Trying to predict pitching performance is always a ton of fun because we are continuing to learn new things every year and it’s very difficult to predict. Some of these guys were sleepers, but it’s safe to say they have absolutely blown away expectations. A few of these guys have absolutely exploded into being some of the most valuable players in the game, and it’s a shocker to me, despite their previously good skills. That is the beauty of baseball, always so much to learn and some many things change. Let’s take a look at some risers!
Mid Career Studs:
Kevin Gausman – The #2 overall pitcher on the Razzball player rater, Gausman has been absolutely white-hot for the San Francisco Giants, posting a 1.74 ERA, .80 WHIP, 124 K’s over 108.2 IP. His splitter has been the weapon of choice for Gausman, and it is absolutely lethal. Batters are whiffing on it every other time (50% whiff rate) and it currently has a .144 slugging percentage (!) against it. Some of Gausman’s ERA indicators put him more in the low 3’s for his ERA, but he’s clearly unlocked a new level with this unbelievable splitter paired with mid 90’s gas. The question will be where he is drafted in 2021? I surmise he will go in round 2 in some drafts and round 3 in most drafts. This is assuming the ERA stays under 3 and he continues to maintain good health.
Chris Bassitt – Gradually improving every year since 2018, Bassitt has crept up into SP2 status, a development that may surprise some fantasy managers. Bassitt is quite good in the control department, induces plenty of groundballs, prevents barrels (sub 6% barrel rate from 2019-2021). Bassitt mostly relies on a fastball/sinker, as he throws it 57% of the time, while also mixing in a cutter and slider sparingly. Pitching in Oakland has helped the 32-year-old tremendously based on his home/away career splits, but he is officially must start in all league formats regardless of opponent, something I did not foresee coming.
Young, Breakout Aces:
Freddy Peralta – One of the biggest pitching risers we have seen in 2021, Freddy Peralta is breaking out into stardom before our eyes, just like Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes as well. Adding a brand new pitch to his arsenal, the slider (.118 BA against it, 43.2% whiff rate) really made Peralta’s repertoire pop. Batters are hitting a paltry .132 against Peralta, just a nutty mark. He’s establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball and doing so in a dominant fashion when you watch him pitch.
Trevor Rogers – Similar to Freddy Peralta, Trevor Rogers has burst onto the scene and been one of the most exciting pitchers to watch in 2021. Rogers uses a 3 pitch mix of a fastball, slider, and changeup and has flummoxed batters with each pitch type, given his 1.05 WHIP, 30% K rate, and is drawing tons of whiffs on all of his pitches. All of Rogers’ indicators have him below a 3.50 ERA, something that shows what he is doing is absolutely real. Rogers also has a normal-looking BABIP and LOB so he isn’t getting lucky. The only downside is the fact Rogers’ will likely have his innings capped, as he is a very young (23 years old) starter with a limited workload, so he could get shut down early. Regardless, he has performed like an ace and was drafted in the reserve rounds. The question will be where is he drafted in 2022, but for now, enjoy the ride.
Boring, Reliable, Old Workhorses:
Kyle Gibson – Boring, old Kyle Gibson continues to get it done! A sinker first, kitchen sink approach pitcher who throws 5 different pitches including a sinker, slider, changeup, cutter, and a curveball. Gibson has been an innings eater for a long time, but not necessarily quality innings for fantasy. In 2021 things have changed for Gibson. Gibson somehow has a 1.98 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP, despite nothing I can see that has changed for him. In the results, Gibson is serving up fewer homers than normal, stranding runners at a crazy high clip (86% strand rate, league average is closer to 75%) and his BABIP is 60 points below his career mark of .304. What can go wrong in his next start? All jokes aside he has been great so far, and a massive win for those who bought in on Gibson.
Adam Wainwright – A true renaissance season for Waino, the old reliable Cardinals pitcher is dominating NL hitters on a regular basis, sporting a good 3.78 ERA and a great 1.10 WHIP. Waino also has his best K-BB rate since 2013, at a healthy 16.7%, a good mark for a guy who isn’t a big strikeout guy. It’s very fun to watch Wainwright pitch, as he is getting by using his mind, with guts and guile over glamorous velocity. Theoretically, he will regress, but this is a guy who has entered into my circle of trust for the rest of the season based on his solid ERA indicators, ability to limit walks and homers, and his cerebral approach which allows him to keep getting outs.