by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Teams continue to finalize their rosters ahead of Opening Day, and that could lead to value for fantasy owners looking for bargains (especially in regards to pitchers who are winning back-end rotation spots). Let’s take a look at some of the recent decisions teams have made and determine if there is value worth targeting:
Milwaukee Brewers – Brandon Woodruff
While a 4.81 ERA over eight starts for the Brewers in ’17 is going to turn some off, we can’t ignore the potential upside he owns. We summarized that potential, along with the risks, when we handed him a “B” grade and ranked him as the Brewers’ third best prospect (click here to view our Top 10):
Obviously a 4.30 ERA and 1.37 WHIP at Triple-A isn’t going to blow anyone away, though it did come in the Pacific Coast League so there’s a bit of a pass to be given. He did show some swing and miss stuff (11.0% SwStr%) to go along with solid control (2.99 BB/9) and enough groundballs (48.0%) to be a solid mid-rotation starter in the Majors. The question is going to be if he can keep the ball in the ballpark (11.1% HR/FB over 8 starts in the Majors) and if he can post a solid strikeout rate (his SwStr% dropped to 8.8% in the Majors).
Verdict – Has the upside to stick in the rotation, making him worth stashing in 12-team formats (and all deeper leagues)
Chicago White Sox – Carson Fulmer
Control… Control… Control… That’s always been the biggest question facing Fulmer, and it continued over 126.0 innings at Triple-A last season as he posted a 4.64 BB/9. Throw in a 5.01 BB/9 over 23.1 innings in the Majors and it’s fair to be highly concerned.
That alone would be an issue, but a 6.86 K/9 courtesy of a 9.0% SwStr% as well as home run issues (1.29 HR/9 at Triple-A, 1.54 in the Majors) make it all look that much worse. The name is going to garner attention, and maybe he’s worth monitoring, but in most cases he’s easily ignored.
Verdict – Far too much risk to trust in anything but the deepest of formats
Washington Nationals – A.J. Cole
Cole is going to open the year as the Nationals’ fifth starter, but he may simply be keeping the seat warm until Jeremy Hellickson is stretched out and ready to step in. That said, if Cole is pitching well is Washington just going to pull the plug?
He’s coming off a 93.1 inning stint at Triple-A that saw him post a 5.88 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, struggling to generate strikeouts (7.62 K/9) and showing pedestrian control (3.47 BB/9) and groundballs (40.7% groundball rate). While he’s shown a bit more strikeout stuff this spring (16 K over 13.0 IP), he owns a 4.85 ERA and 1.62 WHIP. Home runs are likely going to be a problem (1.44 HR/9 over 99.2 innings in the Majors), and ultimately that will cost him.
Verdict – Short-term fill-in for Nationals with little-to-no upside for fantasy owners
New York Mets – Seth Lugo
Everyone expected it to be Zack Wheeler who stepped into the role left vacant by Jason Vargas’ injury, but instead it will be Lugo. He has always been viewed as an upside play and has pitched exceptionally well this spring (2.87 ERA, 17 K vs. 3 BB over 15.2 IP). The biggest question is if there’s any chance that he sticks in the rotation? On the surface the answer is no, but the Mets have become known for battling injury in recent years and we all know that teams always have to go more than 5 or 6 deep.
Lugo has the potential to breakout this season and even if he heads to the bullpen after a start or two he should be back in the rotation at some point. Of those getting early season opportunities, he may be the best one to monitor.
Verdict – Early season streamer and worth deep league stash
Atlanta Braves – Anibal Sanchez
Injuries have opened up the opportunity, but does anyone care? Sanchez should lose his opportunity once Luiz Gohara is healthy and could be removed sooner than that depending on his production and that of Atlanta’s slew of young starters in the minors.
Verdict – Ignore
Milwaukee Brewers – Brent Suter
Suter spent 81.2 innings with Milwaukee last season (22 appearances, including 14 starts), pitching to a 3.42 ERA. You would think that would make him an attractive option, but the following metrics indicate potential issues on the horizon:
- Line Drive Rate – 24.0%
- Strikeouts – 7.05 K/9 (9.0% SwStr%)
- Groundballs – 45.2%
The groundball rate could lead to home run problems (0.88 HR/9) and a 9.0% SwStr% (8.9% at Triple-A) doesn’t give much hope in the strikeout rate. Throw in the potential for an inflated BABIP (.306) and the risk may far outweigh the potential reward. He appears likely to be the first removed from the rotation and outside of the deepest NL-Only formats can safely be ignored.
Verdict – Deepest league flier, but for most the risk outweighs the reward
Sources – Fangraphs
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|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 03/24/18|