The Cubs and Cardinals start off the season and I was a little too excited to watch 2 teams I don’t care about, but today is officially Opening Day! Part IV of my 2015 frugal fantasy baseball goes over some underpriced SPs and RPs. Obviously depending on how competitive and deep the league is many of these recommendations will be owned already. Depending on how well pitchers do during their first outing will obviously determine how well they’ll perform the entire year. Even if you’ve drafted already I value these pitchers higher than they are currently valued, go trade for them! Add them on the waiver if you’re lucky enough.
A lot of sites will tell you not to draft pitchers early, to draft hitters instead because they’re “safer,” but the better advice would be to draft the correct players. Last year instead of drafting Felix Hernandez in the 2nd round you could have drafted Corey Kluber in the later rounds and got the same production! In 2014 reliable hitters didn’t bust (Prince Fielder, Bryce Harper, Chris Davis, Jason Kipnis) and it’s so much harder to find hitters that out perform their ADP drastically like pitchers so often do (Michael Brantley, Victor Martinez, Jose Abreu, Anthony Rendon). Sarcasm! Clayton Kershaw finished as the #1 overall player last year and he didn’t even pitch the whole season. If you want to draft pitchers early there are plenty of hitters that you can draft late. There seems to be an epidemic of Tommy John surgeries, but there are plenty of pitchers that remain consistent throughout the years, so just draft the players that won’t get Tommy John! It’s that easy. H2H formatting deflated aces because weekly performances are so fickle, and quantity usually beats quality in daily leagues, but having a strong ace can anchor a fantasy rotation, especially in roto leagues. Here are some guys that could help with the quantity side of things though.
Guys I’m Targeting
#65 Brandon McCarthy actually pitched better in the AL East than NL West last year, but he changed his arsenal and Dodger Stadium is more favorable to pitchers than Yankee Stadium and Chase Field. Health is the key here, but compared to Brett Anderson, McCarthy looks like a clean bill of health. The Dodgers managed to turn Beckett and Haren into decent pitchers last year and McCarthy is just as talented and younger than they were.
#68 James Paxton is a 6’4” lefty who throws 95 MPH fastballs, but his numbers were never amazing in the minors and injury problems limited him last year. I think he’s ranked low enough that his upside potential is well worth the risk though. #57 Taijuan Walker jumped over Paxton during an impressive Spring Training; I don’t want to brag, but when I wrote about the Mariners in my power rankings I endorsed Walker over Paxton…this is the pettiest thing I’ve ever bragged about, the season hasn’t even started yet.
Every Blue Jay pitcher
#66 RA Dickey is a consistent pitcher who relies on an inconsistent pitch. I think all the Blue Jay pitchers will get a bump in production with Russell Martin and his pitch framing behind the plate, I may be way too high on Russell Martin, I’m definitely too high on him, but I think he was a big part of the Pirate pitching revival and he should be an improvement to what Toronto had behind the plate last year. Dickey is a safe bet for 170 Ks and a sub 4 ERA with a decent amount of wins.
#67 Drew Hutchinson had a 8.97 K/9 rate with a sub 3 BB/9, a strikeout per inning and a low walk rate is what you want from your ace, and Hutch is doing that. His FIP rate was lower than his ERA, usually a good sign, and apparently his slider became devastating down the stretch of the season last year. He finished with an ERA of 4.48 though…not great, and more worrisome, his BABIP, LOB%, and HR/FB% were all around league average, meaning he wasn’t unlucky last year. He never had BB problems in the minors, his K rate looks legit, he has a better catcher, a year of experience, and the way he tweaked his slider down the stretch makes me optimistic that the kid can adjust and improve rapidly. I’m very interested.
The spring training story catching headlines may be about rookie #118 Daniel Norris living in a van down by the river, but #75 Aaron Sanchez transitioning from successful Chopped judge to promising young starting pitcher is what I’m more impressed with. Both of these guys are raw gems, but I like Norris more than Sanchez because he has a more developed arsenal. I love how the Jays rotation is split down the middle between reliable veterans and high upside rookies.
#69 Derek Holland returns from a knee injury he sustained from playing with his dog, so his arms are fine, and was pretty good during his short return last year. I love his low BB/9 and last year in 37 innings he had a sparkling low 1.22, a sub 3 BB/9 is good so that’s really good. Texas shouldn’t be as unlucky this year and I expect Holland to be 100% recovered in 2015.
For the past 3 years #78 Kyle Lohse has had an amazing starts to the season, he’s averaged a 2.28 ERA the past 3 years in the first month. His numbers last year are somehow underrated, his terrible August masks a solid year from Kyle, but take out August and he had a 2.99 ERA! He’s like a cheap Doug Fister, but with less opportunities for wins. Even if you don’t believe in him, at least use him in the first month.
#92 Trevor Bauer had a great spring training and earned his spot on the Tribe rotation. His biggest issue was always too many free passes, but he only issued one walk in 27 spring training innings this year. He always had an array of pitches, but maybe he’s finally found a method to put it all together. Yahoo! just posted a sleeper article on him that goes into much more detail.
#94 AJ Burnett ran out of Phillie to hook up with his ex team and I don’t blame him. He only pitched like a top 25 SP when he was on the Pirates, so it makes sense he’s ranked this low… Their defensive shifts compliment his high GB% and apparently he pitched through a hernia last year, if he remains healthy I think he’ll easily finish in the top 30. I’m also still a huge fan of Francisco Liriano. Old pitchers that walk a ton of batters, but still do well because they’re Pirates!
#101 Kyle Gibson was selected in the 1st round of the 2009 draft and was the #34 overall prospect in 2011 before undergoing Tommy John surgery later that year and missing most of 2012. He debuted to little fanfare and didn’t turn any heads in 2014, people forgot about him. He had a great GB%, but a pedestrian K/9. He was very inconsistent last year, but I’d expect him to be more consistent with more experience. He had a 7.70 K/9 in Triple A during 2013 and I fully believe him to improve on last year, he should have a long leash in Minnesota.
#102 Mike Leake is consistently boring and pitches in the NL. He always had a great BB/9, but he increased his K/9 by over a point last year. 6.89 isn’t great, but it’s heading in the right direction. His HR/FB% has always been his achilles heel, but he increased his GB% by 5 points last year so I could see it falling to league average if he becomes a groundball pitcher. All signs are pointing in the right direction for Leake, but he’s been too boring for anyone to notice.
#103 Jake Peavy and #104 Jason Hammel both pitched much better in the NL than the AL, and the good news is that they’re pitching in the NL again this year. I like Jason Hammel more than Peavy because he made some legit changes with his pitches while Peavy just enjoys the easier NL lineups, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but Hammel just seems like a safer choice.
I went over my #105 Shane Greene outlook in my Baseless Bold Predictions, and I still think he has a ton of potential.
#113 Jesse Hahn was a former teammate of Matt Harvey in highschool, so maybe some of that greatness rubbed off on him. I thought he’d be great in San Deigo, but now he’s probably in a better environment in Oakland. Great park dimensions and great team defense, he has high upside as long as he stays healthy.
#117 Carlos Rondon and #124 Noah Syndergaard are two elite prospects on teams that will call them up at some point this year. I expect Carlos Rondon to be called up earlier than Syndergaard, who most likely won’t be up until after the Super 2 status, but the White Sox don’t have a clear #5 starter, they don’t have a great #4 starter either, so there’s a spot waiting for him. The White Sox are in full competitive mode and I could see them calling him up after 12 days in the minors, similar to Longoria/Springer call ups. #132 Andrew Heaney is also someone I’ve kept my eye on since last year.
#114 Archie Bradley earned the 5th rotation spot for the Diamondbacks. I dedicated a whole piece to Bradley last year, but then the Diamondbacks didn’t call him up after his rough year in the minors, making me look like a idiot. He had a terrible BB/9 rate in the minor leagues, but he was once regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball as recently as last year. The Diamondbacks traded away Cahill and I highly doubt the team would be stupid enough to waste the 12 days to keep Bradley in the minors to gain that additional year if they weren’t committed to him. Patrick Corbin will probably return sometime this year, but Bradley shouldn’t lose his spot to him. His walks were a huge issue for him his entire career, but in 22 spring training innings he struck out 14 and walked 6…walks are still an issue for him. I like the upside and he’s worth an add in deeper leagues, but Yahoo! wrote about him in more detail here.
#131 TJ House had a 7 K/9, a sub 2 BB/9, and a 60% GB ratio in his first 102 inning stint in the majors…that’s actually amazing. I don’t know what happened the second half for the Indians, but they all pitched way over their heads and it explains why every site seems to have a sleeper post about an Indians pitcher. Not every one of them can break out and besides Kluber I don’t see any sure things. After researching most of the Tribe’s pitchers I think I underestimated the Indians…this staff could be the Nationals of the AL if the staff can perform close to the level it did in the second half. TJ House had an insane 17.9% HR/FB ratio (the average is usually around 10) and he was a tad unlucky with his BABIP, probably because the Indian’s defense is garbage, but projecting this year’s performance on 102 major league innings is grasping at straws at best. He could be amazing this year or terrible and be sent down to the minors only for Danny Salazar to take his place and be terrible for him.
Pitchers winning spots in the rotation with high upside: #81 Carlos Martinez, #95 RP Adam Warren, #61 RP Kendall Graveman, #84 Drew Pomeranz, #106 Raisel Iglesias,
Nate Karns…I wouldn’t draft Karns unless you were in a 14 team AL only league.
Guys forgotten about but should provide above average numbers: #151 Brandon Morrow, #135 Dillon Gee, #98 Wei-Yin Chen.
Closers have the most turnover of any position. Spending an early round pick on an elite closer can reward managers with safety and consistency, but it’s possible to find saves on the waiver wire throughout the year. Obviously more competitive leagues, innings limit leagues, or leagues with free agent restrictions should change how you view the position, but standard leagues, closers aren’t a premium position. Leagues that use holds reduce the value of closers and boost the value of elite ratio guys like Wade Davis and, uh, every other bullpen guy on the Royals. Here’s a pretty good site dedicated to following closer jobs that’s updated frequently.
Tyler Clippard has the job in Oakland with Doolittle sidelined with a shoulder injury…I could easily see Clippard running away with the job and he’ll provide elite value in the short term.
This is more of a gut call, but I think Jordan Walden will end the year with the more saves than Rosenthal for the Cardinals. Watching Trevor Rosenthal pitch last year was as close to having a heart attack as I’ve experienced so far in my life, he just walks way too many guys, he had a 5.37 BB/9 rate last year, and his fastball has almost no control. He closed the game against the Cub’s B squad on Opening Day, but I’m still concerned for his future this year.
Brad Boxberger is closing while Jake McGee recovers from an injury. He had great ratios so even if he doesn’t hold down the closer job he’ll provide value.
With Kenley Jansen out Joel Peralta could be the potential closer for the Dodgers. There’s almost no chance whoever holds the Dodger’s interim closer role holds it down when Jansen comes back however.
Tony Cingrani got demoted to the bullpen…I can’t even pronounce the names of half the guys in the Red’s rotation, but somehow he lost to 3 other guys. If you want a guy like Wade Davis on your team for free then I can see Cingrani having the same sort of breakout and a great guy to target in hold leagues.
Ken Giles is next in line for the Phillies closer if Papelbon gets traded and he’ll provide stellar ratios in the meantime.
I can see Soria winning the closer role from Nathan relatively early.
Betances has had a horrible spring and Miller was paid the big bucks, I could see Miller getting plenty of save opportunities and while usually lefties are preferred not to close, pitching in Yankee Stadium as a lefty should only help him.
Jason Grilli probably becomes the closer in Atlanta after the Craig Kimbrel trade, I thought Kimbrel was untouchable, but I guess after the Heyward trade everyone was on the table. This Braves team looks terrible. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jim Johnson won the job eventually either.
Bobby Parnell may return as early as May and get his closer job back, but if he has any setbacks from surgery, then the RP closest to usurping Mejia is probably Jeurys Familia.
A closer has lost his job on the first day for the past two years so be ready to pounce.