Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:15 AM EST.
7:05 PM EST. Jonathan Gray (RHP - COL) can pitch. He has 51 K’s in 49 frames with a 4.25/3.85 ERA/xERA split. Dude throws 95 MPH with regularity but he has never been able to thrive despite the decent stuff. Gray’s line-drive and HR/9 rates always make him a risky proposition and this small park does not play into his strengths. In fact, in two starts at Citizens Bank Park since 2016, Gray is 0-2 with a 8.71 ERA and that came against much weaker Philadelphia batting lineups than the one he’ll see here. Gray also has a 81% LOB rate this year that could easily blow up at this park that has provided Gray with some bad memories.
We get the Phillies at a bargain price here because their starting a pitcher that nobody has heard of. On Sunday, the Phillies called up Cole Irvin (LHP - PHI). If you are not a Phillies fan, this transaction likely didn’t register with you because Irvin has never made the top of a prospect list, and has definitely never gotten near a top fantasy list. In an era of hard-throwing pitchers with sharp breaking balls, he is a definitely not that. He feels like a prospect every system must have, yet not many of his type reach Triple-A, let alone the majors.
Irvin looks like a starting pitcher. He is big (6-foot-4, and more than his listed 180 lbs). His delivery is smooth and repeatable. On top of the starter’s physique, despite Tommy John surgery in college, he has been durable and a rare minor league workhorse, pitching 151 and 161 innings the past two seasons at age 23 and 24. He also had a very productive career at a major college program. He was drafted in the fifth round with an overslot bonus. Irvin has the results to back all of this up, too. He was arguably the best pitcher in the International League last season (he, in fact, won the top pitcher award) with a 2.57 ERA. He had a 2.25 ERA in 36 innings this year. He didn’t strike many out, but with seven K’s/9, he wasn’t particularly a zero either. He’s generally quite stingy with walks and does a good job keeping the ball in the park. He was good in his debut too, throwing seven innings of one-run ball on less than 100 pitches.
The quick report on Cole Irvin is an 87-92 mph fastball, a slider at 82-85, changeup at 82-84, and a curveball that ranges from 72-76. The fastball velocity immediately jumps out and is why Irvin is not highly-regarded. It is unfair to dismiss a pitcher out of hand because of how hard they throw, but it also isn’t totally unreasonable. Irvin’s massive caveat is that he really knows how to pitch and that is impossible to measure. He can add and subtract from all of his pitches. He throws at least three different fastball variations and can cut, sink, and run the pitch. He throws a bunch of strikes, but doesn’t have pinpoint command, rather, he will hit quadrants of the strike zone. He predominantly threw fastballs in his debut, but Irvin will mix all of pitches and, with the aforementioned ability to change speeds, he gives hitters a lot to think about at the plate. On some level that is a lot of mumbo jumbo that one can’t measure.
Given the parade of absolutely horrendous pitchers with much greater pedigree to pass along, there is a nagging feeling of being wrong because burying a guy with good results makes one want to reevaluate what you do not know. The inevitable outcome is that major-league scouting is quite good and teams are going to figure him out and then it will be game over. However, we’re willing to ride this guy out because changing speeds with four different pitches while throwing strikes is a workable and very effective arsenal. One of the greatest pitchers in history (Greg Maddux) didn’t throw hard but kept guys off balance his entire career. In no way are we comparing Irvin to Maddux but the profile isn’t all that dissimilar and it sure doesn’t hurt our chances that the Rockies have never seen him before.
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