Late Round Pitching Targets: Deep League Options: Could Matt Shoemaker or Brad Keller Emerge?

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Looking to fill out your fantasy pitching staff?  This series of articles will focus on some fliers that are well worth taking, despite a few potential risks (i.e. a spot in the rotation, injury concerns, etc.).

Matt Shoemaker – Toronto Blue Jays
If Shoemaker were healthy, and had proven he could stay healthy, would there be any concerns or reasons to avoid him?  Over the past two seasons he’s totaled 21 starts (108.2 IP), and hasn’t been overly impressive along the way (ERA of 4.52 and 4.94).  Just to make matters worse he now makes the move to the AL East, with regular matchups against the Yankees and Red Sox on the horizon, so maybe there would be skepticism regardless of his health (especially with a career 40.0% groundball rate)…

At the same time maybe the injuries have led to a change in approach.  It was a miniscule sample size, but last season he threw his sinker (34.07%), a career high, and also began incorporating a changeup (14.63%) that was generating groundballs.  Those two things will help, and a return to health could also mean the return of his control (2.13 BB/9 for his career).

Throw in the ability to maintain a strikeout rate in the 8.00 range, if not a little higher, and as a late round gamble why not?  There’s risk and reason to be skeptical, but if he’s healthy Shoemaker should provide value.

Average NFBC ADP (as of 03/17/19) – 556.45

Brad Keller – Kansas City Royals
A Rule 5 pick prior to 2018, Keller opened the year coming out of the Kansas City bullpen before transitioning to the rotation and along the way showed value in both roles:

  • Reliever – 22.1 IP, 2.01 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 5.24 K/9, 2.82 BB/9
  • Starter – 118.0 IP, 3.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.33 K/9, 3.28 BB/9

Obviously he didn’t show much strikeout stuff regardless, though he did have his K/9 up to 7.01 in the second half (7.47 in August).  That could be enough to buy into a breakout, especially with the solid control and 54.4% groundball rate.  He’s not Dallas Keuchel, because he isn’t quite getting that type of next level groundball rate, but look at the underlying numbers for Keuchel from 2017 (when he posted a 2.90 ERA):

  • Strikeouts – 7.72 K/9
  • Control – 2.90 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 66.8%

Obviously that’s a best case scenario, but even falling a little bit short should lead to usable numbers.  Pitching for the Royals likely helps keep him under-the-radar, but in deeper formats that’s a mistake you don’t want to make.

Average NFBC ADP (as of 03/17/19) – 479.77

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, NFBC

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