Buy and Sell second half starting pitchers

It’s almost the halfway point and things are really heating up.  The temperatures are sizzling and some players are really starting to hit their stride.  Others continue to struggle. The question we always ask ourselves, “is this likely to continue?”  I have a couple of buy and sells with this question in mind below.

Vince Velasquez

After being a very sexy pitcher just a few short years ago, Velasquez largely disappointed in 2016 and 2017.  He’s had a bit of a resurgence this year, but I don’t quite buy it.

Velasquez or “VV” as I often call him, has a really high K rate of 28.5% this year.  That’s elite by basically any standard. His swinging strike rate is also the best of his career at 11.7%, which is good but doesn’t really support a K rate close to 30%  His walk rate is a bit high as well at 9.1%. Regular readers know that I don’t like big walk types. His FIP, xFIP, and SIERA all suggest he’s been a bit unlucky as they have him as more of a mid to high 3.00s ERA guy.  His actual ERA is 4.69. The main thing that troubles me is that he still throws his fastball 64% of the time. His fastball is a great pitch but I have a really hard time buying this many Ks from a guy who throws that many fastballs in today’s environment

I certainly don’t mind owning Velasquez, but there are a bunch of believers of his out there.  This guy was considered to be on Lance McCullers level when he came up with the Astros. Many don’t forget prospect hype like that.  Unfortunately, Velasquez doesn’t have a secondary pitch that can rival McCullers breaking ball. Velasquez has a great fastball, electric even.  He doesn’t have anything else to complement it and I think that’s going to continue to lead to inconsistent production. He still has some shine on his name and many people are starting to buy a post-hype breakout.  If you can get top 40 SP value for him, I would definitely consider moving him.

Matt Harvey

This is a bit of an obvious sell high, but Matt Harvey has had some pretty good results in his last several starts.  Your league may be too smart for this kind of sell high, but there are a lot of Harvey lovers out there that want to believe.  They might want to believe that change of scenery really brought the “Dark Knight” back from the dead.

Ultimately, the advanced stats tell us the Harvey has been getting pretty lucky.  He has a 3.06 ERA over his last 3 starts but just a 14.3% K rate. That equates to a 5.09 K/9 Hitters are also hitting the ball hard (42% hard hit rate) over the same sample with a 25% line drive rate as well. Sometimes Thoracic Outlet Surgery takes awhile to come back from (see Mike Foltynewicz), but I can’t buy this yet.  

I’m glad he’s throwing hard again and then baseball fan in me would love if he can turn back into the phenom we knew 4-5 years ago, but I don’t really see it.  Throw in a bad park and less than stellar team supporting him and I would deal Harvey pretty easily. I would consider Harvey in the streamer class at present and so would trade him for most continuously rosterable players.

Jonathan Loasiga

Most of the analysts I’ve seen have been on Domingo German of the Yankees’ new arms.  Can’t blame them as German is quite nasty when it comes to swinging strikes and having three legitimate pitches.  I think I prefer Jonathan Loasiga aka “Lasagna” though.

It’s a bit early to sample his MLB numbers but he’s had 2/3 starts go quite well.  He showcase a high 90s fastball with a really good breaking ball as well as a change.  His control has been spotty to this point in the bigs (14% BB rate), but he had a ridiculous walk to strikeout rate in the minors of 58 Ks to 4 walks..  He’s on a great team with solid defense and a ridiculous bullpen. Homers are likely to be an issue at home as they are with all Yankee hurlers. That said, if he can emulate his minor league success in regards to strikeouts and walks, I think he can weather the Yankee Stadium storm.  

There is a bit of risk with Lasagna as Masahiro Tanaka will be back eventually.  I’m not sure if the Yanks have put him in front of German yet in the pecking order.  The Yanks are also likely to go out into the market looking for more pitching help. He shouldn’t cost too much though, even in a NY home league.  I think he is rosterable even in the most shallow of formats given the upside. The Yanks seem to have a knack for producing power arms out of nowhere.  He might not be Severino, but it’s worth the roster spot to find out in my opinion. I would trade safer, higher ranked pitchers to chase his upside as well.  I would definitely trade Harvey for him and would even be tempted to deal someone like Velasquez. Make no mistake, I would rank Velasquez higher if I had in-season rankings but I generally prefer to chase a chance at greatness.  There’s a legitimate shot he’s excellent moving forward.

Jack Flaherty

I  would buy high here.  I think he’s even better than most people think.  I recommended a speculative pickup many weeks back when he had been sent down.  Now he’s proven to be a huge source of strikeouts and ERA. He just had a blow up start but I’m not even a little bit worried.  I think this guy could potentially be an ace in the not too distant future.

He has a 29% K rate with a manageable 7.2% walk rate.  He also has a 12.4% swinging strike rate, which makes sense given that he occasionally touches 97 with a slider that his pitching coach,Mike Maddux, says is best in the system.  Carlos Martinez and the injured Alex Reyes play for this team as well. He also induces a lot of pop ups with a 12.5% IFFB rate. As many of you know, a pop up is as good as a strike out.  They’re near automatic outs that helped power Marco Estrada to three fantasy relevant years.

I would pay top 30 SP prices to get Flaherty.  As good as he’s been, I think there are leagues where he won’t cost that much.  He was likely a waiver add, which often causes a tendency to underrate the player.  He’s still not even 80% owned in ESPN leagues so this definitely reinforces how I feel.  This guy is likely to be top 25ish moving forward and plays for a pretty good team in a great ballpark.  It’s too late to steal Flaherty from anyone else but buying him as a top 30-40 SP still leaves a lot of room for profit.

Mike Sheehan

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Comedian, Powerlifter, and most importantly a Cum Laude graduate of the fantasy baseball school of hard knocks. Double major in points and categories with a minor in roto. Happy to be doing my Postgraduate work here at the Fantasy Assembly.