Through 17 starts and 100.1 innings, Taylor Jungmann has been worth 2.2 Wins Above Replacement, making him the most valuable starting pitcher on the Milwaukee Brewers. The 25-year-old Jungmann has posted an impressive 3.05 ERA with an almost as equally impressive 3.37 FIP. He’s done a marvelous job of keeping the ball in the yard and has limited batters to just a .285 wOBA.
Jungmann’s success is rather surprising and unforeseen. Most people had him pegged as a back-end starter with the upside being a chance to be a solid three-guy. But during his MLB debut season, Jungmann has pitched nothing short of an ace.
But should we really expect that going forward?
The quick answer is no. I expect his stats to take somewhat of a hit in 2016, and there are a few reasons why I believe this.
Throughout his minor league career, which began in 2012 in High-A ball, Jungmann had a knack for allowing a relatively high batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In 30 games across two seasons in Triple-A, batters hit safely on 32 percent of balls they put in play. Granted, that number is a bit inflated because of the park environment Jungmann pitched in this season in Colorado Springs. That being said, however, Jungmann is allowing just a .283 BABIP in the majors, which is drastically lower than what we saw from him in the minors. As you should know, 100 innings is too small a sample size to take seriously, which is why I’m not a believer in those numbers. I believe hitters will start hitting him harder as his time in the majors grows, and as a result, his BABIP will rise.
Jungmann relies a ton on his fastball. Probably too much. Right now, he’s throwing a fastball at a 68.9 percent clip. Only four qualified starting pitchers throw heaters more often. Now, if Jungmann’s fastball was in the mid-to-high 90s, he could probably get away with over usage, but because it averages just barely 92 mph, it’s nothing too special. If Jungmann ever misses with location, hitters, especially as they begin to learn his tendencies, will feast on him. Adding another pitch to an arsenal will surely help, but also throwing his changeup more would be beneficial. Look for him to do that in 2016.
Good command is key if Jungmann wants future success, and his command has been impressive in the majors, something you couldn’t say when he was down on the farm. During his time in the minors, he issued his fair share of free passes. In both of his years in Triple-A, he posted walk rates of over 10 percent, which is why his minor league FIP numbers were never as impressive as his ERAs. His 8.7 BB% with the Brewers this season is encouraging, but also surprising due to his troubles in the minors. If Jungmann somehow reverts back to his bad location ways, 2016 will be a bumpy ride.
It’s fair to say Jungmann has been great in 2015, and it’s also fair to say he has overachieved. And when a rookie overachievers, it’s typical to think he will eventually regress. Well, color me typical, because that’s exactly what will happen. He’ll be more of a 3.80 ERA pitcher than a 3.00 ERA pitcher in 2016. But that’s okay. Nobody expected him to be an ace, anyway.