Today, I start at SP #51 in my little crowdsourced analysis (see the last two columns for a description of the dataset) and look to infinity and beyond. In 12-team leagues, you are looking at MLB 5th starters and/or flyer candidates who, at the start of the MLB season may be (in roughly descending order of value or when to be removed from a house on fire):
- middle relievers
- rookies or younger players you hope will get PT
- injury-returnees also getting stretched out
- prospects sent or likely to be sent down to the minors early so they can maintain their workload
- The Savoy Special
- underrated duds
- overrated duds
- just plain-old, unqualified duds
- pitchers whose last name rhymes with Mendoza
- new batting practice balls
- used batting practice balls
- starting pitchers named Corey
Nonetheless, there is great value here. Depending on your bench size, these are the guys you may want to stash away so that you can smoothly slide them into your rotation right before the all-star break and smile as they play up to expectations after (see Jacob Faria). Depending on your draft strategy, you might try to slip these guys into the early stages of auctions and grab them for a buck or two while everyone else is spending their kids’ college funds on Trout, Kershaw and Stanton. OR, if your fellow managers are savvy, sit back, hope they fly under the radar and keep $10-15 so that you can snap them up at the end of the draft.
There are five folks here who seem assured of starting roles: Pomeranz, Happ, Musgrove, Clevinger and Gausman. If you are looking for K and IP at the back end of your rotation, all of these guys are worth the investment at these prices. Pomeranz is in the middle of a Boston staff that, when healthy, could be formidable. He quietly won 17 games for Boston in 2017, offers 9 K/9 and will get IP for you. What’s not to like? The team won 93 games last year. J.A. Happ plays a similar role in Toronto. Not much flash, not as many wins. He’s 34, Pomeranz is 29. Age gives the advantage to Pomeranz. Still, for a couple of bucks, either of these guys will deliver tremendous value—though the broad spread around Pomeranz’s ranking indicates that speculators see him as a potentially higher risk/reward threat.
I really like Joe Musgrove at these prices. He cracked 100 IP in his second year with Houston in 2017 and produced a solid second half. Pittsburgh was willing to send Gerrit Cole to Houston and get Musgrove in return. Someone knows something. There was no room for him in Houston. In Pittsburgh, he’s #2 or 3 in the rotation, depending on Ivan Nova’s health. He gets to strikeout pitchers now. Pretend you are ignoring him or can’t find him in your AL cheat sheet and snap him up.
Fangraphs ranks only the White Sox rotation below Baltimore’s. Kevin Gausman projects to be the Birds’ #1. He will deliver IP and generates 8+ K/9. His success depends in no small part on run support. His second half of 2017 was much better than his first. If you can get a team’s #1 SP with 200 K potential for bargain-basement prices, don’t hesitate to go the extra buck.
Mike Clevinger is part of an already stacked Indians rotation. In 2017, he doubled his IP to 121 and delivered 10 K/9. Problem is, he walks a few folks, so his K/BB is less than 3. If he can gain some discipline and put more balls on the ground than in the air, he’s a steal. But, will he really make the jump and deliver 150 IP? An extra buck says yes.
Note the projections especially on Musgrove and Clevinger. The sd of their prices indicates potential negative value. I’d bet against that. The spreads among their rankings are big too. But Clevinger’s suggest that some pundits see a tremendous upside. Both are solid value. But, #seriously: tell Clevinger that he does not have to go with deGrom to get his hair cut.
Others I like here include Maeda, Gohara, Lamet and Reyes. Maeda had a solid 2017. Durability (he does not go deep into games) and the crowded Dodgers’ rotation (this goes for Ryu as well) limits his value. But, with his skill set (and if he can keep more balls on the ground), he will offer solid start potential and/or middle relief time. Reyes is coming back from TJS. He was a top-10 prospect coming into the bigs. The questions surrounding him for 2018 concern when he actually returns and throws and what role he will play (SP? RP?). The skill set has nothing but upside. But, he may not pay off until the All-Star break.
Lamet struck out 140 in 119 IP for San Diego. Can he repeat in year 2? Gohara rocketed through the minors to the bigs with Atlanta 30 K in 29 IP. Both of these guys are attractive speculative buys. Skill sets are there. How will they handle a full MLB season? On the other hand, these are great middle relief/vulture win and save candidates who will deliver K.
At this point in the rankings, in an average 12-team league, your average manager will have had an average chance to fill an average of 5-6 SP slots. Not much left. As the holes in the table indicate, there is so much difference of opinion at this point that some of these guys show up in only one analyst’s ranks. As a result, we speculate.
Here we have bottom of the rotation guys (Skaggs, Roark), guys we can never seem to pass up (does Ervin Santana qualify for social security yet?), some serious (Anderson, Font, Buehler, Faria, Manaea) speculative picks, guys who hurt the ones who love them (Taijuan Walker) and so forth.
Tanner Roark is a workhorse in a solid Nationals rotation. Tyler Skaggs has superb skills but needs to stay off the real DL list. Buehler has electric stuff and Font is solid. But, they are on a crowded Dodgers staff. Font offers solid middle relief potential. Buehler has the potential to make a difference if he can get the innings. But, at his age, he may start the season in the minors. I suggest keeping an eye on both of these guys. If they get through Spring Training, they could be solid middle relief candidates to start the year.
Santana is the #1 on a Minnesota staff that just added Jake Odorizzi. The Twinkies will be fun to watch and to pitch for. Santana offers a high floor. If he really is available down here, he will be a buck well spent. Anderson had a breakout year with Milwaukee and Faria lived up to his hype as he arrived to Tampa Bay in mid-2017. Both are solid buys for their potential.
Meanwhile…Miles Mikolas comes to St. Louis after 424 IP in Japan with an 8K/9 ratio and 2.1 ERA. How does this translate into the 162 game MLB season? If he can hit 20 HR…Oh, wait. See Ohtani
If I can take a moment and seize writer’s privilege… I really don’t know what 34-year-old Clayton Richard is doing here. Moving right along…
We are betting on Brent Honeywell to follow in Faria’s footsteps to Tampa Bay. Andrew Heaney has never lived up to his billing. Taijuan Walker slides in at #2 behind Greinke for Arizona. He, Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin are interchangeable in your bidding and rosters. (though Ray’s K potential adds value). Walker is only 25. He has shown flashes of Ace stuff. He has also been injured and occasionally offered mid-inning BP sessions to opposing teams. His time is coming. But, he could surprise this year if his experience offsets his youth. All three Diamondbacks (including Ray who is not in this grouping) are worthy endgame value. Jimmy Nelson? We will know more when we know his health. But, you can expect him to be available in the FA market at draft’s end.
Next week, I’ll look at pitchers who really will be speculative buys and some who loom as solid middle-relief help in an MLB that is using the 10 day DL and pitch counts aggressively. In the end, you’re looking for stats and data that add up. You don’t care where it comes from.
March comes in like a lion this week. Best wishes,
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and John Gozzi live on Sunday February 25th, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #101 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This is our kick off show for the new 2018 fantasy baseball season. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Professor Mark Rush. By day Mark is the well respected Law & Political Professor of Washington & Lee University and by night is the Chief Editor as well as a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles are published every Monday morning and his primary focus is starting pitching.
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