Second Half starting pitcher targets

I am sitting here eating one of my favorite sandwiches from one of my favorite delis in Queens, NY.  I am savoring this medley of chicken cutlet, cheese, and beautiful Italian bread. The deli is a “hole in the wall” on an abandoned block, yet all it does is produce results.  Those results are delicious chicken cutlet sandwiches. It’s our goal to find players that are just like this deli – guys that might not be sexy with numbers that give you an abandoned building feel, but also with the potential under the hood to turn in some surprising performances.

I’m also conscious that the trade deadline is coming up (or may have passed in some of your leagues), so I’ll focus on a bit lower end guys who might even be available on waivers.

Luke Weaver (4.70 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)

Weaver was an extremely sexy pick that I was really big on and recommended at the end of the 2017 season, but somehow he got way more helium than his skills could ever provide.  He was taken way too high for my liking in drafts which made him someone I avoided simply from a value standpoint.  His results to this point have been really disappointing for owners that paid the very high price.  However, he has shown some promise lately so I’d recommend taking a look.

There was skepticism among some experts coming into the year that Weaver could keep up his excellent strikeout rate given his stuff and swinging strike rate.  There was talk that there was on over-reliance on foul tips to get ahead in counts. Those experts will tell you that this is a big reason why he’s been bad this year.  His K rate is 21.1%, which is well off of his 28.6% rate last year. His whiff rate is actually up slightly since last year at 9.8%.  That rate doesn’t support a 28.6% K rate, but I do think it can support somewhere in between the 21.1% and 28.6%. It’s also worth mentioning that he had similar K rates in his first cup of coffee in 2016 as well as at AA, which is the level many scouts feel most accurately reflect MLB upside.

His walk rate has gone up to 8.4%, which is worse than last year but not so bad that it derails his chances at success. I also believe that control is a skill and he was closer to 6% in his two previous seasons of play. Weaver has also gained almost a full MPH of velocity this year and is averaging 93.9 MPH on his fastball.  Velocity gain is often an albatross for a breakout. Names like Alex Wood, Aaron Nola, and Danny Duffy have proven that in the past. His xwOBA from Statcast is .336, which is only about 10 points worse than guys like Tanaka and Strasburg. And that’s with him executing poorly to this point. Weaver also pitches for a team with a good bullpen, great offense, and great home park.

 

I don’t believe Weaver is the potential ace in the making many thought he was coming into the year – that would be his teammate, Jack Flaherty. However, I do think he is very worth targeting and is a decent bet to be a top 40 type moving forward.  He gained velocity, a great changeup, and a history of high K rate both in the majors and minors. You may be able to just add him off of waivers as he’s under 50% owned on both ESPN and Yahoo.  The Cards staff is also not as crowded as it once seemed with Reyes done for the year and both Martinez and Wacha on the mend. You may not get as much of a discount, but he is easily worth targeting in dynasty leagues as well.  Check your wires and send over your low ball offers.

Dylan Bundy (4.57 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)

This one is a bit less analysis heavy than I normally go, and has more to do with my gut and my eye test than anything else.  I’m perfectly aware that his FIP and SIERA both say he’s an average pitcher.  I just think there’s more than meets the eye here.

Dylan Bundy was once the #1 pitching prospect in all of baseball.  Tommy John derailed him for a bit, but he remained on many radars the past two seasons.  The emergence of his vaunted cutter (or slider depending who you ask) made him a very interesting pitcher.  It is legitimately one of the best pitches in baseball when he throws it. He has also starting throwing it more this year at 26%.  I wish he threw 95 with more frequency like he did a few years back. If you watch him pitch, though, you’ll see that he dials it up when he wants to.  Even though he averages around 92 on his fastball, he routinely dials it up to 95 or 96. Not sure what the reasoning is for working at a lower velocity, but it is encouraging to see that he is still capable of throwing hard when he feels like it.

His K rate is 25.1%, which is easily the best of his MLB career and it is supported by a lofty 13.1% swinging strike rate. That rate along with what I see watching him pitch make me believe there is close to 30% upside on the K rate. The walk rate is also a manageable 7.6% rate, which is in line with his career norms.  Jake Ciely famously said that SOBB% (K% minus BB%) is the most important pitcher stat. I’m not sure I completely agree, but it’s definitely a really good starting point. Bundy’s rate this year is 17.5%, which is right there with several name brand fantasy SP2s and SP3s. He’s also averaging 1.91 homers per game on a 16.3% homer to fly ball rate.  Both of these are career highs. Bundy is likely to have a higher rate than most people due to Camden Yards, but these numbers do seem likely for positive regression in this writer’s opinion.

As long as Bundy keeps throwing that slider or cutter (or whatever it is), I will be interested in him.  He has the 13th best swinging strike rate and 23rd best K rate in the MLB among qualified pitchers. That is a pitcher you want to own.  I also love to own pitchers who have shown ace potential for long periods but never been able to put it together for a whole season. Aaron Nola comes to mind more than anyone and is actually a really good comp for Bundy.  Bundy is actually still only 25 even if it feels like he’s been around forever. It would not be surprising to me if Bundy gained some velocity and re-entered the ace discussion next year.  There’s also a chance the breakout starts this year. Even if that doesn’t happen, he can be a very serviceable pitcher, especially in points leagues.

The park and team do limit him a bit, but I’m adding Bundy anywhere I can. He dropped to about 60% owned in ESPN leagues and there’s a chance the Bundy owner is sick of his volatility. Even more than Weaver, I want to own Bundy and would be willing to pay closer to market in a dynasty league.  And if it all breaks right, you get the next Aaron Nola.

*****

Those are two people I’m heavily targeting, but I also want to give you a few bonus guys that might be out on waivers.  Robinson Cano and Roberto Osuna are still widely available in leagues due to their suspensions. Both of them will be back soon and could be difference makers.  Every start makes me believe more in Carlos Rodon, and Andrew McCutchen is still hitting the ball hard.

I’ll be back next week with more names to help make your final push towards a fantasy banner!  With any luck, one or two of these trades or adds will be as delicious as that chicken cutlet hero.

 

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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.

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