Starter Outliers: Brandon Woodruff

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NBC Sports EDGE Staff
·3 min read
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To celebrate both baseball's return and the launch of our 2021 MLB Draft Guide, we're going to be taking looks at what we have to offer all the way up to Opening Day. With a loaded arsenal of content -- from positional rankings, ADP reports and season-long projections, to mock drafts, projected lineups and draft cheat sheets -- we are as proud as we've ever been of what we've put together and are eager to share it with you in the coming weeks. No matter the format or size of your league, we are confident we can deliver the tools you need to secure that championship hardware.

Today, we'll be giving you a look at the guide's exclusive positional outlier column series with the below excerpt from the Starting Pitcher Outliers.

Brandon Woodruff, SP, MIL

EXPERT

RANKING

Bissell

10

Boyer

15

Crawford

12

Johnson

10

Montanez

6

Pouliot

20

Short

15

Shovein

12

Silva

17

Williams

9

Staff

13

Composite

12.6

Jorge Montanez had Brandon Woodruff at 6. The composite ranking was 12.6.

Woodruff has improved every year since his 2017 debut and proceeded to grow into a full-on fantasy ace in 2020. He posted a 3.05 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and struck out 91 batters in 73 2/3 innings. Not only do I think he can repeat that success, but there's a chance he could be even better for fantasy managers in 2021. When evaluating starting pitchers, there are three factors I weigh heavily in how I believe they can perform. First, I want to see good control, and with back-to-back seasons of a 6.1% walk rate, Woodruff checks that box. In 2020, that walk rate ranked 12th-best among starting pitchers. Second, give me all the strikeouts. Woodruff has improved his strikeout rate year-over-year since 2017, finishing with a 31.1% strikeout rate in 2020, 11th-best in baseball. K-BB might be one of the best indicators of a pitcher's skill, and Woodruff's 24.9% was once again among the tops in MLB. Third, I want pitchers who can induce soft contact and keep the ball in the yard. Woodruff does just that with a 49.4% groundball rate and a .261 xWOBA that ranks in the top 10th percentile. When taking batted ball quality into account, Statcast gave Woodruff a 2.86 xERA. What might be most impressive of all is that Woodruff's success is built off his incredible fastball. Many pitchers can get by with a fastball they can locate and better breaking/offspeed pitches. Woodruff's fastball alone produced an elite 17.5% swinging-strike rate. Milwaukee also brought in Gold Glove defenders in Kolten Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr. over the offseason. You have to love what that does for the pitching staff. I might be the high man on Woodruff, but if he performs as I expect, a ranking of sixth overall will be justified. I'm drafting him as my ace with confidence. – Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino)

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