D’Backs Robbie Ray: 2017’s Biggest Fantasy Wildcard

Robbie Ray led the league K/9 last season for the Diamondbacks, but the rest of his stats were not as impressive. Could he put i altogether next season, and turn into a fantasy dynamo, or will he be a bust?

Raise your hand if you knew that Diamondbacks’ lefty, Robbie Ray, led the league in K/9 last season.

I’ll wait.

It is safe to say that pretty much no one could identify Ray in crowded room, let alone pick him out as the league leader, so why is he not a household name yet? The simple answer is, he somehow turned in a, 4.90 ERA, even though he possess one of the most electric arsenals in baseball.

Fantasy owners that owned Ray had a love/hate relationship with him, as the K outputs could dictate matchups, but his ERA and WHIP could ruin weekly lines at the same time.  He had 208 K, and a 11.25 K/9, ranking him better than Max Scherzer and Noah Syndergaard. But, a 3.67 BB/9 and 1.46 WHIP, will tank any other successes he had.

He widely considered an enigma, because his pure stuff and actual numbers, do not correlate. The Diamondbacks will bank on him to help lead the staff behind Zack Greinke, but they have to wonder the same thing that fantasy owners are.

Let us first get the negatives out of the way.

Ray gave up 24 HR and 71 BB last season. Add the 185 hits he surrendered as well, and there was way too much traffic on the basepaths. Only 31% of his starts where considered quality starts, and he barely averaged five IP per start. There are a lot of negatives here, but his peripherals paint a different picture.

His 3.76 FIP and 3.59 SIERA offer fantasy owners a preliminary glance at how good his raw stuff is. Through a minor mechanic tweak, his velocity jumped across the board as well. His average fastball velocity was 94 mph, topping out at 97, his slider jumped to 85 mph, and his change-up jumped to 87 mph.

More amazingly, his LD dropped to 21%, his GB rate rose to 46%, and his FB rate dropped to 33%. His Med contact% dropped by 2.5% to 47%, and his Hard contact rate only rose to 37%. All his batted ball data speaks to a guy that should have had a better season, so what gives?

Ray’s biggest issue was the damage he suffered through the third time through the order. Opposing teams batted over .300 against him the third time through the order, and with two outs, batters were able to post a .270+ AVG. Further highlighting the root of his struggles.

He has a four pitch mix, his fastball is his go to pitch and the one he generates his whiffs with it. But, his slider and curve are not too bad either. His slider generated a 24% whiff rate, and his curve forced a 12% a whiff rate. Armed with a mid-90s fastball, and two pitches that warranted those kind of chase rates, there is room for optimism, and lead owners to see why his K rate was so high.

He said that he struggled with the feel with his change-up, as the uptick in its velocity had him trying to adjust, so there could be another wrinkle that could be added if he can regain his control with it. Another area that owners can feel comfortable with improving, is his league high .352 BABIP.  While his inconsistency certainly played a role, that is certainly an unlucky number.

Robbie Ray will enter next spring as one of the biggest fantasy wildcards, because his ceiling is sky-high. His stuff is way too good to for him to post the mediocre line that he did, so there has to be some improvement next season. He battled his command, the rise in his velocity certainly did not help, but one would think another year of development will help.

Playing in Arizona will continue to not help his HR numbers, but if he can limit the traffic on the bases, he will prosper. This is not to say that he will be a Cy Young winner next season, but his ERA should drop at least into the high 3.00s. Keep track of him this spring to see how he keeps hopefully developing.

The safest plan in drafting Ray is to pair him with a low-ERA pitcher. Someone like Masahiro Tanaka for example, would be an excellent partner for Ray, as his low ERA/WHIP numbers counter Ray’s volatile ways. His is still too enticing to pass up on draft day, so make sure you are not scared away completely by last seasons struggles.