I'm going to have my share of missed calls.
Everyone will; it's the nature of the game. Raise your hand if you saw Felix Hernandez affording eight runs without escaping the first inning last Friday. If I see your hand raised, you're lying.
Collin McHugh was one of mine, in a Saturday home game against the struggling Seattle Mariners, which appeared a slam dunk. He had succeeded against them before, whiffing them at a higher rate than almost any other team he had ever faced, and he possessed both curveball and slider that were specific pitches against whom the Mariners had routinely had trouble in 2015.
McHugh surrendered eight runs on nine hits, including two home runs, in three innings of work. Six of the hits and both of the homers came off breaking pitches.
Some good can come out of the stinkers, though, as it often presses us to delve deeper into a player's performance to explain why the result went so terribly, terribly -- and more importantly, unexpectedly -- wrong. As I reviewed McHugh's performance, thinking more along the lines of DFS play, a Twitter follower, David Leach, reached out to ask just what's wrong with McHugh, to be included in my next going-forward rankings update?
Great timing, David, and many thanks to other followers who, after that exchange, nominated their candidates for a more thorough analysis of their rest-of-2015 prospects. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Collin McHugh, SP, Houston Astros: Here is McHugh's problem: His slider, which he has thrown 37.5 percent of the time, most often of any individual pitch, has been off. Using PitchF/X data, in six of McHugh's past nine starts, his slider has graded a negative run value; he's unsurprisingly 4-for-9 in quality starts with a 6.05 ERA and 16.3 percent strikeout rate during that time. When a pitcher's most preferred pitch lacks its usual bite, his struggles are understandable. And considering McHugh is as breaking ball-reliant as he is, while there's always a chance that one small tweak (delivery, grip, etc.) could "fix" what ails him, it's probably more likely that he'll need a more extended period to do so.
Tyson Ross, SP, San Diego Padres (asked by Harrison Smith): His FIP/xFIP numbers are spot-on to his 2014 performance in those categories, and the "quick take" for most might be that his 81 point increase in BABIP explains most of what ails him. That's not it: It's that his walk rate has risen from 8.9 to 11.7 percent, most of that a product of his fastball, which has the fifth-highest walk rate of any qualified pitcher (15.3 percent, or 27 total walks out of his 42). Ross is throwing more two-seam fastballs (roughly four percent more) and fewer four-seamers (nearly eight percent fewer), so perhaps some of it is related to that adjustment. For that reason -- plus the fact that few of his other peripherals reveal obvious concern -- owners should be somewhat more patient with Ross.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Boston Red Sox (asked by Brandon Oland): He has had three good starts and one disastrous one, but the sum of the four represents a fair foreseeable-future (even 2-3 years forward) expectation for the Boston Red Sox rookie. Rodriguez has good-not-great command, generates a good-not-great rate of ground balls and has a changeup that's solid enough to help him keep his righty/lefty splits in check. Brandon's question was related to redraft rather than keeper leagues -- it'd need to be a deep dynasty league (think 100-plus players kept and/or player price points involved) for him to be a candidate anyway -- and I'd say Rodriguez leans more sell-high than stick-with-him. With pitchers like this, adjustment periods are inevitable, it's one of the more challenging divisions in which to pitch and there's a possibility the Red Sox will cap him in the 160-180 inning range, being that he has never exceeded 145 frames as a pro.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Atlanta Braves (asked by Brandon Thomas): Health is always the question with Maybin, and it is the A-number-one reason that he hasn't soared in my rankings to date (though he has risen an extremely healthy amount). He has three DL stints since the beginning of 2013 and has played 100-plus games only twice, so it's difficult to trust him to play all 97 remaining Atlanta Braves contests. Still, in Maybin's defense, if you're willing to take that risk: His 9.8 percent walk, 20.5 percent miss and 25.2 percent line-drive rates represent career bests, as does his 33 percent rate hitting to the opposite field, which suggests he's taking a distinctly different approach at the plate. Maybe he can maintain a .270-plus batting average, with a .330-plus on-base percentage that could fuel a 25-steal campaign?
Carlos Carrasco, SP, Cleveland Indians (asked by Bradley Newman): Bradley pointed out that Carrasco's K-to-walk ratio (4.72:1) is outstanding, but his Rotisserie numbers are not, and most of the peripherals suggest he has been a bit unlucky. His FIP/xFIP are right in line with his 2014 as well, with the primary difference being the same issue McHugh has had: His slider hasn't been as successful as it was last year. Opposing hitters batted .126 with a .077 hard-hit rate against it in 2014; they have .200/.113 numbers against it this year. Still, other than their being a bit less apt to chase it outside the strike zone, Carrasco's slider looks like it's producing flukier results rather than it having lost sharpness. This is one of the best buy-low -- if you can term him that, which I would as I still see him as a top-20 starting pitcher -- candidates out there, especially considering he's a ground-baller on a team that recently promoted Francisco Lindor.
Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox (asked by @fantasysports45): Honestly, 21 games is far too small a sample from which to draw many Castillo judgments, with the only two troubling trends being that his walk rate is a mere 4.2 percent -- it was in the sevens wherever he played in the U.S. in 2014 -- and that he's hitting an extremely high rate of ground balls, 63.6 percent. The latter will cap his power, making a Shane Victorino-in-his-prime projection less likely than one from Victorino's latter career, but I think the Red Sox should give Castillo a regular role and let him adapt to the bigs. The problem with that: Perhaps they won't unless they decide they're out of the race after the All-Star break.
New ESPN position eligibility
The following players added new position eligibility within the past week. As a reminder, position players need to appear 10 times at a new position to gain in-season eligibility, while pitchers need to make three starts to earn starting-pitching eligibility or five relief appearances to earn relief-pitching eligibility.
The following players are within two games of earning new eligibility, with their total games played noted at the listed position: Tim Beckham (SS, 9 games), Pedro Ciriaco (3B, 8 games), Danny Espinosa (3B, 9 games), Logan Forsythe (3B, 8 games), Hector Gomez (3B, 9 games), Alex Guerrero (3B, 9 games), Enrique Hernandez (SS, 9 games; OF, 8 games), Jonathan Herrera (3B, 8 games), Rey Navarro (2B, 9 games), Kris Negron (SS, 9 games; OF, 9 games), Ben Paulsen (OF, 8 games), Sean Rodriguez (OF, 9 games), Adam Rosales (3B, 9 games), Luis Sardinas (2B, 8 games), Cory Spangenberg (3B, 9 games), Justin Turner (1B, 8 games), Kennys Vargas (1B, 9 games).
Going-forward rankings: Week 11
Listed below are my updated, going-forward rankings. These are based upon an ESPN standard league of 10 teams and rotisserie 5x5 scoring. Click here to see these rankings sorted by position.