Fantasy owners are always looking to find breakout players, whether it’s those who haven’t emerged as of yet or those who are currently struggling. Obviously when you are looking to acquire someone who is under-performing the price tag is going to be the key. Who are worth targeting, assuming the price has dropped significantly? Here are three names to explore:
James Paxton – New York Yankees
2019 Statistics – 5-4, 4.01 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 11.20 K/9, 3.54 BB/9 over 76.1 IP
One of the biggest concerns regarding Paxton has always been his ability to take the ball every five days, but in his first year in New York that hasn’t been the only issue. He has struggled with his control (2.71 career BB/9) as well as an inflated BABIP (.358). You would think that the latter would improve, as it’s not like he’s been hit significantly hard (36.9% Hard%). In regards to his control, that’s a little bit tougher to believe in (BB/9):
- April – 2.60
- May – 6.43
- June – 5.16
If he can’t get that right, coupled with the risk of home runs (39.5% groundball rate), the strong results that many had hoped for may never come. That said, pitching for the Yankees with the chance to see an improvement in his BABIP and BB/9 leads to an intriguing buying opportunity. He may not be a can’t miss, but kicking the tires makes sense.
Zack Wheeler – New York Mets
2019 Statistics – 6-6, 4.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.83 K/9, 2.57 BB/9 over 119.0 IP
The biggest question facing Wheeler may be where he’s going to be playing come August 1. It’s hard to envision the Mets not moving the impending free agent ahead of the Trade Deadline, and where he lands would ultimately impact his potential outlook. That said, regardless of where he calls home it’s easy to imagine Wheeler thriving as he’s shown enough of all three skills we look for:
- Strikeouts – 9.83 K/9 (courtesy of a 10.3% SwStr% & 33.9% O-Swing%)
- Walks – 2.57 BB/9
- Groundballs – 44.5%
He introduced a split-finger fastball last season, and that change has led to increased strikeouts and improved control (in part thanks to more swings outside the strike zone). He also should see his luck improve, with a .313 BABIP and 65.9% strand rate (despite a solid 33.9% Hard%). Couple that with the skills and everything points in the right direction. If he lands in a favorable locale even better, but regardless of where he’s pitching he’s worth trying to buy.
German Marquez – Colorado Rockies
2019 Statistics – 8-4, 4.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 8.84 K/9, 1.98 BB/9 over 127.1 IP
Marquez has the added risk of pitching half his games in Coors Field, but his skills scream of strong results regardless. There’s even more upside in his strikeout rate, behind his 12.9% SwStr% and 31.8% O-Swing%. Both of those are improvements over his ’18 marks (12.5%, 30.7%), when he delivered a 10.56 K/9.
He’s also improved his groundball rate for the third straight season:
- 2017 – 45.2%
- 2018 – 47.3%
- 2019 – 51.5%
That should help limit the home runs allowed (1.20 HR/9) and with potential improvement in his strand rate (68.5%) it all comes together. He was a pitcher we were willing to target prior to the season, so if you can get him at a discount now it’s worth exploring.
Other Potential Buy Low Candidates:
- Noah Syndergaard – New York Mets – A 67.0% strand rate? He’s better than that, and he should also improve his strikeout rate (8.60 K/9) and home run rate (1.19 HR/9)
- Eduardo Rodriguez – Boston Red Sox – He continues to limit Hard% (29.1%), yet he’s allowed a .324 BABIP and struggled with home runs (1.31 HR/9)
- Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays – He owns a 4.70 ERA due to some home run issues (1.30 HR/9) and a little bit of poor luck (.351 BABIP, 68.8% strand rate). The former may not improve, but the latter should and even pitching in the AL East he should have better results (though will anyone really sell low on him).
Source – Fangraphs