Statcast pitching analysis: Why rookies Jared Jones and Christian Scott are fantasy baseball gold

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To make a great stock, you have to reduce and filter the components into a strainer to get the essence of the flavor. Let’s do that with the pitching data that’s been simmering for about a month. We’re putting the pitchers through a series of statistical filters so we can see who are the truly elite. Though only one has an roster rate under 50%, and one is near it, there’s a newcomer on the seen who, as of May 6, is rostered in just one third of Yahoo leagues.

First, the process. I want misses on swings in the zone and swings out of the zone (WIZSOOZ) to add up to over 45% (44% is average). I want a helpful K% of at least 23%. Next, I’ll filter for an xwOBA under .300 (about .330 is average). Since I think the reason hitters struggle today is the high fastball, I want pitchers who can win there with less vertical movement than average (better ride). All data is via Statcast/Baseball Savant.

None of these hurdles are particularly high. But add them all together and we have just 13 pitchers. Again, with the few exceptions, you can’t just pick these guys up. But you may be able to trade for them, using their roster rates as a proxy for whether they are actually gettable or whether you’d have to pry these pitchers, as they say, out of your leaguemate’s cold, dead hands.

On the unattainable/forget it list (90% rostership or greater):

Let’s assume these pitchers (above) would require overpays. If you can afford the surplus hitting, go for it with any of them.

Now, on to the next tier:

Obviously, I’m saying every pitcher listed in this article should be 100% rostered, or if he happens to be available, quickly added by you. Chop chop.

We’ve talked so much about Crawford, or at least I have, going back to the winter. The things I wanted to see with him were discussed when I wrote about him here in March:

“This is my breakout pick. His expected ERA was top 87th percentile — great. He has 95th percentile RPMs, which I value now more than velocity. He can throw up in the zone and his four-seamer was just utterly dominant in 2023 (.177 expected average). He has a sweeper and slider that measure great (whiff rates 38%+) and just has to use them more (combined 12%).”

So what’s happened? His sweeper is basically his slider and he’s using that sweeper 24% of the time (double 2023). The xBA against it is .206. The fastball remains essentially extra-base proof (.025 ISO). So the dream was perfectly realized.

Pepiot’s poison is his riding fastball and his great ability to get missed swings in the zone. How/why would this change short of an injury? There is nothing fluky about this.

Jones is just a revelation. He’s as good as Skubal, which is saying a lot. His WIZSOOZ is 64.4, almost 50% better than average. He may have the best fastball now in baseball. The league is hitting .176 against it with 34.8% whiffs, which is great for a slider. Just silly, silly stuff.

Lopez is just clearing every bar but he completed the obstacle course. Lopez has become a two-pitch (fastball, slider) pitcher but they both seem to be at least double-plus (70 on the scouting scale). I have the least confidence in him but am still confident he’ll be an asset going forward.

Now the guys who are not only attainable but may be available in your league. In fact, the odds say at least one of the following is:

I’m signing off on all of them for free on waivers, 100%.

Detmers is getting misses in the zone and chases. We all know those are the most important things about pitching. He’s at 55 in the combined percentages, which is 25% better than average (massive edge).

Crochet is on the worst hitting team in the league (White Sox) so wins are tough. I get it. It’s a problem. He had some blow ups and has an ERA that’s well ahead of where his 1.01 WHIP says it should be — for pitchers, WHIP is the dog and ERA is the tail that WHIP wags, generally. While Crochet has great spin, his movement on the fastball is just good. Thus, it is not as effective as similar high-rev pitchers up in the zone.

I prefer the lower-rostered Gil because he’s on a better team in the Yankees and has better movement in relation to his similar high revs. So please check to see if you can just add Gil.

The big newcomer on the list is Christian Scott of the Mets. He finally made his debut after dominating at Triple-A in most regards except for allowing homers (he gave up seven in 25.1 innings for Syracuse this season).

He’s available in two-thirds of leagues. I’d take him over Gil because he’s in a better pitching park. In his one start (6.2 IP, one run, at Tampa), his WIZSOOZ was an absurd 63.4%, which is Jones territory. And Scott’s fastball actually has more active spin (according to Statcast), and, somehow, even better ride. If he’s not on waivers, I’d trade a top 100 hitter for him, starting out as low as I could on the scale. I know that’s seemingly crazy. I never say this. But he just blew up Statcast and I feel it’s likely he’ll be a top 30 starter. Nothing is guaranteed, but any discount you can get on a top 50 starter is worth it — you never want to pay for a player’s upside.

We may soon get Paul Skenes, who I’m fairly certain will crack this list given he’s the top pitching prospect in baseball. It’s hard to imagine he could be better than Jones or Scott. If he is… LFG, Pittsburgh!

(Top photo of Christian Scott: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports)

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