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Context is everything.
In discussions on Twitter and the Fantasy Baseball Today podcast, I've developed a reputation as a Jose Berrios hater. Why? Well, because I've talked about how much I don't like him. A lot. Including on Wednesday's .
But here's the thing: I don't actually dislike Berrios. He's a fabulous young talent. He's ultra competitive on the mound and fun to watch, and that curveball – oh, that curveball.
This is Jose Berrios' Curveball. Absolutely disgusting. pic.twitter.com/2dcPAhzigi— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) August 25, 2017
Catch him on the right day, and he looks like one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and he's a whole lot of fun to watch even if you don't catch him on the right day. I'm a fan.
That being said … I don't like him for Fantasy in 2018. At all. Why? In short: You don't catch him on the right day enough to make it worth it.
At least, not at the price you have to pay to get him, which is within the top-100 players on Draft Day right now, per FantasyPros. He is the 97th player drafted on average, and the No. 25 pitcher off the board, immediately ahead of the likes of former aces David Price and Jon Lester, as well as trendy breakout picks like Alex Wood and Zack Godley. This is coming off a season where he was the No. 38 starting pitcher in Fantasy, with a 3.89 ERA and less than a strikeout per inning in 145 2/3 innings of work. That's pretty good, but we can all agree it doesn't justify his current cost.
And, obviously, Berrios doesn't have the track record to back up this cost, having debuted in 2016 with a disastrous 14 starts that saw him post an 8.02 ERA. He also didn't drastically underperform his peripherals in 2017 pointing to a major breakout ahead ala Robbie Ray in 2016. He posted a 3.84 FIP that ranked 28th among pitchers with at least 140 innings, just ahead of Trevor Bauer (136 ADP) and Sonny Gray (120).
In fact, here's a random selection of pitchers who pitched about as well as – if not better than, in a few cases – Berrios last season, with their ADP included for comparison:
Berrios may be more talented than every pitcher on that chart, but it's not a guarantee. He certainly doesn't stand out among that crowd in any significant way.
Oh sure, you can pick off names like Happ, Leake or McCarthy and ding them as older guys without much upside, but you can't do that for everyone. Morton and Anderson are both coming off big breakout seasons, posting pretty ERAs that are mostly backed up by their peripherals, along with apparent huge jumps in their skill level. Gray and Taillon missed some time last season, however they were with issues that don't seem like huge red flags moving forward: Gray had a foot injury in spring training, while Taillon had his season interrupted with a cancer diagnosis and surgery, and hasn't had any apparent setbacks. Both were as well regarded – if not more so than – as Berrios as prospects.
And of course, while you might need to invest a pick in the eighth round to get Berrios' upside, no other pitcher on that chart is going inside the top 150 on average. Berrios might be better, or more talented, or just plain more fun than anyone else on that list, but it's hard to argue he's shown the ability to be a dramatically better pitcher over a large sample size.
In fact, Berrios hasn't shown much ability to be a high-level pitcher in the majors at all. In fact, here's Berrios' rolling 10-game ERAs for his career to date:
That disastrous 2016 campaign stands out, but so does the start of the 2017 season, when he had a 2.67 ERA and the best strikeout (25.2 percent) and walk (7.1 percent) numbers for any point of his young career over the first eight games of the season. From his ninth start on, however, Berrios posted a 4.61 ERA with a 21.2 percent strikeout rate and 8.1 percent walk rate.
If we're supposed to ignore the 14 starts by Berrios in 2016 as not indicative of his skill set, that's fine. He was 22 years old, with just 20 innings in Triple-A before getting the call for the first time. He was supposedly tipping his pitches, and just didn't look at all like he was ready for the majors. Fine, give him a mulligan for that.
However, his full season numbers in 2017 weren't worth this kind of draft spot either, so are we to dismiss the final 17 starts of 2017 as well? How much weight should we put on those eight starts at the beginning of 2017?
In my opinion, we should neither dismiss the worst of Berrios in 2017 nor the best of him. He threw 145 2/3 innings, which is enough of a sample size to say he was what he was -- a pretty good but decidedly-not-great pitcher. He's someone I'd be thrilled to draft in the 150-200 range, with the likes of Gray and Taillon, as well as other breakout candidates like Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Taijuan Walker, Kenta Maeda or Blake Snell.
There's very little downside at that point in the draft, which allows their upside to be all you really have to think about. At pick 100 or earlier, however, you're looking for pitchers to help anchor your staff every week, and that's not what Berrios is. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Let someone else pay full price for what he may someday become.