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May 14, 2014

Fantasy Freestyle

Nathan Eovaldi: Great or Just Hot?

by Craig Goldstein


Yesterday, Ben Carsley and I released the first portion of our Top 150 U25 fantasy players, the culmination of a six-week division-by-division look. The name that received the most attention was one towards the bottom of the list, with Nathan Eovaldi checking in at no. 141 on our collaborative list. Eovaldi has jumped out to a great start in 2014, posting a 2.86 ERA backed by a 2.94 FIP, and phenomenal strikeout and walk rates, at 23.4 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively.

This has earned him many plaudits, and a ton of new fans, as fantasy owners who took a random flier on him have become devoted advocates. The question at hand for Eovaldi, and an important one for those wondering how to value him, is whether this new level of success is sustainable. Our eyes tell us it is, as we watch 96 MPH fastball after 96 MPH fastball whiz by us, even into the seventh or eighth inning. So if the numbers say one thing, and our eyes confirm it (or vice versa), where is the debate?

When it comes to Eovaldi, the argument lies in the past, as there is little wrong with the present. You see, while his strikeout rate is beautiful, it’s a stark departure from his previous career-high rate of 17.3 percent. Additionally, his sterling walk rate is substantially lower than his career-low of 8.9 percent. His staggering 56.3 percent ground ball rate beats out his previous career-best of 45.5 percent by nearly 11 percentage points! All these rates moving in the right direction should, and do, indicate a better pitcher on the mound, so once again we ask: where’s the problem? As is the custom of my people, let me answer your question with another question. How is he doing all these things? What about his process has changed that has seen these massive changes take place?

We first turn to Brooks Baseball for a look at his pitch mix, to see whether it’s markedly different from years prior. Perhaps a new pitch has entered the mix, with remarkable effectiveness, yielding such positive results?

It’s hard to say that there is a new pitch in town, but his slider usage has jumped by a significant amount*, and mostly at the expense of his fastball. While that may lead one to believe more sliders = more missed bats, that doesn’t seem to be the case for Eovaldi, as we check out the whiff percentages on his pitches.

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Related Content:  Fantasy,  Nathan Eovaldi

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Gumby

Actually, a 2013 Nolasco comp shouldn't really be that troubling anyway. Nolasco ran into a BABIP buzzsaw in September and was merely average in June but otherwise was consistently good all year.

May 14, 2014 10:00 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I wasn't really trying to comp the two of them, so much as show that average pitchers go on great runs. I think if Eovaldi was 2013 Nolasco, there is a portion of fans who would be disappointed. 2013 Nolasco's strikeout rate was also four percentage points lower than the current incarnation of Eovaldi, which is just about what I mean when I say some regression is likely even with steps taken forward.

May 14, 2014 10:02 AM
 
Gumby

Cool. Thanks!

I can see the disappointment - I know it's easy to really raise expectations based on early-season dominance, which is exactly the point you're making in that paragraph. But hopefully people would be satisfied just to get more from Eovaldi than they bargained for pre-season, and I think 2013 Nolasco would fit the bill there.

May 14, 2014 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Agreed. That type of production would qualify as a nice step forward for Eovaldi.

May 14, 2014 10:10 AM
 
noone99

CJ Wilson, Kluber, Smyly, Lynn good targets to sell Eovaldi for?

May 14, 2014 13:45 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

The first three seem reasonable, though I'm not as high on Kluber as others around here. Lynn has the same right-handed dominance thing going which concerns me. I might even aim higher just to see if I can get more.

May 14, 2014 13:46 PM
 
BP staff member Ben Carsley
BP staff

How would you compare him to Mike Foltynewicz?

May 14, 2014 13:50 PM
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

I prefer Eovaldi, if only slightly.

May 14, 2014 13:51 PM
 
prs130

if any one pitch is truly improved, I would expect whiff rates for ALL pitches to increase, not just the improved pitch... e.g., an improved changeup will of course result in awkward early swings at changeups, but will also result in awkward late swings on fastballs, regardless of whether the fastball is itself improved.

May 14, 2014 20:12 PM
rating: -1
 
BP staff member Craig Goldstein
BP staff

Ok... I'm not really sure the point here. That would likely depend on sequencing, but it's also clearly not the case here as Eovaldi is missing more bats with his FB and less with his SL.

May 15, 2014 09:34 AM
 
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: Gro... (05/14)
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Fantasy Article Fantasy Freestyle: The... (05/15)
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