Gibson and Mattew Boyd for me

Phil Hertz (BaseballHQ, @prhz50): I’ll go with Ynoa. Unlike the others, he’s the new kid on the block, and the bumps are going to come as the scouting reports grow.

Anthony Perri (Fantistics, @Anthony_Perri): Huascar Ynoa is going to regress as his 2.09 ERA is not sustainable with his .221 BABIP against and 91% LOB%. His xFIP of 3.07, is more sustainable. Love the almost 10% K/9 rates which we saw from him in the minors, the plus has been his ability to pound the strike zone with a BB/9 rate that has dropped from the low 4s to only 2.01 this season.

Ariel Cohen (CBS Sports, @ATCNY): Taijuan Walker will be the most likely to maintain it. He’s enjoying the best strikeout rate of his career at 24%, with an uptick in CSW and SwStr% even from last year’s excellent rates. His fastball velo is up a MPH from last year too. Those skeptics will point to his not as good 11% walk rate, but 6 of 18 walks thrown this year came from a single start in Chicago with cold weather, so I’ll give him a pass. Kyle Gibson to me is most likely to regress. His SIERA is above 4, HR/FB% looks really lucky at 7%, and he has pitched to a .244 BABIP. I smell blow-up.

Anthony Aniano (Rotoballer, @AAnianoFantasy): Taijuan Walker is the pitcher with the best chance of maintaining his success. After struggling with injury and inconsistency he has maintained his strikeout and walk numbers from last seasons mini-breakout while greatly reducing his HR rate (from 1.35 HR/9 to a miniscule 0.22). His fastball velocity is up slightly from years past and his slider has remained a consistent pitch for him. However his success over the last 2 seasons does coincide with his development of a split finger fastball which he uses almost 14% of the time. The addition of that 3rd pitch bodes well for his maintained success. Kyle Gibson is the most likely to regress. He is 33 years old with a lifetime 4.48 ERA and 4.10 XFIP. Currently his ERA sits at 2.28 with a XFIP of 3.80. However keep in mind his BABIP is currently a career low of .244. When that number starts to approach his norm (career BABIP is over .300) Gibson numbers will begin to falter.

Jon Hegglund (Baseball Prospectus, @JonHegglund): I don’t think Gibson will continue his current dominance, but I do think he’s made some meaningful and sustainable changes to his arsenal–namely, the addition of a cutter as a primary pitch. He’s also coming off a healthy offseason after several years of battling with ulcerative colitis–a disease that completely sap one’s energy for weeks at a time and make it difficult to keep up levels of fitness and strength required for major-league pitching. I can see him finishing with an ERA in the high 3s and a WHIP around 1.25. On the flip side, it’s hard for me to see Ynoa keeping this success up once the book gets out on him. It could be a legit breakout, but I’m not buying in just yet.

Mike Podhorzer (Fangraphs, @MikePodhorzer): It’s as simple as looking at the gaps between ERA and SIERA. Mathew Boyd’s is the largest gap, suggesting he’s due for the most significant regression. His strikeouts have disappeared, so if he’s not preventing runs, he’s doing absolutely nothing positive for fantasy teams. Deadened ball or not, no one could maintain a 1.9% HR/FB rate. Huascar Ynoa is the only pitcher of the five whose success is (mostly) legit, as his ERA-SIERA gap is by far the smallest, while his skills are strong. As a two-pitch pitcher, there’s clearly risk here, but he hasn’t had to ride as much of a luck wave so far as the other four.

Frank Stampfl (Fantasy Pros, @Roto_Frank): I know he’s had a few bumps recently but I’m going to with Danny Duffy as the most likely to maintain success. His fastball is averaging 93.7 MPH this season, which is his highest since 2016 when he pitched to a 3.51 ERA. Also, we’ll probably see some regression here but Duffy’s 14.2% swinging strike rate is tied for 14th among qualified starting pitchers. I really like what I’ve seen in his resurgence. I’ll take Taijuan Walker as slated for the biggest fall. He saw a nice velo bump early in the season but that’s come back down plus he still walks too many and doesn’t generate enough whiffs to mitigate that. Walker has also only allowed one home run this season, which will change as the weather heats up across baseball.

Shelly Verougstraete (Dynasty Guru, @ShellyV_643): As much fun as it has been to see Ynoa pitch (and hit) this year, he easily is the guy most likely to fall the farthest. He is a two-pitch pitcher (four-seam/slider) and has one of the largest discrepancies between his ERA and FIP. Also, facing the Phillies, Nationals (without Soto), and the Cubbies really helped out at the beginning of the season. I think Duffy has the chance to keep up (or at least very close) his current pace. The bump up in velocity added to the fact he gets to face the AL Central regularly seals the deal for me.

Chris Liss (Rotowire, @Chris_Liss): Boyd was good in 2019, pitched hurt last year. I see him keeping it up, but the Tigers won’t offer much support. Walker was a good prospect, finally healthy, added velo. Probably take him. Ynoa has less track record, and the two older vets are more likely to regress closer to career norms IMO.

Scott Wilderman (OnRoto, @): The first thing I look at is BABIP, then HR/FB, then other ratio stats – K/9, BB/9. Boyd and Walker are going to plummet — both have unsustainable BABIP and HR/FB. Boyd doesn’t strike out enough batters to weather those indicators reverting to mean, and Walker walks too many. Gibson is just a little behind them — his WHIP is on it’s way up and his K-rate is a little low for today’s game. Duffy’s HR/FB is going to jump, so I would expect his ERA to rise, but he’ll be serviceable. Ynoa is the most likely to maintain decent numbers. One caveat, though: for any individual pitcher, there is a sample size problem with BABIP and HR/FB. Some pitchers will post unfathomable BABIP or HR/FB numbers over a full season. We just don’t know which ones.

Rob Leibowitz (Rotoheaven, @rob_leibowitz): Some common themes abound with all the pitchers. High left-on-base rates, suppressed BABIP, extreme lower HR/FB percentages for most of them and for the veterans of the group with the exception of perhaps Duffy, not seeing any changes in pitch quality. Gibson, Boyd, and Walker are all sell high types who are bound to regress and we may have already seen their best. I agree that Boyd, the fly-baller who doesn’t miss bats who has had HR/FB rates closer to 20% for the past two seasons is likely to be the hardest hit. Ynoa, the youngster of the group, is throwing strikes for the first time since A-ball. I think we’re seeing “first-time-through-the-league” success with him and already giving up home runs with great frequency. Duffy is the one intriguing pitcher to me. He has shown skills in the past to keep his walk rates solid and is doing that now. Whenever he has accomplished that, he’s managed ERAs under 4.00, but that was 2016-2017. I’m also seeing slight upticks in velocity of his pitches across the board. Yes, we’ve likely seen his best too, but it might be an overall solid season. Of course, one can’t ever trust him to stay healthy, so there’s that too.

Toby Guevin (BatFlipCrazy Podcast, @batflipcrazy): I think Ynoa and Duffy have the best chance of sustaining, since they’ve both experienced fairly dramatic increases in their fastball velocity which has resulted in pronounced changes to their underlying skills. Ynoa is due some BABIP regression but should still maintain a good ERA. Control has been his major issue in the past, but he’s generating more chases outside the zone, which will help limit the walks. Duffy probably looks the most sustainable with very strong skills across the board (o-swing, SwStr, z-contact) stemming from his velocity increase. Gibson is probably next, since his cutter has helped improve a major weakness (contact in the zone and reliance on hitters chasing), though he’s due some HR/FB regression. Both Walker and Boyd are the least likely to sustain, I think, since they’re benefiting from some luck (BABIP, HR/FB) that should regress as the season continues. Walker also has control issues and they’re both below average across K% metrics.

Michael Rathburn (Rotowire, @FantasyRath): Taijuan Walker has been extremely lucky this year. His low k rate, high b rate, and low hr rate all point towards a pitcher looking at serious regression. Also his XERA and XFIP differentials are one of the highest for all qualified starting pitchers. I like Duffy to keep it going. His high k rate, low bb rate and high BABIP suggest he will maintain success.

Peter Kreutzer (Ask Rotoman, Fantasy Baseball Guide, @kroyte): The question is based on the idea that all these guys are over their heads right now, and they are, but some are more over than others. We don’t know about Ynoa’s head, where it’s at, because his track record is short, but we know he’s allowing homers and he’s only got two pitches, so at some point he’s going to break. We also know that Matthew Boyd is striking out fewer and walking fewer without a noticeable change in velocity, a low HR rate and a low BABIP rate. He’s my pick to fail most, when the hits start falling. Danny Duffy, on the other hand, is striking out more and walking fewer while allowing fewer homers. Gotta like that. The velo is up a little over last year, but not over his career norms, so this seems more like an change in approach that’s working. Or a soft schedule. Walker and Gibson will come back to earth, but shouldn’t be a disaster.

Tristan H. Cockcroft (ESPN, @SultanofStat): The toughest part of this question is that it seems a rest-of-year query, but making the decision based on the short term — especially in mixed leagues — might be wisest. Ynoa’s skill set has its limits and his expected stats are way off of reality, but his 96-97 mph fastball/slider mix is getting the job done today, and there’s merit to the “juice-the-orange” angle when gauging similar examples like these. At the same time, he’s probably also the one with the lowest floor when hitters eventually figure him out. Full year, I’m going gut feel: Walker keeps it up, and Boyd, whose stat line is littered with warning signs, collapses.

Charlie Wiegert (CDM Sports, @GFFantasySports): Staying healthy, which has been difficult for these guys, is the big question when talking about the rest of the season. But I think the biggest upside would be Walker. He has the stuff to put up good numbers in strike outs, ERA and Whip, and the Mets should give him the run support to get 10-15 wins.

Scott Swanay (FantasyBaseballSherpa, @fantasy_sherpa): The main criteria I’d suggest for a comparison like this: (1) age/track record (i.e. – how familiar are hitters with them), (2) whether they’re recovering from an injury, (3) whether they’ve added a new pitch or made a significant change to their pitch distribution that hitters may not yet have adjusted to, (4) whether they’ve added velocity, and (5) how much “luck” (as defined by the difference between their actual stats and their expected stats) has had to do with their early-season success. Given that, for this group I think Boyd and Duffy are most likely to maintain their early-season success, followed by Gibson, with Walker and Ynoa least likely to do so.

Vlad Sedler (Fantasy Guru, @rotogut): Don’t believe any of these pitchers fall completely out of the realm of fantasy relevancy but I do think it’s highly likely that Matt Boyd will have some rough stretches forthcoming. A guy with a career ERA of nearly 5.00 sitting below 2.00 along with a 4.90 xFIP and a career-low strikeout rate (17.9%) is bound for some trouble. It doesn’t help that he plays for one of baseball’s worst offenses who rarely provide their starters with ample run support. Though Danny Duffy has a similar career profile, his success will likely be sustained. Velocity back up to his heyday, lowest barrel rate in years and just fantastic control overall. He’s the one from this group I have the most confidence in going forward.

Todd Zola (Mastersball, @toddzola): Gratuitous plug alert: I dissected each hurler in my latest Z Files and concluded Duffy’s velo bump bodes well for continued success while I’m cautiously optmistic Taijuan Walker is still getting better post TJS since last season was only two months of action. On the other end, despite an increase in strikeouts compared to last season, I’m most concerned about Kyle Gibson.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *