Brandon Woodruff (SP - MIL) - Woodruff had mostly validated our high ranking of him (SP22) through his first 9 starts, but #10 was an absolute gem on Friday as he allowed an Ian Happ single over 7 innings and nothing else, striking out 12. Other than a slight bump into the 13.5% range in swinging strike rate, his numbers look rather similar to last season, and this level of performance should be expected to continue.....he remains an SP2 and a threat to be a top-20 SP overall for both this year and next.
Luis Castillo (SP - CIN) - Castillo allowed 1 run on 2 hits in a complete game 3-1 win over the Cardinals on Friday, and although he only fanned 6 he generated 16 swinging strikes in 112 pitches and had a 3:1 GB:FB ratio. In short, super impressive stuff from a guy that looks like he is taking that last step into SP1 territory. He's top 5 in swinging strike%, his velocity is up again, and the GB rate is top shelf as well....the control is the only negative, and it isn't Robbie Ray, DEFCON 5 stuff, just a minor impediment to consistency. He will be in my top-12 SP for 2021.
Aaron Nola (SP - PHI) - Nola tossed a gem on Friday, allowing 3 singles and fanning 10 in a 7-inning shutout of the Marlins. It's been a bit of an odd year for Nola, who is getting much more production from his fastball than he normally does, and his changeup and curveball have switched roles both in terms of production (the change has been his best pitch this year) and usage (up 12% on the change). It's working, although he is again down in the bottom 30% in exit velocity against this year. His swinging strike rate is up a ton primarily on the strength of that change this year, and he's also profiting from an extremely low BABIP (.250 despite a rather low FB rate). I don't mean to minimize his performance....he's been outstanding in 6 of his 9 outings and reasonable in 2 of the other 3, but for me, he's a clear step below the top handful of arms, and I feel like there's a bit more downside here than in most of the guys you'd typically put in the SP1 category. I'm not sure if he makes my top-12 heading into 2021.....he'll be in the 11-14 range almost assuredly though.
Michael Conforto (OF - NYM) - Conforto homered again amidst a 2 hit, 4 run, 4 RBI evening on Friday, and he has 5 multi-hit games and 4 HRs in the past 9. His contact rate is making a big jump for the 3rd straight year, and the batted ball dispersion (and, no doubt, a goodly portion of luck) has helped boost his BABIP significantly. A 10% drop in FB rate and 9% cut in pull% is a good way to push your BABIP up a ton, and Conforto's has gone from .290 to a whopping .405 this year. That number is obviously unsustainable, but it isn't as out of line as you might think....the more we learn about the correlations between types and locations of batted balls, the more we learn about the fluidity of BABIP. This is the kind of performance improvement I've been expecting from Conforto for a few years now, and I'm hopeful he can continue this into 2021. If he can keep this going through the next 2-3 weeks, he may crack my top-20 OF for next spring.
Andrew McCutchen (OF - PHI) - Cutch went 5-8 with 4 RBIs, a 2B, and a homer on Friday in the doubleheader against the Marlins, but it's still been a bit of a disappointing year for him on the whole. Despite an exit velo that is still above average and a swinging strike rate that's his lowest since 2010, Cutch is hitting just 263/319/421. The HR/FB rate has dropped into single digits, which is culprit #1, and culprit #2 are the career-high FB and pull percentages. You'd expect more homers and a lower AVG with the different batted ball dispersion, but all we've seen is the lower AVG....his ISO has actually dropped. I have to keep telling myself it's just 40 games, and a lot of these things that look bizarre would even themselves out over 150....I think Cutch is even more undervalued now than he typically is, and I'd be happy to own him in just about any format. I fully expect him to be in my top-60 OF once again for his age 34 season.
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