AL West - Bust Candidates 2022

Last time I broke down the Boom candidates for the AL West - This week I will be taking a look at the AL West bust candidates and the reasons why you should either buy low or sell high on these players. From a fantasy standpoint, two of these players had their best years by far. One of the players had a change of scenery and many believe leaving that by Colorado, he might just have his best year. I am here to explain why you should avoid all three of these pitchers unless you get them at a very cheap price.

Sean Manaea – (OAK – LHP)

Sean Manaea went 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 2021. He set a career mark in innings pitched in 2021, right around 180 IP, and boasted the highest K rate of his career at 9.7K/9 with a great walk rate of 2.1BB/9. Overall, he has never been a player deserving much air time for us to talk about him too much in his career, but after last year, many people think he has rounded a corner and could be considered a solid work horse. From a points league standpoint, he out performed pitchers like German Marquez and Yu Darvish with very similar innings totals. This is enough to spark my interest and wonder if he is on the same level of these pitchers or if it was more of a fluke with a lucky year.

If you have ever watched Manaea, you know he throws his sinker ball often. Last year he threw it 60% of the time and both his changeup and curveball were used around 15-25% of the time. Manaea broke into the MLB without his current curveball and sinker arsenal, so clearly he has adapted his style around his new arsenal. In 2021 he had a barrel rate of 8% which is 1.4% higher than the MLB average as well as an average exit velocity of 90.2 MPH which is 2 MPH higher than the MLB average. All three of his pitches gained over 2MPH on them in 2021 compared to his 5 previous seasons. The sinker was his best put away pitch in 2021 at 19.3 percent, however, it boasted the highest slugging percentage against it at .463. He gave up 19 HR’s against his sinker with an additional 18 extra base hits. In previous seasons, Manaea had to rely on his changeup and slider to get SO’s but this was the first time he was able to have triple digit strikeouts with one pitch in a season.

Despite the success I mentioned above, Manaea was clearly being hit very hard in 2021 with a hard hit rate 6% higher then the league average. Luck clearly played a big factor in Manaea’s success. I certainly do not expect 2 years of this luck for Manaea. I expect his ERA to be near 4.25 in 2022 with a K rate closer to 9 flat. If you have Manaea, he might not have a value higher then it is now - trade him and make the most of it. If you want to draft him based off his ADP, 150 is much too high, and he is a much safer bet around 215 where I value him a little less then Anthony DeSclafani.

Jon Gray – (TEX – RHP)

Now why am I talking about a guy with a career average 4.6 ERA? Answer - I don’t want you to buy into the hype that everyone has been preaching for years. “Jon Gray could be a much better pitcher outside of Colorado.” False - nothing indicates that he will get better after 7 seasons in Colorado. He has been a serviceable workhorse for Colorado and an average arm on a fantasy team. Outside of his 2017 and 2019 seasons he has been tough to roster, and that includes last year when he was pitching for a new contract.

I will keep this short, because it shouldn’t take much to convince you that his numbers won’t get better, and the Jon Gray in Colorado will be the Jon Gray in Texas. From 2016-2019, Jon Gray always had a higher ERA on the road. In 2021, it was no different. At home, he had a 4.02 ERA with opponents batting .205. On the road, he had a 5.22 ERA with opponents batting .285. Some would like to say that he could have had a much better ERA on the road if his BABIP was not .358. While that's a reasonable argument to make, his BABIP at home was .236 and the argument cuts both ways. After playing for so long at Coor's Field, we could reasonably expect his HR/9 to decrease though, right? For someone who has averaged 1.1 HR/9, I don't anticipate that being as big of a factor as some might suggest.

Another pitcher with an ADP right around 225, I would much rather have a Zach Plesac with his current ADP around 260. I consider Jon Gray right around 280-290 range. Look to see little improvement off of his 2021 season. Projection – 4.45 ERA with a 8.5K/9 and a 3BB/9.

Chris Flexen – (SEA – RHP)

I can’t believe I am talking about Chris Flexen at all, but if you are interested in him, you must be reaching deep into the barrel to try and address your pitching problems. If you’re wondering why I am even talking about him, in a points league, he was averaging similar numbers to Marco Gonzales and Zack Grienke with comparable innings pitched. The only difference - I would take them every day of the week over Chris Flexen. There is no player in the Major Leagues that I am more adamant about being a bust in 2022 than Flexen. With a sub-par K rate that will never climb past 7K/9, if he is lucky to even be near that, and an underwhelming arsenal of pitches, I expect to see Flexen have difficulty holding his spot in the rotation over the course of 2022.

Now, when looking at his numbers, not much jumps out at you to make you believe it was a fluke. His exit velo and barrel % were near league average. However, his hard hit rate was 2.7% above league average. The volatility, however, on a guy with such a low K rate in fantasy leagues is high. His ERA on the road was over 4, and yet he somehow managed to muster a 7-1 record in those starts. Do not buy into a very fortunate 3.61 ERA, 14-6 record pitcher. With Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales, Logan Gilbert and Dunn joining him in that rotation, and an army of top tier pitching biting at his ankles (Matt Brash, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock), it is only a matter of time before he is a bullpen arm. Unless you can name a pitcher who has had long term success with terrible put away pitches, give up hope now that he will repeat in 2022. If you think of a name outside of Greg Maddux, I would love to know but please don’t try to compare the two.

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