Baseball Prospectus is looking for a Public Data Services Director. Read the description here.

Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers
With an early ADP of about 130, Rich Hill stands out to me as a guy that has a good shot to return value. Last year, Hill finished in the top 60 in Yahoo 5×5 scoring, the 16th most productive starting pitcher, in just 110 innings pitched. It’s a testament to how well he pitched in those innings. Hill had a 2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP, with a strikeout rate just under 30%. He had the second best ERA among starting pitchers who threw at least 100 IP last year, with the fourth best FIP. Since making his return to the majors in late 2015, Hill has a 2.00 ERA, 2.37 FIP and 30.3% strikeout rate in 24 starts, spanning 550 batters faced.

I know the profile is weird, but I don’t think this was a fluke. Batters just can't seem to differentiate his pitches at all, and he’s great at playing his fastball and curveball off each other, hiding each one behind the other. Hill’s deception has helped him become elite at preventing batters from squaring him up. Via, Hill’s Statcast derived exit velocity and batted-ball angle expected slugging last year was .307, the third lowest in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 IP. The only two ahead of him were Clayton Kershaw (.302) and Jose Fernandez (.303), and the MLB average is .417. Batters rarely make loud contact against Hill. Combining weak contact with his ability to miss bats at a high level is a huge recipe for success.

Hill is in a great park for pitching, gets tons of strikeouts, should have decent run support, and has great peripherals. Of course, it’s possible that batters eventually start to figure him out, but we haven’t seen signs of that yet. I’m all over Hill at his current ADP. —Tim Finnegan

Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies
Anderson missed the entire 2015 season with a stress fracture in his elbow, began 2016 as a 26-year-old in the Cal League, has a fastball that doesn’t push much above 90, and pitches half his games at Coors. That’s not exactly a combination of circumstances that gets fantasy owners jazzed. On the other hand, the funky lefthander sported a 3.45 ERA in his 114-inning major-league debut, a number largely supported by his 3.75 DRA. Digging into some of the excellent research done by our stats team this offseason reveals that Anderson had the 16th best command (100 IP minimum) by the CSAA metric. He also induced a boatload of hacks, finishing in the top 10 in swing rate alongside Kershaw, Scherzer, Thor, Price, and Verlander. His swinging strike rate, while above the league average, isn’t in the same universe as those guys, so there is some risk in encouraging hitters to cut that often. Anderson’s elite batted ball velocity against compensates for that hazard; only Kyle Hendricks generated more soft contact in 2016. To be clear, this is not the kind of recommendation where I suggest getting aggressive with your valuation. It’s more like an endorsement of Anderson as a proper way to spend your last round pick or final buck in your wallet. I think there’s enough in the profile to suggest that Anderson can pitch at a serviceable level in spite of all the risks outlined above, for a negligible investment. —Greg Wellemeyer

James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
Not much was expected from James Paxton heading into the 2016 season. The Mariners assigned him to Triple-A after Spring Training despite the fact that he had spent parts of each of the last three seasons in the majors. The Canadian was called up and made his first start in June, showing off overhauled mechanics and a four-seam fastball that was two MPH faster than it was in 2015. He ended up throwing 121 innings over 20 starts, both career highs, while sustaining his increased velocity through the end of the season. His standard roto numbers didn’t come close to reflecting his development, however:

























If you’re just looking at his standard stats, you might not notice that the tall lefty had become a completely different pitcher. His underlying stats tell a more compelling story:


Four-Seam Velocity



























His mechanical changes and the extra two ticks on his fastball allowed him to significantly increase his strikeout rate while cutting his walk rate in half. And while it’s overly reductive to wave away a 60-point increase in BABIP as bad luck that’s sure to turn around, it’s reasonable to expect him allow hits on batted balls less frequently in 2017 if he holds on to the gains he made in 2016. —Scooter Hotz

Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers
There’s something to be said for consistency and predictability, especially in the starting pitching market. Last season, only 15 pitchers in all of baseball logged 200 innings. One of the 15 was Hamels, and it’s a feat that he has accomplished in eight of the last nine seasons. Sure, it’s nice to be durable, but it’s also nice to be good, and Hamels been both. Last season was no exception.

If you line up Hamels’ 2016 campaign with his career numbers, you will see astonishing consistency. Hamels produced his ninth straight ERA under 4.00 to go along with his ninth consecutive cFIP below 85. His strikeout rate has hovered around a batter per inning for seven years in a row. Seven of his 11 pro seasons has produced a DRA under 3.00, including last season’s impressive 2.84 number.

While Hamels has been remarkably consistent and solid for his career, he did experience a slight uptick in walks last season, surrendering 3.5 free passes per nine innings (a career high), a number that led to another career high 1.31 WHIP. One potential reason for this uptick, however, could be the below average framing skills of Rangers catchers. Last season the team clocked in as the ninth worst framing team in the league. The addition of a full season of Jonathan Lucroy should help, as even though his own framing numbers have been slipping, he’s still a net positive behind the plate. If Hamels can build a better rapport with Lucroy, it’s easy to imagine another dominant, yet somehow underrated, season for the lefty. —Mark Barry

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe