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Buying Unlucky 2014 Rookie Pitchers – Part 2

Looking closer at rookie pitchers in the MLB for the 2014 season that performed better than their surface stats showed. Great buy low opportunities in keeper leagues for the offseason or in drafts come 2015. Don’t forget to check out Part 1 of the series, in case you missed it earlier!

This is the second installment in a series of articles looking at 2014 MLB rookies who haven’t had luck on their side in their inaugural season. Let’s take a closer look at Shane Greene, Jimmy Nelson and Brandon Workman.

Shane Greene

Shane Greene has been one of the better rookie starts this year, coming out of the woodwork to post very solid numbers for the Yankees. If you haven’t had a chance to watch him pitch yet, try to find time to go back into the video archives on YouTube (like this one of his start against the Orioles) – or just check out this video below of his first career start.

He has a very live arm, with the ability to dial up the fastball to the upper 90s (reaching 96.82 on the radar gun according to brooksbaseball.net). He mainly has a 5-pitch mix:

[skill_bar heading=”Four Seam Fastball” percent=”14%”] [skill_bar heading=”Sinker” percent=”38%” style=”background-color: #222″] [skill_bar heading=”Cutter” percent=”22%” style=”background-color: #ef1194″] [skill_bar heading=”Slider” percent=”22%” style=”background-color: #5fb341″] [skill_bar heading=”Change Up” percent=”4%” style=”background-color: #FFFF00″]

He’s also thrown a few curveballs – but that registers in at 0.23% of the time. He gets plenty of swings and misses from his change, slider and cutter – but the four seam fastball and cutter are pretty hittable. That being said, he gets a lot of ground balls (50.9%) thanks to his ability to get good downward movement on the ball, which is one of the things I love to see from young pitchers. He’s currently sporting a 9.12 K/9 through 75 MLB innings. He’s been a bit unlucky with a .317 BABIP against, but the bad luck really shows itself in the HR/FB rate which currently sits at 13.3%. There’s some positive regression waiting in the wings should he get this down under 10%, which is where I’d expect it to be over the long haul.

[image type=”rounded” src=”http://binaryapi.ap.org/b8d50168385b4797892fcc60965fab75/940x.jpg” alt=”Shane Greene” float=”right”]

He’s got a great repertoire, a very strong arm and has gotten better as he’s thrown more innings for the Yankees. He’s got a ton of upside and will likely fly under the radar next year in leagues due to his lack of being on top prospect lists. He profiles as a SP3 upside for the Yankees with the ability to win 13-15 games, strike out close to 180 guys and keep ratios in the low to mid 3s for ERA and sub 1.30 WHIP.

[callout type=”center” title=”Don’t Forget To Read Part 1…” message=”Check out the first installment of ‘Buying Unlucky Rookie Pitchers’ for more insight to help you crush your opponents in 2015!” button_text=”Read It!” href=”http://www.moxyball.com/prospects/2014/09/18/trevor-may-buying-unlucky-2014-rookie-pitchers-part-1/”]

Brandon Workman

With Workman, we have a pretty classic case of a guy who should be faring a lot better than he has this year. His 1-10 record on the season is certainly not indicative of the skillset. He has a very good arm, reaching the mid-90s with his fastball to go along with a cutter, curveball and change. He’s been a victim of a 62% strand rate, which is well below league average. His HR/FB rate is 11.2% at the moment which is a bit higher than where you’d expect it to be during a normal season. He also is sporting a 4.20 xFIP vs an ERA that is almost a full run higher (5.17) in his 87 innings.

He’s got a solid, over the top delivery that really can change the batters eye level from a traditional ¾ arm slot. Check out this footage from behind the plate of him striking out Mike Trout:

[pullquote cite=”Brandon Workman” type=”right”]He had a 3.18 xFIP vs a 4.97 ERA in 2013, to go along with a 4.2 xFIP with an ERA almost a full run higher (5.17) this year. He’s better than what the numbers show.[/pullquote]

He’s a good pitcher, playing on a bad team (and by bad team, that’s relevant at this current point in time… they should be a lot better in 2015 with Allen Craig, Yoenis Cespedes and others on board), and is no slouch as far as talent goes. He can play both the starter and reliever role. The Red Sox could use him next year as a starter or potentially to bolster the back end of the bullpen. Workman actually reminded me a little bit of Jonathan Papelbon early on in his career when he was pitching in relief last year. He was attacking hitters with mid to high 90s fastball and getting Ks at a higher clip (10.15 K/9 in 2013 across 41.2 IP). Not to mention a 3.18 xFIP vs a 4.97 ERA in his MLB innings last year. He’s been on the short end of the stick from a results perspective so far in his big league career, but I don’t expect him to be unlucky forever. With more experience and a nice base of skills to work off of, he’ll eventually see his true talent flourish and will be a nice under the radar guy to keep an eye on heading into 2015. He’ll be overlooked in fantasy baseball circles – but AL only league managers in particular should keep tabs on him come draft day.

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Jimmy Nelson

[image type=”rounded” src=”http://sports.cbsimg.net/u/photos/hockey/img24572509.jpg” alt=”Jimmy Nelson” float=”right”]

Like his teammate Wily Peralta, Nelson has a very strong arm and has a very strong long-term outlook. His repertoire includes a four seam fastball that reaches 97.2 mph, a sinker that he can dial up to 97.54 mph, a slider that gets as quick as 91.56 mph and a changeup that usually sits around 87 mph – a good 10 mph difference that you typically look for between the fastball and change. Those numbers are pretty fantastic from a velocity perspective. Here are his max release speeds from brooksbaseball.net in case you want to take a closer look.


He’s primarily a sinker-slider pitcher. He throws the sinking fastball 57.2% of the time – with his slider next at 25.45%. Like Shane Greene above, the sinker doesn’t get a ton of whiffs (5.85%) but the slider does, at 21.05%. That’s a pretty darn good rate, which I referred to when looking at some other pitchers like Alex Torres earlier in the year to articulate the swing-and-miss abilities that are what we as fantasy owners like to see.

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The results on the surface haven’t really been there for Nelson, despite the fact that his advanced stats show he’s pitched quite well at the MLB level. Across his 65 IP in the majors this year, he holds a 7.34 K/9, 2.49 BB/9, 3.96 xFIP and 3.70 FIP. These are very solid numbers – but they haven’t held over to the actual results that tend to be what we look at in traditional 5×5 or head-to-head leagues. His ERA is 4.57 and WHIP checks in at 1.45 – a far cry from the 1.46 ERA and 0.92 WHIP (2.97 FIP) he was boasting in AAA this year across 111 IP. What’s holding Nelson back from being as successful as we can be is the lack of stranding runners (68.4%) and an unsustainably high BABIP (.343) at the major league level. He’s getting a ton of grounders (48.1%) which is great to see considering he has very strong defense behind him up the middle (Jean Segura & Scooter Gennett) – and his surface stats will benefit from this as time wears on.

It took a couple years for Wily Peralta (who has a similar repertoire) to find success, but he’s done well to bring everything together this year, shaving 0.75 off his ERA in 2014 (3.62 ERA with a 3.76 xFIP). The Brewers will certainly give Jimmy Nelson every opportunity to succeed in their major league rotation next season, and he’s a very nice under the radar option with SP3 upside to fill out your pitching staff in 2015. He could win 13 games, post over 165 Ks and have a 3.75 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP as soon as next year.

Sources: brooksbaseball.net, fangraphs.com

About the Author

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About Jared Kwart

Jared is the Co-Founder of Moxyball and is an avid fantasy sports competitor & author. Specializing in DFS Baseball, Football & Basketball, with thousands of dollars in career DFS earnings. Active player on FanDuel, DraftKings & FantasyDraft. Annual NFBC high stakes league participant. Loves his wife, his job, his dog, pizza, burgers, beer, sushi, baseball & golf.

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