Sleeper Spotlight: Could Charlie Morton Emerge As A Viable Fantasy Option?

by Ray Kuhn

Who is Charlie Morton? Unless you play in a deep league (more than 12 teams), an NL-only (now an AL-only) league or are in the business of streaming starters, it is very possible you are not all that familiar with the right-hander. After Morton pitched just 17.1 innings with the Phillies last season prior to injuring his hamstring, it is very likely he was not on your radar entering the 2017 season.

To be fair, after a 4.81 ERA and 96 K in 129 innings in 2015, it is highly probable Morton wasn’t an option you were considering for last season either. This off-season the Astros committed two years and $14 million to him in a deal that received some criticism.  Does Houston know something we don’t? Is Morton someone we should be considering for the back of our rotation or as bench option?

Throughout his career Morton has shown flashes of success at the big league level, but he has yet to put anything sustainable together. In 2011 hehad a 3.83 ERA over 29 starts in what has been his best season to date, despite his 1.53 WHIP. He is not a pitcher known for his strikeout prowess, just 6.3 per nine innings across his career. In fact, if you are going to consistently look to Morton as an option in the back end of your rotation, that could end being a liability.

Thus far in his career, spanning nine seasons and 893 innings, Morton has a 4.54 ERA to go along with a 1.44 WHIP. However there were two other seasons (besides 2011) in which he had an ERA that would garner fantasy attention; 3.26 in 2013 and 3.72 in 2014. In those two seasons Morton’s WHIP was also more reasonable at 1.28 and 1.27, respectively.

During this stretch he benefited from the Pirates increasing foray into the world of analytics and defensive shifts. This season Morton will receive that same benefit (if not greater) from pitching for the Astros as they take shifting to a whole new level.

In 2015 he pitched to a 57% ground ball rate, and the right-hander has excelled throughout his career at keeping the ball on the ground. With that in mind, Morton’s career FIP of 4.10 should make fantasy owners feel a little better.

The Astros also signed Morton taking into account his league high (per MLB statcast) spin rate on his split-fingered fastball. Throughout this spring, yes i know its Spring Training and a small sample size, Morton’s velocity has been a few miles per hour higher and that has contributed to his success. There is a distinct possibility that the velocity begins to decrease as we get deeper into the season, but at the very least it is a situation to be aware of.

It would be irresponsible to expect Morton to continue to be a dominant starter, but he does have some use; at least early in the season as a streaming option. That is especially true when considering his current price; 131st starting pitcher off the board with an ADP of 460. At that cost, it is a chance worth taking.

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Make sure to check out our 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
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Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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