June Pitchers to Watch
June 1, 2018
By Joe Nelson
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With two months in the MLB season in the books, there is enough meaningful data to form stable projections for the coming weeks. A few starters that have perhaps underachieved so far could be in line for improvement in the coming weeks. Here are five pitchers to watch in June as possible play-on starters in the upcoming weeks.
Sean Manaea – Oakland Athletics: The Oakland left-hander had a huge first month of the season with a 1.03 ERA in six starts including a no-hitter vs. the Red Sox on April 21. In six May starts, Manaea posted a 7.18 ERA, allowing at least four runs in each of his six starts. He faced a few difficult matchups in that run but he also saw his strikeout rate plummet. He has also had some tough luck with more than 40 percent of his base runners coming around to score in the month of May.
His xFIP in that stretch was just 4.80 as he likely deserved better results in a few outings and historically May and August have been his worst months. His FIP of 4.20 for the season is a bit above his 3.60 ERA, but he should return to being an upper tier starter in the coming weeks. His next scheduled starts are at Texas, home vs. Kansas City, home vs. the Angels, and at the White Sox as he should have favorable opportunities to get back on track.
Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies: Gray won 10 games last season in 20 starts for the Rockies posting a 3.67 ERA. His FIP last season was just 3.18 as many expected even further improvement in 2018 for the #3 pick in the 2013 draft at now 26 years of age. Gray has posted a career best 10.5 K/9 so far this season but he has been burned by a .376 BABIP so far this season. Gray has a 5.68 ERA but his 3.15 FIP is the eighth best mark in the NL among qualified starters as things should turn Gray’s way in the coming weeks.
Pitching at Coors Field is always a challenge and he has really struggled at home this season where six of his last eight starts have been. The upcoming schedule should offer better opportunities for Gray with his next turns scheduled to be at Cincinnati, at Philadelphia, and at Texas, while his next home start if the current rotation holds would be vs. the light-hitting Marlins in late June.
Luke Weaver – St. Louis Cardinals: As a 23-year old, Weaver dominated AAA in the first half of last season before posting a 7-2 record with a solid 3.88 ERA in 10 starts for the Cardinals late last season. An xFIP of 2.93 and a 10.7 K/9 sent expectations soaring for Weaver in his first full season in the big leagues. There have been some growing pains for the 2014 1st round pick with worse numbers across the board this season. His K/9 is down to just 8.2 while his ERA has ballooned to 4.63.
Among NL starters he owns one of the largest differences between this FIP and his ERA however with a FIP of 3.72 suggesting that he could return to a similar pace as last season’s success. He has had tough luck with 32 percent of base runners scoring and left-handed hitters have hit .293 against him while there has been a big disparity between his home and road numbers. Weaver will get two of his next three starts at home with the road outing being against a Cincinnati team that is among the worst in the NL as he should have an opportunity to improve his numbers in the coming weeks.
Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates: With a hot start for the Pirates, Taillon had incredible numbers through his first three starts with just two runs and nine hits allowed in more than 20 innings. After pitching over his head to open the season, he hit a tough-luck patch to even out his numbers in his final three April starts. Taillon had average results in May with one bad outing inflating his season line, leaving his ERA at 4.53 through the first two months. His FIP is just 3.87 however and he owns a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Taillon has dominated against right-handed batters with a .213 batting average against while walking only one right-handed batter in nearly 33 innings of work. Taillon has an extreme gap between his home and road numbers and in June three of his next four starts following a June 1 start in St. Louis should be at home. He also will get to face the slumping Diamondbacks lineup twice if the current rotation schedule holds.
Rick Porcello – Boston Red Sox: Backing Boston will generally carry a premium price tag, but Porcello offers a lesser valuation than Chris Sale or David Price and he has been pitching well for the Red Sox with a 3.65 ERA in 12 starts. His season line features a 3.14 FIP and an 8.5 K/9 with both marks better than the results he produced in his surprise 2016 Cy Young season. He is on pace to have his highest groundball rate since 2013 and he has only allowed six home runs in 74 innings of work. Porcello actually has better numbers against left-handed batters this season and he has pitched nearly as well on the road as at home.
June has historically been Porcello’s worst month of the season but that career log was mostly built in a disastrous six-start run last June in which he had a 6.63 ERA by virtue of a .361 BABIP. Porcello has had solid numbers since the 2017 All Star Break and he could have a strong month of June for the AL East leaders. His first call this month will be a challenge draw in Houston but then he will be slated to face the White Sox at home before facing manageable road opportunities in Seattle and Minnesota.
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