July National League Overachievers
Four months through the Major League Baseball season it is clear there are some overachievers on the mound. Some pitchers may be having career seasons, but others may be worth fading in August and September at favorable prices. Here is a look at a few National League starters to avoid playing on down the stretch.
Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins: Alcantara is about even-money in NL Cy Young futures, and he deserves the attention with nearly 150 innings under his belt in 21 starts to boost his WAR. He ultimately has a nearly identical xFIP to last season when he finished 9-14 and his K/9 and BB/9 rates are slightly worse this season compared to his 2021 line. The difference has been cutting his HR/9 nearly in half this season along with a career low .245 BABIP. The huge innings count in the first half of the season may be adding up as he has had a pair of marginal starts out of the break with six runs allowed and six walks allowed in just 11 innings. The Marlins also have a tough August schedule ahead including facing the Dodgers seven times while also facing Philadelphia, Atlanta, and San Diego. Alcantara is going to command pricing he doesn’t deserve the rest of the season while he is still pitching for a losing team.
Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers: An All-Star with an 11-1 record through 18 starts it has been a career year for Gonsolin, who wasn’t even expected to be in the rotation to start the season. He has been a huge overachiever with a .202 BABIP and an over 84 percent strand rate, currently the most favorable rates in both of those categories among all qualified NL starters this season. Gonsolin took the loss in the All-Star game and has turned in marginal starts on both sides of the break, his first two starts in which he allowed more than two earned runs all season. Pitching for the Dodgers with a glowing record and a 2.26 ERA, Gonsolin is commanding prices like the elite starters for the Dodgers the past few seasons like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. He isn’t in that category and currently owns an xFIP that is nearly twice as high as his ERA. Gonsolin has made two thirds of his starts this season vs. losing teams and he is already over his career high in MLB innings in a season as the late-season returns could suffer.
Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres: In his first 11 starts of the season Musgrove had a 1.50 ERA while going 7-0 for a simply incredible run. In six starts since he has a 4.82 ERA, even with little change in his strikeout and walk rates. The difference has been home runs, with six allowed in his last six starts. He did pitch in Colorado in a recent start and has faced road starts vs. the Mets and the Dodgers as ultimately his path the final two months will likely land in the middle of those two stretches. Musgrove has seen his strikeout rate shrink significantly in consecutive seasons and he is still getting away with a career low HR/9 at this point in the season. Musgrove is still listed as a top three Cy Young threat in the NL odds, but the Padres still have 12 games remaining with the Dodgers and a very difficult September schedule overall as a late season slide for Padres and Musgrove’s numbers seems very possible.
Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona has been playing rather competitive ball of late and Kelly has been a big part of that, going 4-0 in his last five starts with a 1.57 ERA. His xFIP in that span is 4.05 and he has just a 6.6 K/9 in that span, catching some big breaks with a .204 BABIP. Kelly is 10-5 this season in 20 starts and he has been a pitcher that often beats his ERA estimators since joining Arizona after four years in the KBO. Kelly has a career low K/9 this season and a career low HR/9 by a wide margin at 0.53 compared to a career average of 1.14. Not surprisingly his recent run of success has come with three starts against the sinking Giants while he has been hit hard against quality teams this season including allowing 14 runs over three starts vs. the Dodgers. Kelly has been a streaky starter in his career and ultimately the current run is not likely sustainable. Arizona has two upcoming trips to Denver plus several more series vs. NL playoff threats as Kelly won’t be able to match his July pace the rest of the way.