Undrafted Potential – Pitchers

Hello and good morning! We’re now a little over a week away until Opening Day of the 2018 season! I’m eager for the day to get here, even though I know I won’t be able to vegetate in front of a television all day and watch game after game. Oh well, that’s what we have tablets and smart phones for, right?

Last week I brought you my all-undrafted team in terms of infield positions and outfielders. Today I’m going to touch on pitching, but I’m leaving relievers alone. If you’ve read previously articles you know that I find relievers to be a dime a dozen. So many closers are going to lose their jobs throughout the course of the season causing the revolving door on the relief pitcher waiver wire to make your head spin.

Remember, I’m using players with an ADP of 300 or later as eligibility for my all-undrafted team. There are a lot of prospect arms that could fit into this category, but I’ll leave that for another discussion. Back a few weeks ago I touched on SP sleepers. All three players I discussed in that article are also below the cut line of 300, so they could be other options you’re after. The guys listed today are players I’m viewing as an extreme bang for their buck as the season progresses.

Sean Newcomb (ADP 329), Braves

Sean Newcomb is currently being drafted behind guys like Zach Davies, Matt Harvey and Jimmy Nelson, and that makes zero sense to me. For one, Jimmy Nelson isn’t going to be making his season debut until at least June, what’s the point of drafting him ahead of a guy like Newcomb? The only argument I’d entertain about Davies and Harvey going ahead of him would be the fact they have more big-league experience under their belt.

Newcomb is entering his second big-league season this year; combine that with his high ERA and WHIP from last year and I guess I can see where people might be scared off. One thing I’d say to that is strikeouts. Through 100 innings last year Newcomb put up 108 strikeouts, which translates to 9.72 per 9 innings. That doesn’t appear to be a fluke as his numbers through his minor league career are right on par with that, even higher in most cases (ranging from 9.00 to 11.8).

Newcomb sported an ERA of 4.32 and a WHIP of 1.57 last season. The ERA isn’t something that worries me as his FIP was slightly better than that and his ERA throughout the minors was much lower. The WHIP, on the other hand – that needs to be fixed for him to become a mainstay in fantasy lineups. He’s always had a bit of a wild side as far as control, having a BB/9 of roughly 5.00 throughout his professional career. The inflated WHIP at the big-league level appears to be more related to players putting the bat on the ball more often. Batters hit .254 off Newcomb last year with a BABIP of .327. Looking to his minor league numbers, hitters posted an average slightly over the Mendoza line.

Newcomb could be labeled as a ground ball pitcher as he generally has a ground ball rate between 43-48%. If he can sustain that portion of his game and zero in his control just slightly he could become a real good fantasy asset. Don’t sleep on Newcomb this year, I wouldn’t even pass on him at the back-end of drafts. His floor is higher than some others due to the lofty strikeout numbers so don’t be afraid to ride a bit of a rough patch if he encounters one. You’ll be rewarded in the end.

Tyler Glasnow (ADP 372), Pirates

Glasnow is a pitcher that is comparable to Sean Newcomb – strikes a lot of guys out and issues a lot of free passes as well. He doesn’t quite fit in to the “effectively wild” category just yet, but he could be close with a little polish on his command.

Throughout Glasnow’s minor league career his numbers profiled as that of a top-level prospect. He impressed with K/9 numbers north of 10.00 and sub-3 ERA’s, but during his 85 innings at the big-league level the only numbers that have sustained are his K/9 at 8.44. Sure, they’re down a little from the minors, but the talent is much better in the bigs.

If you value ERA to an extreme degree Glasnow probably isn’t the guy for you as he’s sporting a career ERA of 6.75 thanks to a horrendous 7.69 ERA through 62 innings last season. A lot of that could be related to the .358 average against or the other-worldly 6.39 BB/9, and let’s not forget the 1.89 HR/9 as well. In all fairness on the HR/9 numbers, everybody saw an increase in HR/9 over the recent past with any average hitter able to pop 20 home runs a season. All those stats made a horrible WHIP for Glasnow that was over 2.00. Those numbers are so gawky in the wrong direction there’s no way their sustainable long-term.

Now that we got the bad out of the way, let’s touch on the huge positive for Glasnow. He’s going to strike a lot of people out. His stuff is great, he just needs to figure out where it’s going. He doesn’t necessarily need to bring his command to the level of a Greg Maddux, but he does need to be closer, so he has more than 25% of his pitches out of the zone swung at. A number like that leads me to believe when he missed last year it wasn’t even close.

The ownership of Glasnow will rise if he can tame that wildness down just a touch. His numbers were so bad last year there’s no way they’re sustainable, I must reiterate that. He had a HR/FB rate of over 18% last season. Again, no way that happens again, no way!

Tyler Glasnow is competing for a rotation spot still, so be aware he may begin the season in AAA. Upon a call up to the rotation he’s worthy of a stash in deeper leagues. If Glasnow can command all four of his pitches it will be only a matter of time before he works his way to the top of the Pirates rotation. After all, he’s still only 24.

Andrew Heaney (ADP 404), Angels

Andrew Heaney has some intrigue heading into this season on the mere fact he’s healthy, well mostly. It was announced he’ll miss his next start due to elbow inflammation, but I imagine that’s strictly precautionary at this point in the spring. After coming off Tommy John surgery in August of last year the Angels would be silly not to use the utmost caution during the spring.

Over the course of the last two seasons we’ve seen Heaney on the mound a whopping six times. Through those six appearances he was a bit of a different pitcher, sporting a K/9 number of 10.8, much higher than his numbers in ’14 and ’15 of 6.3. Granted the elevated K/9 numbers are only through a sample size of 28 innings, but it is something nonetheless. During that time Heaney has seen his swinging strike percentage reach 13%, much better than the previous 9% his first two years in the majors.

An increase in swings and misses could be related to better off-speed stuff, or it could be that he’s matured enough (now age 26) that his stuff is rounding into shape. He doesn’t throw a straight fastball. His pitching repertoire consists of sinker, curve, and change, so he’s entirely relying on movement to fool hitters. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, the swinging strike percentage increase can be entirely related to an increase in pitch movement.

Let’s go back for a minute to the full season of Heaney we saw in ’15 to get a real good idea of what he could be this year. Heaney started 18 games, threw 105.2 innings, had an ERA of 3.49, a BB/9 of 2.38 and a K/9 of 6.64. There’s nothing suggesting we won’t see these kinds of numbers again this year with an even better K/9 rate. Yes, his ground ball rates at the big-league level has been awful, especially when he features a sinker as his prominent pitch, but the improved movement ought to breed better pitch location flipping his GB/FB ratio back well over 1.00.

Andrew Heaney should see increased value from the 6-man rotation the Angels plan on sporting. The thunderous lineup he’ll be pitching behind should help boost his value, too. I can’t argue with him going undrafted in most leagues at this point, but in deep leagues he’s worthy of a roster spot. If Heaney can stay healthy, big if, I don’t see why he can’t finish as a top 75 SP at the end of the 2018 campaign.

Tyson Ross, (ADP 545), Padres

Tyson Ross is back on the Padres and has seemingly locked up a rotation spot this spring. That’s worthy nothing based on how his stuff looked last year in 12 appearances after Tommy John surgery. Spring training numbers generally don’t mean anything, but in his case, it’s encouraging to see the command back.

When evaluating Ross don’t ignore his return last year, but take it with a grain of salt. Coming off TJ surgery it’s said that command is the last thing to come back. Looking at the spring numbers it seems that has returned this year which should see his BB/9 rate of 6.80 last year come back to the norm of 3.00 for him. It should also help him raise his K/9 number from 6.6 closer to his norm of 8.00 once the confidence fully returns.

Prior to going down with the injury in 2016, Ross turned in two straight seasons of 195+ innings. Don’t look for that to be the case this year as the Padres will probably limit his innings to some effect, but the upside for him to return to form the first time he donned a Padres uniform is there. For the upside to return Ross might need to learn to “pitch” rather than overpower guys. Upon his return last year there was a velocity drop in his stuff, which was to be expected. If Ross can see that velocity tick back up to where it was I see similar numbers to what they were from 2013-2015.

Through the height of his career with the Padres (’13-’15) Ross had K/9 numbers of 8.57, 8.97 and 9.73. No, I don’t expect those to return to quite that peak, but they’ll certainly be better than 6.61 like it was last year. During that three-year stretch Ross posted ERA’s of 3.17, 2.81, and 3.26. Again, a number that low this year is probably a reach. Ross will likely hover closer to the 4.00 ERA mark, but it is possible his home ERA is a half-point lower.

Bottom line with Ross, like the pitchers mentioned before, he’s a definite must-have in deeper leagues at this point, going 545th on draft boards is pure nonsense. If you’re in shallower leagues keep tabs on Ross as he might be the best waiver wire pick-up available during the first few weeks of the season.

Tyler Mahle (ADP 394), Reds

I mentioned towards the beginning of this article I wasn’t going to talk about prospects. Mahle could be considered in that group, but he did post 20 innings with the Reds last year, so he’s void in my book!

Mahle entered the spring competing for a rotation spot and he’s done everything possible to make sure that happens. Like I said earlier, spring training numbers don’t really matter much, but for a guy trying to win a spot those numbers have a whole different meaning than if he already had something locked down.

Throughout his career on the farm Mahle has had pristine control, posting a BB/9 rate lower than 2.00 in five of his seven stops along the way to the big-league club. Pristine control also breeds a pristine ERA. Throughout his minor-league career he’s posted a career ERA of 2.85, which includes his hiccup with AA Pensacola in 2016 (4.92).

Through a rather limited sample size of 20 innings at the end of last season Mahle struggled at the top-level posting a BB/9 rate of nearly 5.00 and saw his K/9 rate drop from his career minor-league number of 8.3 to 6.3. A couple of intriguing things about his debut time last season is he maintained a low ERA, with the help of a high strand rate, but he also showed his strong ground ball track record. Playing half his games at Great American Ballpark, Mahle better resort to that strong ground ball persona if he wants to rise to the top.

If Mahle stays healthy and remains in the Reds rotation for the entire season, there’s nothing suggesting he’ll see an innings limit. He’s compiled at least 150 innings each of the previous three seasons, no reason why he can’t do that at the top level.

Bottom line with Mahle, keep tabs on this guy. He’s currently unowned in the keeper/dynasty league I spend all my time in, but you bet your bottom dollar he’s on my watch list, as well as others I’m sure. His ERA will regress more to the mean this year, but with the control he’s shown in the past I don’t see it jumping too awfully high. As long as he maintains the ground ball rate he limits his floor as well. Mahle might only be a streaming option to start the year, but it won’t take long before he’s a mainstay on somebody’s roster. Don’t let it be the opponent you don’t like!

*****

Obviously, you’re not going to want to roster every one of these arms. If you’re in a shallow league it’s worth putting these guys on your watch lists and jumping on board at the first sign of real success. Curious about other players or positions, just shoot me your fantasy questions in the comment section below or on Twitter @KennyGarvey. Catch you next week! Let’s hope we don’t see any more injuries like the one Justin Turner suffered on Monday night.

 

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Kenny Garvey

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I'm from eastern Iowa, yes there are more things than just corn here. I'm a baseball nerd. If there's a game televised you can bet I've got it on! Family and baseball keep me sane. Fantasy baseball far outweighs fantasy football, no doubt about it!

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