Waiver Worthy: With Recent Opt Outs, Which Young Starters Should Be Targets? (Dustin May & More)

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We all knew that there would be players opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Yesterday the first few names trickled in, so let’s take a look at who won’t be playing and the fantasy implications of those decisions:

Who Will Replace Felix Hernandez?

You could argue that the Braves have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young starters, so it was a bit of a surprise that Hernandez was signed to begin with (and you had to wonder how long he’d last in the rotation).  With him now opting out there are various options who could step into the role:

Sean Newcomb (LHP) – It would seem like he was the favorite, but he seemingly found himself last season working as a reliever in 2019:

  • Starter (15.0 IP) – 3.60 ERA, 4.80 K/9, 6.00 BB/9, 44.2% GB%
  • Reliever (53.1 IP) – 3.04 ERA, 9.62 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, 50.7% GB%

Given the underlying metrics, does it make sense to move him out of the bullpen?

Kyle Wright (RHP) – Wright made his MLB debut in ’19, though the numbers were ugly (8.69 ERA over 19.2 IP) and his Triple-A numbers weren’t impressive (4.17 ERA over 112.1 IP).  However the underlying skills at Triple-A tell a different story:

  • Strikeouts – 9.29 K/9 (11.9% SwStr%)
  • Control – 2.80 BB/9 (3.1 BB/9 over his minor league career)
  • Groundballs – 47.2 %

He’s an intriguing prospect who could find his groove and thrive, especially in a short season with just 10-12 starts.

Touki Toussaint (RHP) – Like Newcomb it would appear that Toussaint has transitioned to a bullpen role, making 23 of his 24 appearances in relief for Atlanta in ’19.  However his overall 5.62 BB/9 (to go along with a 6.35 BB/9 over 10 starts at Triple-A) brings significant questions.  He’s always struggled with his control (4.5 BB/9 over his minor league career) and until he figures that out it seems unlikely that he’s given an opportunity to start.

Note – Toussaint has been diagnosed with COVID-19, but reports are that he’s asymptomatic

Ian Anderson (RHP) – Anderson thrived at Double-A in ’19, before stumbling upon his promotion to Triple-A:

  • Double-A – 111.0 IP, 2.68 ERA, 11.92 K/9, 3.81 BB/9
  • Triple-A – 24.2 IP, 6.57 ERA, 9.12 K/9, 6.57 BB/9

Control has never been his strong suit and home runs could become an issue (38.6% groundball rate at Triple-A).  He may have the highest upside of the group, but he still needs development time and it’s hard to envision him being thrust into the rotation.

Kyle Muller (LHP) – At 6’6” and at 21-years of age it’s not a surprise that he’s struggled with his control (5.48 BB/9 over 111.2 IP at Double-A last season).  He also could face home run issues (39.1% groundball rate) and while it’s not impossible that he steps into the rotation at some point this season, he could certainly use more seasoning.

Josh Tomlin (RHP) – A non-roster invitee, could Atlanta ultimately choose the veteran route?  Tomlin has been working in relief mainly the past two years (83 appearances, only 10 of them starts), but in a short season the inning total doesn’t matter.  At the same time he’s not a truly dominant option and he could be the ideal “piggyback” pitcher should any of the young starters stumble.

Conclusion – Cleary Wright offers the most upside and is worth grabbing in most formats

With David Price Out, Is Dustin May “The Man”?

We recently looked at Julio Urias and the potential for him to make an impact without the handcuff of an innings limit.  At the time we noted the Dodgers’ rotation depth as a possible limitation, with Los Angeles piggybacking starters.  Down one starter, will that still be the case?

David Price was expected to be one of Los Angeles’ top three starters.  Without him penciled in near the top of the rotation, things have a different look:

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Walker Buehler
  3. Julio Urias
  4. Alex Wood
  5. Dustin May/Tony Gonsolin/Jimmy Nelson

Obviously the team still has adequate depth, with Dennis Santana and Josiah Gray among the other options to join the rotation.  Conceivably they could still employ the strategy of limiting starters to 3-4 innings, but will they?  Even if they did the most intriguing name to watch is Dustin May, who could step force their hand to allow him to work deeper into games.  After making his MLB Debut in 2019 (as a reliever), we awarded him an “A-“ grade as he showed off all the skills we want in the minors (9.28 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 53.0% groundball rate) and said:

He has the potential of developing into an ace, and while the Dodgers are rich in starters May should get an extended look in the role at some point in 2020.

May threw a total of 141.1 innings in ‘19 (106.2 IP in the minors, 34.2 IP in the Majors) and while he won’t get to that total working solely in a relief role could hurt his development.  At least getting him 10-12 starts could get him into the 60-70 inning range for this season, with a little bit more work for the playoffs.

That factor can’t be overlooked, and the fact that you could’ve made the argument that he was the third best starter on the team even before Price opted out only strengthens his case.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MLB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

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