Coming off his second Cy Young winning season, Justin Verlander will headline a Houston Astros rotation that just saw Gerrit Cole leave to the Yankees. There doesn’t seem to be too much concern that Verlander is now 37 years old, where typically we would have seen a drop off in velocity and production by now. While any year could certainly bring those chances to light, the ADP and auction value do not indicate any sort of discount. Verlander is going in a range of right at the end of the first round, or very early in the second. He is being paired usually with a big bat to give you a strong start to your lineup with an elite arm and an elite bat to kick things off. Projections are right around what Verlander has been doing the past few years, as everything points to still a very strong season.
Last Three Years Stats
No pitcher has logged more innings over the past three seasons than Justin Verlander. He has 643 innings, which is about 20 more than second place Jacob deGrom. Verlander is one of seven pitchers to have an ERA under three in that span, and is sitting at 2.81. He also has the most wins in that span, sitting at 52. Only Zack Greinke had over 50 wins int hat span, his former teammate was ranked third with 47. Being on Houston certainly gives him a chance to get another 15+ win season in the books. Strikeouts are king right now, and another former teammate, Max Scherzer, is the only one to have more strikeouts than Verlander. He has 809, which ranks second in that span. He is an efficient pitcher, with a 6% walk rate, and 32% strikeout rate. And that brings him to the third best strikeout to walk ratio among qualified starting pitchers.
2020 Fantasy Projections
Justin Verlander 2019
Pre 51.6 FB% – 26.8 SL% – 17.4 CB% – 4.2 CH%
Post 47.7 FB% – 30.6 SL% – 17.5 CB% – 4.2 CH% pic.twitter.com/vaZEc4MLpP
— Matt Modica (@ctmbaseball) January 17, 2020
Not many are projecting higher than Justin Verlander, with Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole ranked ahead of him for me. It is also a close call with Max Scherzer too. There is certainly a tier of aces up at the top that nobody can touch, and Verlander is one of them. He projects for another strong season with wins, and also 250+ strikeouts. Only four names project for 250+ strikeouts, which are the ones mentioned here. We shouldn’t see any issue with control, and he projects for a strong WHIP as well. He brings just about everything you would want in an ace.
Moving to Houston has been quite the move for Verlander. His strikeout rate has gone up, and his walks have gone down. He has posted back to back seasons around a 2.50 ERA and has a 290 strikeout and 300 strikeout season under his belt. The wins are a safe floor with about 15, which has been his floor over the past five seasons. He projects for another 200+ innings, and with that will come 250 strikeouts as long as he is healthy. Even if the ERA goes up a bit, it shouldn’t be anything over 3.10. Overall he has one of the best floors as any starting pitcher.
The ceiling is exactly what it was last season. A 300 strikeout year, 20+ wins, and a 2.50 ERA. There is no going above that. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him duplicate these types of numbers, but in a realisitc sense, I would just expect the slightest tick downwards in most categories.
As mentioned above, there is a tier of aces that are going within the first 15 picks. You are drafting them for an extremely safe floor, but the fact that they present a clear gap in numbers in comparison to most starting pitchers. With that being said you aren’t gaining a ton of value from drafting them at this spot, the value is that if you are getting them in the late first round, you can make a quick turn to get an elite bat to pair with it.
Injuries have not been a big part of Justin Verlander’s career. He is going to surpass 3,000 innings this season, which is a lot of milage, but he has been durable. Outside of 2015, he has thrown 200+ innings in every year dating back until 2006. That is just unreal. Sure any 37-year-old arm might have some slight injury risk, but it isn’t going to derail me from drafting him.
Park Factors & Divisional Opponents
Justin Verlander pitches in a pretty strong division as far as park factors go. There are some good offenses like Los Angeles and Oakland, but also some good parks to throw in. Houston was slightly below league average in runs last season, to go alongside Seattle and Oakland as well. Seattle and Los Angeles were below average in runs, although the Angels will be better this season. Oakland and Texas were in the top half, but Texas’ offense was only good at home. Overall Verlander dominated the division, just as he did the rest of the league. There is no real advantage here for Verlander, outside of some extra games pitching in parks that suppress home runs, which he did allow quite a few last season.
There is certainly a lot of red on Justin Verlander’s page, as he was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season. That fastball is still going strong ranking inside the 76th percentile, but the crucial aspect of it is that it ranks in the 98th percentile in spin rate. Adding that to his 90th percentile curve spin rate, no surprise to see him in the 96th percentile in strikeout percentage. All of his expected stats backed what he did in 2019, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see another year where he finishes as a Cy Young candidate, battling Cole. Verlander throws a four seamer about 50% of the time, with a 29% slider, and 17% curveball. Verlander had a 31% whiff rate on his fastball, 40% n his slider, 26% on his cure, and 34% on his changeup.
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