“Precision Tayloring” Arms Dealers: Pitchers to Target in the Trade or Waiver Market
You did it! You made it through month 1 of the fantasy season in (relatively) good condition, and are sitting somewhere on the plus side in the win to loss column. Those of you currently in the bottom half of the standings for your fantasy leagues, however, shouldn’t try to worry too much. For 1 month doesn’t destroy your fantasy season, unless of course it is the playoff month, but there is still plenty of time left in the fantasy and real life seasons for your teams to turn it around. Like your fantasy teams, there have been some lackluster pitching performances turned in by pitchers whom big things were expected of this year. What we see in the fantasy community all the time is a wide sweeping and fast overreaction to these early performances in the season, turned in by pitchers when their fantasy numbers look a little skewed, due to limited sample size. This leads to players, pitchers especially, to be underrated in terms of value from that point moving forward. That leads to all kinds of sweet deals in the trade and waiver wire markets in leagues, and is what can help a team make the last to first turnaround come playoff time. Here are some pitchers that have clearance sale price tags on them right now, and who are worth stashing if they can be had on the discount or if they are available in your league.
1. David Price
The WTF stat: Price’s HR/FB rate is currently at a bloated 20.5%; his career norm is 9.7%
Outlook: A lot has been made about the apparent fastball velocity drop this season from the Rays ace, but the more concerning thing for me is the sudden lack of vertical break on his curve. Throughout his career, Price has had an average of 5.29 inches of vertical drop on his curveball, and has been a definite out-pitch for him ever since he scrapped the slider and started throwing a cutter starting back in 2011. In 2013, the average drop on the 109 curveballs that he has thrown has been 2.45 inches. The 2.84 inch difference may not seem like much (that’s what she said), but in baseball, especially with a dangerous hitter at the plate, it is enough to completely blow all of your plans to shit. Through the first month, him not having a feel for his curve has caused him to leave more mistake fastballs over the plate in hitters counts and the hitters have been able to just sit back on it because they aren’t having to worry about the normally dangerous breaking stuff from Price. These problems can be corrected once Price rights the timing in his mechanics, and I’m willing to bet that he will be back to his former self sooner rather than later, as he faces Toronto twice and the Red Sox with 2 of the 3 starts coming in the pitcher friendly confines of the Trop. If you can buy Price for any discount at all from his owner then do so now, because he is bound to turn it around.
2. Jonathon Niese
The WTF stat: Despite all the issues with the walks, Niese is posting a career best GB% at 54.8%.
Outlook: For a pitcher whose main strategy is to pitch to contact, Niese sure has walked a lot of batters so far this year. He is really struggling at putting hitters away with 2 strikes, especially when he is ahead of the count. Hitters are able to work his pitch count up early in games and see a lot of pitches, because they know that for some reason he isn’t throwing strikes when he is up 0-2 or 1-2 on hitters this year. This leads to harder contact when those batters come back around the 2nd or 3rd time in the order, which is a concern when you don’t necessarily have the most talented bullpen in the world to hand the ball to. The struggles with finding the strike zone can almost always be traced back to mistiming in Niese’s delivery, some of which the Mets broadcast announcers blame the bad weather for. I think they are reaching a little there, but Niese has better pure stuff when everything is going right than the numbers indicate, and he has even been dropped in a number of leagues. Matchup play in standard 10 team leagues, but in NL-only and any deeper mixed leagues he is someone to buy low on in hopes that he turns it around here in May.
3. Wei-Yin Chen
The WTF Stat: Batters have an OBP of .365 when batting with no one on. That goes down to just .220 when men are on base.
Outlook: The poor man’s Hiroki Kuroda gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield, even after the 192.2 Innings he pitched as a rookie last year. Chen will work deep enough into games to keep his team in the game with a primarily 3 pitch mix of fastball/slider/change-up. He has a nice, easy delivery from the left side, and is athletic enough to be an average fielder at the position. Currently owned in just 21.1% of ESPN leagues, Chen is a good bet to pitch 200 average to above average innings in the major leagues. He can also be a valuable asset to your fantasy rotation, keeping your ERA and WHIP down, while adding a bit of a boost in terms of strikeouts 18.8% K% during his rookie season. He is a good bet to also pick up a handful of wins, as the O’s offense is near the top in the AL in terms of run production.
- Jarrod Parker (1-5/ 7.34 ERA/ 1.98 WHIP): More mechanical timing issues; command has gone to hell; as bad as the numbers are gonna look. Should be picked up with the “nowhere to go but up” mentality. Spot start and watch for more consistent release points on his pitches.
- Bud Norris (3-3/ 3.89 ERA/ 1.54 WHIP): May not get many wins pitching for the Astros, but is probably going to be one of the first on the way out if they trade a starter. He will put up strikeout numbers, and knows how to generate weak contact. Use against all but the best offenses.
- Jose Quintana (2-0/ 3.86 ERA/ 1.26 WHIP): Good control pitcher, just 9 walks in 32.2IP, doesn’t hurt himself, and does a good job of staying in games. Figures to be in the Sox rotation all year.
- Ross Detwiler (1-3/ 2.50 ERA/ 1.39 WHIP): Lack of respect due to lack of strikeouts, still pitches quality innings, chance for wins if he starts getting run support, good back-end support for your rotation, and should be a start every time out of the gate.
- Kevin Slowey (1-2/ 1.81 ERA/ o.94 WHIP): Ride the hot hand. Easily the best starter for the Marlins this season, he has kicked up his strikeout rate a little. He’s putting up great numbers yet isn’t owned in as many leagues as he should be.
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