Every year pitchers pop up seemingly out of nowhere to help fantasy owners win their leagues. Pitchers are more susceptible to injuries, and therefore finding late-round gems can bolster a team’s pitching staff if and when injuries rear its ugly head. Last year, there were several pitchers drafted after late (mostly after pick 250) that were not only rosterable but were anchors for many fantasy rotations. There was Hyun-Jin Ryu (2019 ADP 183), Lucas Giolito (2019 ADP 426), Sonny Gray (2019 ADP 271), Mike Minor (2019 ADP 321), Jake Odorizzi (2019 ADP 370), and many more. All finished inside the top 25 starting pitchers at the close of 2019 and inside the top 100 overall. Some of the options I discuss below may not be drafted in your league but I think they can provide positive value for even some shallow mixed leagues. Why wait to pick them up off the wire in April after they receive more fanfare? Grab them now at the end of your draft and reap the benefits.
Bargain Bin Starting Pitchers
Alex Wood (SP – LAD) – NFBC ADP 311
I already touted Wood in my recent Fringe Starters article and here he is again. It’s not difficult to foresee success from Wood in 2020. He’s done it before and carries a career 3.40 ERA with him and a very solid 15.2% K-BB% across 839 innings. His 2019 was a complete washout throwing just 35.2 innings for the Reds. He’s healthy thus far in spring and has been clocked at 92-93 mph on his fastball. That’s a great sign not only for his success but also his health. He typically averages 90 mph on his sinker but in 2017 when he averaged 92.0 mph, his SwStr% jumped up to a career-best 6.6% on the pitch. That doesn’t sound like much but sinkers induce fewer whiffs per pitch than any other pitch type. Additionally, he wields a deadly knuckle-curve and a changeup that generates a ton of ground balls and weak contact. He’s back in LA where he’s performed very well in the past and should provide 140-150 quality innings if healthy. Oh, and I hate wins but being backed by the best lineup in the National League won’t hurt his chances in that category either.
Kyle Gibson (SP – TEX) – NFBC ADP 415
If I told you there was a pitcher who threw 160 innings last year with two pitches that had swinging strike rates (SwStr%) of over 20% and third offering at nearly 15%. Would you be interested? What if I told you that pitcher was going after pick 350? I just described boring old veteran, Kyle Gibson. His slider is a thing of beauty inducing swings outside the zone over 48% of the time and now in back-to-back years has a SwStr% over 26%. His changeup is the other offering that generated a ton of whiffs. It also gets the ever-important ground ball nearly 60% of the time it’s put in play. Take a look at his nasty slider below.
While plenty of people likely know today’s #TheFastPitch, people may not be aware of how good it truly was:
27.1 SwSt (3rd in MLB; all pitches)
48.7 K% (2nd among SL)
.163 xBA pic.twitter.com/U5Gw6DWnog
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) November 25, 2019
One has to wonder how he managed a 4.84 ERA last year? His xFIP was a solid 3.80, so there’s some disconnect there. He will get himself into trouble given his poor zone rate on his secondaries and the fact that his four-seam fastball got blasted to the tune of a 1.045 OPS last year. His season ended early due to a digestive condition, so concern over his health will linger throughout the spring. He’s now with Texas where a new stadium and retractable roof should provide some relief against Gibson’s fastball during the summer months. I wouldn’t bet on more than 160 innings but think he can split the difference in his ERA between 2018 and 2019. Given his current price and strikeout skills, he’s worth a shot.
Corbin Burnes (SP/RP – MIL) – NFBC ADP 451
As of now, Burnes is ticketed as a middle reliever for the Brewers. Here’s what 80% of the Brewers rotation looks like: Adrian Houser, Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom, and Eric Lauer. I like Adrian Houser but the rest of the staff is full of sub-optimal starters and unknowns. Burnes has looked strong early-on this spring and recently went three scoreless innings in a start against the White Sox. Right or wrong, I’m going to ignore some of the outrageous numbers from Burnes’49 big-league innings last year. A .414 BABIP, 3.12 HR/9, and 57.4% strand rate are all extremely unlikely to happen again. Now, some of that hard contact allowed falls on Burnes. But, among pitchers with at least 50 batted ball events, he’s in the top-15 with the highest differential between xwOBA minus wOBA and xSLG minus SLG.
It may be an older metric but strikeout minus walk ratio (K-BB%) is still a very good indicator of a pitcher’s current and future performance. For Burnes, his K-BB% last year was a stellar 21.3%. Cross-checking those numbers with Alex Chamberlain’s Pitch Leaderboard, we find that his expected K-BB% (xK-xBB%) equation spits out a 22.8% last season. Even better! Additionally, his enormous barrel rate of 11.7% seems to be unnecessarily inflated based on his deserved barrel% (dBRL%) of a much more reasonable 7.6%. We haven’t even examined his pitch mix, but this isn’t a deep dive, so I’ll spare you. To keep it short, I’ll leave you with this, his slider produced an ungodly 35.2% SwStr rate and had a 45% CSW! There aren’t many dart throws beyond pick 400 with skills like that.
Austin Voth (SP – WSH) – NFBC ADP 601
I’m of the thinking that Austin Voth is a more talented pitcher than Joe Ross and should win the Nationals’ fifth starter spot this spring. Both are pitching well in the early going but Ross has an ugly 3:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio compared to Voth’s sparkling 6:1. Voth showcased impressive skills in 43.2 innings in the second half of 2019. No, he’s not some young, heralded prospect. He’s already 27 years old but has limited walks throughout the minor leagues. At every minor league stop with over 60 innings pitched, his walk rate has never been higher than 8.6% and regularly around six percent. That’s a great start. Let’s look at old reliable, K-BB% across his three stops. Once again, very nice ratios between 15% and 20% closing out 2019 in the Majors with a 17.8% K-BB rate.
He’s armed with a four-seamer, curveball, cutter and to a lesser extent, a changeup. He managed a 12.6% SwStr% despite throwing his fastball 60% of the time. His fastball, however, was pretty decent with a 9.5% SwStr% and an 82.3% zone contact rate. The curveball, though, is great! It netted a 21% SwStr% with a zone rate hovering at 40%. It also allowed zero barrels on 139 thrown. Here’s how it looks this spring.
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) March 7, 2020
His cutter generated an above-average whiff rate despite a low chase rate. The sample was very small, but I’m interested to see if he can induce more chases because he still has a changeup in his back pocket as well. I’d like to see him throw one of his secondaries for strikes more often and I think that can be his cutter. If he can improve his command, I could see a nice step forward and a pitcher who could be a solid SP4 or SP5 for your fantasy team.
Tyler Beede (SP – SFG) – NFBC ADP 613
Beede has been covered in depth on several occasions on this site. Like here and here. He’s a favorite sleeper of some of the PitcherList writers. The important takeaway is the fact that he had three pitches that generated a SwStr% over 15% last year. I highlighted his curveball that generated a very solid 33.1% CSW last season. He threw the curve fewer than 14% of the time and that has to change because while his secondaries are good, his fastball is flat out bad. His arsenal is deep enough to succeed without throwing his fastball 50% of the time if he can generate called strikes on at least one of his secondaries. His slider could be that pitch. It’s zone rate last year was 38%. If he can raise that over 40%, he becomes more dangerous with his curve and changeup. Additionally, he added velocity in September, averaging 96 mph on his fastball. If he can maintain 95+ mph with his fastball, he can be special. To justify his ADP, he only needs to make a slight adjustment to his pitch mix to provide owners value in 2020.
Note: Beede has been diagnosed with a UCL and flexor strain and is seeking a second opinion. Similar injuries have resulted in Tommy John Surgery but nothing has been determined yet. This news makes me sad.
Bargain Bin Relief Pitchers
Matt Magill (RP – SEA) – NFBC ADP 507
Magill’s 4.09 ERA and 1.40 WHIP from a year ago doesn’t exactly scream value but he managed to boost his strikeout rate to a career-best 28%. Right now, he’s in the mix to receive save opportunities for the woeful Mariners. As a converter starter, he’s now averaging over 95 mph on his fastball which has helped double his SwStr% on his four-seamer to 12.1%. He also possesses two above-average breaking balls which is plenty to succeed as a closer. For a team that’s looking to sell, they may want to showcase Magill and flip him at the end of July. Given his bargain bin price, that’s plenty of time for him to earn back his draft day cost in just four months of work.
Matt Barnes (RP – BOS) – NFBC ADP 619
The Red Sox have already come out and announced the Brandon Workman will be the closer to start the season. He earned it given his 1.88 ERA, 104 strikeouts, and 16 second-half saves. When we take a step back, I’m very skeptical that he’ll be able to replicate a .209 BABIP or a 2.6% HR/FB rate. Those surface numbers have helped create a buying opportunity for Barnes. Both have had their issues with walks but when finding an elite closer, there are two main factors. Fastball velocity and a secondary offering that can generate whiffs. Let’s look at the tale of the tape between Workman and Barnes from 2019.
|Player||Fastball Velocity (mph)||Secondary SwStr% (Pitch Type)||K%||BB%|
|Brandon Workman||93.2||11.5% (CU)||36.4%||15.7%|
|Matt Barnes||96.9||19.0% (CU)||38.6%||13.3%|
If I didn’t know any better I would have guessed by this table that Matt Barnes was the Red Sox closer. Sure, both walk rates are scary and that’s a concern for both pitchers. I still prefer the high-end velocity of Barnes and the strength of his curveball to get whiffs. The margins can be slim when it comes to closers, especially for the pitchers who have only done it less than one season. I’m confident that Barnes will get his share of saves and has a chance to take over the role completely if Workman falters.
Aaron Bummer (RP – CHW) – NFBC ADP 656
Fresh off of signing a new five-year deal with, the lefty is the potential heir-apparent to Alex Colome as the closer for the White Sox. It’s a little unconventional using a left-handed pitcher as the primary closer but we’ve seen it more frequently in recent years with Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman, Taylor Rogers, and Sean Doolittle. Bummer’s skills aren’t quite on the level of those arms but Colome isn’t exactly blowing hitters away with just a 22.1% strikeout rate last season. Besides, Colome is a free agent after the 2020 season and hasn’t looked sharp this spring. Bummer’s success is based on an elevated ground ball rate (72.1% in 2019) and inducing soft contact, over 22% of the time per FanGraphs each of the last two seasons. The sinker-heavy approach has helped him limit home runs to the tune of 0.67/nine innings over his 121.1 major league innings. There’s a glimmer of hope when it comes to strikeouts as his cutter had a 22.6% SwStr last year, so there is some swing and miss in his game. Those in deep formats should handcuff their Colome shares with Bummer, man.
Photos by Leslie Plaza Johnson, Tony Quinn & David Berding/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram)