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Digging Deep Series: Sleepers – Pitchers

Digging DeepOf all of the ERA indicators (FIP, xFIP, SIERA), I’ve found through experience that SIERA (“Skill-Interactive ERA”) has been the most predictive.

One simple way to find sleepers before your draft is to subtract a pitcher’s 2018 ERA from their 2018 SIERA and find the largest positive discrepancies between what their results actually were vs what they “should have” done.

To help refine the list, I looked for pitchers in 2018 who met the following criteria:

  • 40 IP (to avoid small sample sizes)
  • K-BB% rates above “average” (12%)
  • Swinging Strike % above “average” (9.7%)
  • O-Swing% (which is the rate at which a batter swings at a pitch that is out of the zone – which is an example of “the ability of a pitcher to get a batter to chase a bad pitch”) above “average” (30.0%)
  • Kept the batter’s Hard hit% below average (36.2%)
  • ERA worse than 3.77 (because if their ERA was better than 3.77, they’re not sleepers); and
  • SIERA that is lower than their ERA.

Below is the list of pitchers who met that criteria, with their statistics from last year and their current ADP (via NFBC). Note that Lance McCullers Jr. and Brent Suter also made this list but they were removed due to the fact they won’t pitch in 2019. Jose Berrios was also on the list but because his ADP is already 71, he wasn’t considered “sleepy” enough.

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The player with the biggest discrepancy between their ERA and SIERA was Dylan Bundy whose SIERA was 3.94. Blessed with big tools and a monster slider, the former top prospect has never been able to put it all together. This is the first year that his SIERA has (a) been this low and (b) been lower than his ERA…so is this the year he figures out how to pitch to left-handed batters and meets his potential? The numbers suggest he could – and that his profile is very similar to Chris Archer who is being taken at pick 129:

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The industry has been talking up Nick Pivetta and consequently, he’s been rising up draft boards. Therefore, we will move our attention to his teammate Zach Eflin? The former second-round pick is still only 24 years old and might be able to stick in the rotation. If he does, he can take advantage of the revamped Philly offense featuring the recent additions of Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and Jean Segura. He has an ADP of 333 but looks a lot like David Price, who is being taken at 91.

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Finally, the pitcher on this list with the lowest ADP is Jason Vargas of the Mets (and currently penciled into the rotation as the 5th starter). The well-traveled 36-year-old might not get a huge workload so he may not be as influential as some of the other names. However, considering he has an ADP of 582 but resembles Kevin Gausman (who is being picked with an ADP of 196) makes him likely worth a flier:

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