First off, shoutout to frequent commenter, Fausto, who commented about David Peterson and his sleeper-iness last September, and I screenshot it back then, and it’s been sitting on my desktop since then. Every couple weeks Cougs would say to me something like, “Did you order Daniel Vogelbach-in-a-bikini coasters? And if so, can you locate the receipt so we can write them off?” Then I’d go through all my screenshots on my desktop that act as receipts, and I’d come across the David Peterson screenshot comment. Without further ado, here’s what Fausto said:
Then, as you all know, the Mets went out and grabbed a few starters this offseason, and pushed Peterson to the pen, for at least now. That’s okay, because a few times I looked at that comment, and I was like, hand under chin, elbow on the desk, “Tell me more about this Justin Steele guy.” Justin Steele’s season stats last year: 4-7 (hehe)/3.18/1.35/126 in 119 IP as a 26-year-old, who turned 27 in July, when things really started to click. His 36 2/3 IP in the 2nd half yielded a 0.98 ERA. Oh…*climbs to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro*…kay. Listen, I’m all for the decriminalization of drugs, and, if you wanna take peyote, then go for it, but has someone slipped me peyote or was Justin Steele’s 2nd half ERA really 0.98? It was? Oh, boy. Looking at Pitch Values alone on the slider, Steele was actually better than Spencer Strider, Rodon, Ray, and, well, a bunch of guys. He had the 13th best slider in baseball. One final note about that screenshot, Justin Steele was listed as the 2nd most strikeouts on a slider by a lefty, but that was only through August as he didn’t pitch in September. The top five ended up being: Robbie Ray, Rodon, Peterson, Kershaw and Steele. As you can see, Steele’s the man. Faster than a speeding bullet, yadda. So, what can we expect from Justin Steele for 2023 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Psyche! Before we get into the Justin Steele sleeper post, just wanted to announce that I’ve begun to roll out my 2023 fantasy baseball rankings on our Patreon. Lucky you (if you pay the $10/month). Also, Rudy’s begun to roll out his 2023 fantasy baseball projections. It’s version 1.0 and there’s usually about 4500 versions but just wanted to let you know. Anyway II, the Justin Steele sleeper:
Here’s Justin Steele sliders that produced an out:
Here’s the sliders that produced a hit or walk:
That made me laugh (super nerdy stuff!) how many sliders dominated hitters vs. how many sliders produced a less than ideal result. There’s so few, you can count them in the 2nd image. It’s 31. 598 sliders produced positive results. His batting average against on the slider was .136. That’s like your aunt when Beanie Babies were popular — just absolutely nuts. His Whiff% on the slider was 32.7%, and used it to put away the batter 24.5% of the time. Okay, the slider’s great! You hear it, I hear it, what else can we hear? (That sounds like someone misquoting the musical, Tommy.)
Justin Steele’s curveball was thrown 56 times and it produced a .000 batting average against. That seems good. That’s not a matter of me stopping at three digits. I can go to the millionth decimal and it’s still zero. His change produced a BAA of .167. Only 37 times thrown, but combined the curve and change and that’s 93 times thrown with insane numbers. Side note: I’m bouncing between FanGraphs and Statcast, so if you go to look at FanGraphs and it says he threw the curve 59 times (it does), and still had a .000 BAA, then that’s because these sites can’t get on the same page about basic stats. Not going on that diatribe again, but it’s annoying and just assume I saw the number I’m quoting at one of the places. To be fair, these curves and changes might be mislabeled at both places and could be sliders. I watched a few videos of his curves and they kinda look like sliders, but it’s irrelevant. They produced good results, that’s all that matters.
So, what didn’t produce good results? The 4-seamer appears to be merely a set-up pitch. It’s not quite garbage, but with a .313 BAA, and only a 20.3% Whiff%, it was not working last year, or close to as well it was working the year before, when he had an overall iffy year, but the fastball had a .227 BAA during that iffy year. This is where the dream-a-little-dream shizz comes into play. If he can couple that fastball effectiveness with his last year slider? Well, I think we could have a fantasy number two. I haven’t even mentioned his opponents are mostly bad, even if the unbalanced schedule got more balanced.
We see it a lot with young players and how the lack of a minor league season in 2020 hurt so many guys, especially those that took the next step during that period of non-activity. Justin Steele went from useless in 2019 with a 5.59 ERA in Double-A, and looked headed out of baseball, then Offscreen Theater Presents: Steele got better in 2020, and, in 2021, he had a 1.32 ERA in Triple-A and a solid 4.26 ERA in his rookie year. Then took the next step forward last year, but everyone was like, “Nah, we wrote him off in 2019, and no one had a good 2020,” so he’s not worth revisiting. Right, most didn’t have a good 2020, but a few did, we just didn’t know it. For 2023, I’ll give Justin Steele projections of 9-11/3.46/1.29/154 in 148 IP with a chance for much more.