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The Elite Upside of Freddy Peralta, Luis Castillo, and Ryan Pressly

These pitchers all have exciting upside with relatively lower ADPs.

Depending on your league size, a pitcher going somewhere between picks 50 and 90 could be either a relatively early-round pick or something approaching a mid-round selection. Either way, if you’re selecting a pitcher at that point, it’s likely that they aren’t one of the top 15 hurlers in fantasy. Still, there’s plenty of elite upside to be found after those 15 pitchers, especially with Freddy Peralta, Luis Castillo, and Ryan Pressly.

Per NFBC, the pitchers with the top 15 ADPs are all off the board by the 45th pick. Lucas Giolito, currently being selected as the 15th pitcher, has an ADP of 43.39 right now.

*All ADP data via NFBC.

**Player’s rank among pitchers in 2021 in ESPN’s standard scoring, head-to-head leagues.

Generally speaking, you can see why those hurlers are going where they’re going. They’re elite, and for the most part, backed up that notion in 2021. Jacob deGrom and Shane Bieber are two obvious exceptions based on ESPN’s final 2021 rankings, but both missed time due to injury and were effective when healthy.

However, if you’d prefer to wait a bit on drafting pitching, there’s similar elite upside slightly further down the draft board. Further down enough that you can potentially take another quality position player or two before selecting a pitcher with a similar ceiling to those aforementioned 15 pitchers.

These are those pitchers.

(ADP data per NFBC.)

 

Freddy Peralta – 55.87 ADP

 

There are some slight innings concerns here.

Last season, 62 different starters threw more innings than Peralta’s 144.1. What’s more, that 144.1 represented the highest number of innings the right-hander has ever thrown in any season, in the majors or minors, in his career.

But really, that’s the only fantasy downside for Peralta.

The fantasy upside, however, is outstanding.

Even with far fewer innings on his 2021 resume, the 25-year-old showed he was arguably one of baseball’s best pitchers whenever he took the mound.

The right-hander made 27 starts in 2021. In 18 of those starts, he threw at least five innings. In those 18 starts, Peralta allowed more than three earned runs just once (it was four in his last start of the season) and failed to reach seven strikeouts just twice (again, one of those instances was his last start of the season).

He also finished, among starters with at least 140 innings of work, in the top 15 in strikeouts per nine innings, hard-hit rate, swinging strike percentage, ERA, and home runs allowed per nine innings.

Despite fewer innings, Peralta still finished with the 15th-highest fWAR among starters with a minimum of 140 innings pitched. That’s obviously not a relevant scoring stat in fantasy, but it gives you a sense of how effective the Brewers’ hurler was.

Speaking of scoring in fantasy, despite those fewer innings, Peralta finished as the 17th-highest scoring starter in ESPN standard scoring, head-to-head leagues. He topped 2021 breakout star Sandy Alcantara by two fantasy points in that scoring format despite throwing 61.1 fewer innings. Peralta also outscored scored Lucas Giolito by 11 fantasy points in those ESPN leagues and registered 48 more fantasy points than Aaron Nola despite throwing far fewer innings than either.

Giolito logged 178.2 innings last season while Nola clocked in with 180.2.

According to NFBC, those starters’ current ADPs are as follows:

Admittedly, you might have a different scoring system in your own league or leagues than those ESPN leagues. However, even with far fewer innings than his peers, Peralta can provide elite fantasy production. Plus, he’s got a much lower ADP that, depending on your league size, could allow you to grab a quality hitter or two before taking the right-hander instead of going for one of those starters in an earlier round.

Additionally, this isn’t building up to some grand point that Peralta will suddenly throw 180 or 190 innings during the 2022 season. Frankly, that seems unlikely.

But, he’s shown that he can be a borderline top 15 starter with vastly limited innings. Even if he throws somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 to 170 frames, something that seems much more reasonable, he’ll be a steal at his current draft position with the potential to finish as a top 10 starting pitcher.

 

Luis Castillo – 87.05 ADP

 

Luis Castillo’s fantasy ceiling this season likely depends on who he’s pitching for come Opening Day. If it’s the Cincinnati Reds, then this is still a good value pick with upside. Castillo has shown he can thrive in Great American Ballpark despite its homer-prone nature.

Among starters with at least 700 innings since the start of the 2017 season, when the right-hander made his major league debut, Castillo is just one of four starters to rank in the top 15 in the league in strikeouts per nine innings, ERA and barrel rate. The other three? Jacob deGrom, Charlie Morton, and Clayton Kershaw. He just missed out on the top 15 in hard-hit rate during that span, with the 22nd-best metric in the category over the same span.

But, if Castillo is traded, and it’s another team that he’s pitching for in 2022, his fantasy ceiling and ADP alike will both skyrocket.

Essentially, the right-hander has produced at a similar rate to Kershaw since 2017 despite the extremely hitter-friendly nature of his home ballpark. And while they’re obviously different pitchers (the ERAs and walk numbers are also a bit different) it only speaks to Castillo’s upside in a different ballpark.

Per Statcast, Great American Ballpark finished in the top five where park factors were concerned in home runs (first), wOBACon (second) runs scored (third), on-base percentage (third), and hits (tied for fourth).

Put Castillo on a competitive team with a more pitcher-friendly park like the Tigers, Rays, Blue Jays, or Giants, and it’s not hard to imagine his fantasy production (not to mention his real-life production) benefiting significantly.

Even just looking at a stat like expected home runs, it’s hard not to see how much better the 29-year-old might be elsewhere.

Castillo has given up 46 home runs since 2019. His expected home runs at Comerica Park during that span would check in at 36. His respective, expected home runs at Tropicana Field and Rogers Centre during the same span? 37 and 38. For Oracle Park, the number would’ve been 39.

And if it seems like Castillo, with his 46 home runs allowed in the last three seasons, isn’t giving up that many home runs, well, it’s because he’s not.

Lowest HR/9 Since 2019 Among Starters With At Least 350 Innings

Combine that with Castillo’s propensity to limit hard contact and barrels at an elite rate – not to mention his ability to miss bats – and throw in a much more pitcher-friendly park, and you have the makings of a potential league-winning starting pitcher.

Clearly, much of that upside hinges on a trade. But, his current ADP should net you, at worst, a quality, above-average fantasy starter. At best though, he might help you to a fantasy championship.

 

Ryan Pressly  – 70.29 ADP

 

Generally speaking, if a team gets worse during the offseason, the fantasy stock of said team’s closer might take a bit of a hit.

You could make the argument that’s what’s happening in Houston with Ryan Pressly. The Astros retained Justin Verlander but lost Kendall Graveman and Yimi Garcia to free agency. Furthermore, Carlos Correa and Zack Greinke are still free agents.

But that might not be the case. It’s true, the Astros might not be as dominant next season, especially if Correa signs elsewhere.

Still, that might actually be a good thing for Pressly’s fantasy prospects.

Houston’s gaudy run differential, thanks in part to a lineup that led baseball in runs scored with 863, often pushed wins beyond the point of save situations. The Astros finished with a +205 run differential, the fourth-best in baseball. Yet, 22 teams finished with more total saves than Houston’s 34.

If Correa is playing elsewhere in 2022, the Astros should still be rather good, but perhaps not as elite as they were last season.

That should, in theory, open up more save opportunities for Pressly – who as a closer, Houston wasn’t shy about using last season with the game on the line.

Only Atlanta’s Will Smith made more ninth-inning appearances as a reliever last season than Houston’s closer, who finished with 61 ninth-inning appearances.

In terms of high-leverage, ninth-inning appearances, Pressly once again finished in the top five. And he was quite effective in those appearances.

Most High-Leverage Ninth-Inning Appearances in 2021

Even with Hector Neris in the fold, the former Twins reliever should continue to dominate save chances in Houston. He accounted for 26 of the team’s 34 saves last season. No other reliever had more than two.

Per NFBC, Pressly is currently the fifth closer going off the board in drafts with an ADP of 70.11 after Liam Hendriks (33.08 ADP), Raisel Iglesias (54.69 ADP), Emmanuel Clase (63.87 ADP), and Edwin Diaz (68.38 ADP). The argument can certainly be made for each of those closers to be the best fantasy relief option in baseball this season.

But the argument for Pressly is similarly strong.

In ESPN standard scoring head-to-head leagues last season, among pitchers who worked exclusively as relievers, Pressly was the eighth-highest scoring pitcher despite far fewer save chances.

*Fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring, head-to-head leagues.

Even if the right-hander gets somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or 10 more save chances, he’ll have a shot at being one of the three best relievers in fantasy baseball this season. That you can draft him somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 30 picks after someone like Iglesias or Hendriks only underscores his value in drafts.

If you’re looking for fantasy players who double as both a draft-day steal and a league winner, look no further Pressly.

 

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Ben Rosener

Ben Rosener is baseball and fantasy baseball writer whose work has previously appeared on the digital pages of Motor City Bengals, Bleacher Report, USA Today, FanSided.com and World Soccer Talk among others. He also writes about fantasy baseball for RotoBaller and the Detroit Tigers for his own Patreon page, Getting You Through the Tigers Rebuild (@Tigers_Rebuild on Twitter). He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.

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