With the continued rash of injuries, teams using the new 10-day DL to their advantage, and the passing of the Super 2 deadline, the free agent pitching pool continues to change rapidly in 2017.
It’s easy to get fooled by small sample sizes as young pitchers get called up for their first shot at the big leagues and some others get re-purposed into new roles.
Highlighted below are six pitchers owned in less than 50% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. The first three maybe are not being talked about enough, and the last two might be talked about a little too much. Wherever you decide to place your investment, be sure to look beyond the surface, be aware of what the future possibly holds, and take into account the specific needs of your team if deciding between a safe option or a high risk – high reward play.
NOW AND FOREVER
For this week and beyond
Zack Godley – Diamondbacks
- Ownership: 48% Yahoo, 43% ESPN
- Upcoming Opponent: vs. PHI
Godley, who has been highlighted in this space more than once over the past month, may provide the best combination of short-term and long-term usefulness. This week he gets to reap the benefits of taking on the woeful Phillies and build on his six consecutive quality starts.
Although some regression is coming from Godley’s 2.44 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, based on an excessively high 61% GB rate, a low .239 BABIP, and a just average K/BB rate, Godley has the peripherals to pitch to a 3.50-4.00 ERA at worst going forward, which is very useful in the 2017 pitching environment.
Jordan Montgomery – Yankees
- Ownership: 38% Yahoo, 36% ESPN
- Upcoming opponent: vs. LAA
Through 12 starts, the advanced statistics show that Montgomery’s 3.78 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 8.5 k/9 are mostly sustainable. Although these are not eye-popping numbers that will make people rush immediately to hit the add button, Montgomery’s ability to provide steady and reliable starts can be comforting in a world where pitcher injuries and crooked stat lines are the norm.
Take advantage of the plus matchup against the Trout-less Angels this week. There may be some inning limit concerns come September, but until then, keep this Montgomery around for the long-term value.
START ME UP (TWICE)
Take advantage of the extra opportunities in weekly formats
Mike Montgomery – Cubs
- Ownership: 11% Yahoo, 5% ESPN
- Upcoming opponents: vs. SD, @MIA
With Kyle Hendricks out for the foreseeable future, the Cubs are handing starting duties to Montgomery, who has been a steady force in their bullpen since his arrival from the Mariners at the trade deadline last year (he was, after all, the guy Joe Maddon turned to in recording the final out of Game 7 in the 2016 World Series).
As he continues to stretch out, Montgomery will likely only throw six innings at most, but with two starts this week, take advantage of the 11 or 12 quality innings he can add to your bottom line. This is a safety pick all the way.
Zach Davies – Brewers
- Ownership: 22% Yahoo, 18% ESPN
- Upcoming opponents: vs. PIT, @ATL
Davies is not a great pitcher. He may not even be a good pitcher, but after a dreadful first two starts to begin the season, Davies has gone 12 consecutive starts of at least five innings with no more than four earned runs, including three quality starts in his last six. This makes Davies about as interesting and exciting as vanilla ice cream, but in today’s pitching market, vanilla works. With two non-scary opponents this week, Davies can at least help stabilize the back of a rotation and double up the K’s and the chance for a win.
BEWARE OF THE SHINY NEW TOY
The most added AL and NL pitchers are both new to the MLB scene.
Are they worth the investment?
JACOB FARIA – Rays
- Ownership: 44% Yahoo, 24% ESPN
- Upcoming opponent: vs. BAL
Faria has been the most added pitcher this week after two impressive quality starts against the White Sox and Blue Jays to begin his major league career. With Matt Andriese out until August and other Tampa pitching prospects DeLeon and Honeywell needing more seasoning in the minors, the job is Faria’s for the foreseeable future if he continues to pitch well.
THE GOOD: Faria has worked into the 7th inning in both of his starts, giving up only one earned run in each and earning 2 wins. His success has been built on a 12.7% swinging strike rate and a 13:3 K/BB.
THE RISK: Faria consistently posted walk rates above 10% in AA and AAA, only lowering it to 9% this year before his call-up. He has yet to serve up a home run in the majors, but his 24% FB rate in two starts is well below his track record in the minors, and with a 45% hard contact rate in his otherwise impressive starts, there is some evidence that maybe Faria has been lucky to avoid disaster.
THE OUTLOOK: Faria has a solid mix of pitches and showed some growth in the minors before his call-up, but with a fastball that sits at 92.5, he will likely need to rely on mixing his pitches well with above average control and command in order to find long-term success.
VERDICT: Add if you like, but be ready to bail if the walk rate climbs or he starts to serve up some homers. Getting the Orioles this week at home instead of at Camden Yard is a plus, but still a risky opponent to fully trust Faria just yet.
Sean Newcomb – Braves
- Ownership: 21% Yahoo, 22% ESPN
- Upcoming Opponent: vs. SF
A lefty who has been compared to a young Jon Lester, Newcomb comes with the pedigree of being a first round pick, but has struggled with control issues throughout his minor league career. Although he has been successful in his first two starts in the majors, his leash is likely not very long if he begins to struggle.
THE GOOD: Newcomb has been able to mostly keep hitters off-balance with a fastball-curveball mix, limiting hard contact, and inducing a 52% GB rate on his way to two consecutive quality starts to begin his MLB career. His 2.19 ERA and 1.22 WHIP look nice on the surface.
THE RISK: Newcomb is notorious for having poor control, which started to become evident in his most recent start, walking four Marlins after showing some promise by only walking two Mets in his first start. His 2:1 K/BB walk rate in the minors will not play in the majors long-term. Newcomb’s 14% hard contact rate is unsustainably low, and his 4.26 xFIP is another sign that Newcomb may be difficult to trust going forward.
THE OUTLOOK: Newcomb may find some short-term success before the league catches up to him, but he likely needs to refine his control before he finds consistent success at the big league level. There is a chance that the Braves let him take some lumps in exchange for experience and growth heading into 2018, but it’s more likely that Newcomb finds himself back in AAA or the bullpen before too long.
VERDICT: Don’t get fooled by some useable surface stats. One day, Newcomb may be as reliable and potentially dominant as Jon Lester, but not in 2017. Although the upcoming matchup against San Francisco looks nice, a patient, veteran team like the Giants may spell disaster for the wild Newcomb even if the Giants don’t pack a big offensive punch overall.
Good luck! Have a great week! Check back every Sunday for your waiver and streamer pitching needs.
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