April National League Overachievers
With a month of the season underway there is enough pitching data to draw some early conclusions and the marketplace will start to adjust to the current season numbers more than history and reputation. In a four-start sample several starters have had fortunate results however and here are four NL starters that could see adjustments in their upcoming outings.
Drew Smyly – Chicago Cubs:
The Cubs have competed reasonably well in the first month this season with a positive scoring differential and the pitching has been capable with Smyly off to a solid start to the 2022 season. Smyly has bounced around significantly in recent years without sustained success but wound up in the right spot last season as a contributor for the World Series champion Braves. That led to a one-year deal with the Cubs that so far has paid off with a 2.79 ERA in four starts.
Smyly has a K/9 of only 6.1 this season while he has had unusual ground ball success this season at nearly 55 percent compared with a career average of around 37 percent for a huge difference. Smyly has the best strand rate in the NL at this point in the season as more than 97 percent of his base runners have failed to score and his CSW% below 27 percent that is the lowest of his career at this point in 2022 despite his solid conventional line through four starts. Smyly has allowed four home runs in last two starts as things are likely going to head in the wrong direction moving forward.
Julio Urias – Los Angeles Dodgers:
Urias was a slight overachiever last season going 20-3 in 32 starts with a 2.96 ERA despite a 3.73 xFIP. His career xFIP is 4.10, more than run higher than his career ERA but the gap in those numbers is more than two runs at this point in 2022, with a 2.50 ERA compared to a 4.51 xFIP. Fading the Dodgers will always be difficult, but compared to the other options in the rotation, Urias looks beatable for several opposing lineups.
Urias faced struggling Cincinnati and Arizona in his two most successful starts this season and he has a 7.5 K/9 and a 4.0 BB/9 so far in the 2022 season, hardly elite figures that would suggest a front-line starter that Urias will often be valued as. Urias is only 25 and has a bright future but he has managed a .170 BABIP so far this season as a lot of things have gone right in the first month.
Dakota Hudson – St. Louis Cardinals:
Hudson has been lucky so far in 2022 with a 2.75 ERA built on a .180 BABIP through four starts. His xFIP is 4.48, right in-line with his career average but he has managed to get away with a high walk count and a low strikeout rate this season. Hudson has always been an effective ground ball pitcher but so far this season his ground ball rate would be the lowest of his career. Hudson has topped 40 innings in an MLB season just once in his career back in 2019 and he is likely to be an erratic option as the season moves on.
Hudson has a CSW% of below 25 percent, a rate that will be among the worst of NL starters by season’s end and right near 25% has been the career norm for Hudson whether as a starter or a reliever. St. Louis looks like a playoff threat in the NL with a solid first month from the offense, but Hudson is not in the same class as the rest of the rotation even if the early season numbers are right there at first glance.
Sandy Alcantara – Miami Marlins:
Alcantara has been deserving of a breakthrough season, 22-34 in his career despite elite potential pitching for typically lousy Marlins teams. This year Miami looks like a group that can compete and so far, Alcantara has a 1.78 ERA. He is going to face steep pricing moving forward even through the current clip is not likely sustainable. Alcantara was a dramatically worse pitcher in his road starts last season and in 2022 his two road starts have been favorable pairings.
Alcantara has stranded nearly 85 percent of his baserunners this season and has only allowed one home run after allowing 21 last season and only stranding 72 percent of baserunners in 2021. Alcantara’s xFIP is 3.94 in 2022, with a career xFIP of 4.31. His strikeout rate so far in 2022 is down from the past two seasons while his BB/9 is as high as it has been since 2019. Alcantara is one of the better NL starters, but he may start to be valued as one of the very best, which just hasn’t been the case this season or in his career.