As I write this, it’s hump-day. Funny story… It was sophomore year of college when I learned what the term “hump-day” meant. My new girlfriend lived on the floor above me. It was a normal Wednesday until she put up an away message (yeah AIM!) that simply said “hump-day.” I thought that was an invite. I went upstairs ready to go – you know in sweatpants and socks and sandals. She was baffled.
What did the next 20 minutes (okay okay…4-6 minutes) have in common with this post? Deep Impact. And I don’t mean the long-term impact she had on me. But thanks for the Jim Thome jersey ex-girlfriend!
Here are the starters I would dwell on beyond page 4 (<.1%) on ESPN. To preface the list, all these guys were 0% owned when starting this post. You already know guys like Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley or Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman. Let’s delve deeper: not hot dog in a hallway deep… think sausage in a gym. I’m talking a 0.0% ownership, which starts with the 2nd best curveball in all of the majors last year (100 pitch minimum).
1) Yusmeiro Petit: Petit filled in great for Matt Cain last week, albeit against the Padres: 6 IP, 3 Hits, and a 4:0 K:BB with a 62% Groundball rate. Last year, he had a 49.35% swinging-strike rate on the curve – better than Yu Darvish, Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner for reference. Petit also has a top-25 changeup and cutter from a swinging-strike perspective. If you’re in an uber deep league/NL only league, I think Yusmiero can provide value this year beyond relief innings. His skills thus far (K/BB and GB/FB) are a bit inflated and his swinging-strike rate verifies the k-rate should drop, but he pitches in San Fran, could have more starting opportunities and currently has the 27th best contact rate to date (20 IP filter).
Update: His ownership (previously at 0%) jumped to 4.2% with him starting, but that should drop down again since he was shellacked by the Pirates on 5/5, but all of his expected ERA’s are still at 3.30 or better. I’m marking it up to a rough game and the instant R2M (regression to the means) we tend to see for guys like him, Robbie Ross, and Aaron Harang that were over-performing.
Recommendation: He still has value in NL-only leagues and should be their go-to if they need a supplemental starter. He still has solid whiff rates on his changeup and curve, however the fastball is below average.
2) Robbie Ray: While he’s actually owned in 7.8% of leagues now (on 5/6) because of his impending start, I’ll still touch on him – owned 0% as of last week. A major jump in control made his call-up possible, but there’s a good chance that the 4.5% BB rate turns into a 9+% rate in the majors. His K-rate also dropped this year backed up by more contact and less swinging strikes. I am not confident in throwing him out there initially.
Update: A solid start on 5/6 albeit vs. the ‘Stros. While he’s just filling in for Anibal Sanchez, he’s worth keeping an eye on if he has to fill in for Anibal again or Drew Smyly later in the season. However, the Tigers’ rotation is solid, so I’m not sure he’s worth the roster spot even in the deepest of leagues.
3) A guy I would have liked to see before Robbie Ray this year if it wasn’t for some recent struggles: Henry Owens. In Fenway, I can see initial struggles, but it’s also possible we see a 25% K-rate as soon as he’s up. He got me excited with a no-hitter in his first start this year, and until his last 3 starts, he had 12 scoreless innings with an 18:2 K/BB ratio. There’s not a ton blocking him at the MLB level long-term.
4) Jimmy Nelson: his 2013 AA performance had me excited. His 2013 AAA K-rate was identical, but he lost the same command, which luckily hasn’t carried over to 2014 so far. In conjunction with a good GB/FB ratio, he could have success in the majors this year, but it would take some LOB%, BABIP and HR/FB related luck like he’s had in AAA thus far. The Brewers rotation is solid, so it will take an injury to Matt Garza and ‘my love’ to open the door.
5) Rafael Montero: I was praying for an identical performance to last year, but we’ve seen a bit of a drop-off already. The good news is that Cashman Field and the PCL in general is one of the most difficult parks/leagues to pitch in. While the Mets probably aren’t true contenders, there’s a chance we see him sooner than later with 22+ starts now at AAA.
6) Edwin Escobar: Ed-Esc shows us why FIP ain’t nearly enough to look at a pitcher. A 25.7% K-rate and a 5.5% BB-rate gives him an elite 4.67 K/BB ratio – verifying the command, but he also keeps presenting hit susceptibility (.375 BABIP). Keep in mind that’s in the hitter friendly PCL, but we saw this in 2013 A+ and early in his career as well. I think he can provide value this year if pitcher-friendly San Fran does need another starter, but I think he’s a #4-5 starter long-term. I think of him as a much better Joe Blanton for some reason. WHOA – a Joe Blanton reference! Don’t let this totally turn you off. Late in Joe’s career, he had many expected ERA’s sub 4.00, but he was just so hittable. EdEsc will do the same but in a better pitcher’s park with a much better K-rate. I’m thinking a 3.72-4.22 with 135-150 K’s perennially.
7) Chase Anderson: Chase is now officially recalled, and he was impressive in AA (as he was last year even though he struggled in AAA) with a 38/6 K/BB ratio and sub 0.75 ERA and WHIP thanks to a 91% LOB-rate and a .212 BABIP. You have to roster him in deep (NL-only/Dynasty) leagues, but expect a 4.25+ ERA and a 1.35+ WHIP this year, assuming a HR/9 around 1.15+. So how can he translate? The whiff and contact rates that he has induced in the minors since 2012 (around 11+%) would be a top-20 rate in the majors. He’s no Archie Bradley, but he also has better command. Even prior to Bradley’s UCL issue, I thought Chase would be up first due to his experience/age and less service time concerns. While he’ll pitch in long relief first, he could find himself a starting role sooner than later as Arroyo and Cahill gets hit hard and McCarthy can’t stay on the mound.
If you’re thinking about next year and want to stash a potential ace that is still available, you’re welcome…
8) Ben Lively: I can almost ensure he won’t provide 2014 value, but I’m putting him on this list for your pleasure. Keep an eye on him. Thus far, he’s been more dominating than Tony Cingrani was at A+ and Lively (in addition to almost everyone) has a more extensive repertoire. There are many guys in A+ or lower than AA I didn’t include because you should know them from top prospect lists. Here’s one guy you’ll want to jump on this year in dynasty leagues. It’s probably worth doing so right now. At the moment, he’s got a crazy 24.00 K/BB Ratio (48 K’s & 2 BB’s) with a .76 ERA and .59 WHIP. I think you’ll see “Lively” and something along the lines of “does it again” often until he advances levels. I also think he’ll have as much time in the majors next year than Cingrani had last year.
Here’s a matrix of a few other 0.0% owned guys I like (in this order) that might have some 2014 impact along with their stats to date (5/6):
I thought about swapping Heaney and Gray, because the Marlins could have Heaney up quicker as they continue to call up their prospects with a sense of urgency. Obviously, he wasn’t and will never be nearly as dominating as Jose Fernandez, but with solid command and excellent surface stats throughout his minor league career, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sooner than later, especially if the Marlins continue to be in the race. In fact, just assume I have Heaney listed above Gray. I just like Gray better long term, but it’s too bad he’ll be pitching in Colorado.
Gray is a year younger and has half the experience of Eddie Butler, but he’s far more dominating. I think both Gray and Butler could struggle initially in Colorado, as most could, but Butler is more of a concern because of the contact rate. Still, he has a solid fastball-slider-changeup repertoire that should keep him effective and sustainable as of mid-season.
I would have listed Gausman higher if he continued to match his AA (even MLB) K and BB rates, but thus far in 2014 AAA, he’s almost doubled the BB-rate with a K-drop. The drop in whiff rate backs up the issue so it remains to be seen if he’ll be effective at the big league level. It just seems like he’s more hittable this year as well (26% line drive rate). I’d put him and Alex Meyer on the same level.
Bundy is on the list because of his mere potential. I would call his dropping K-rates and increasing BB-rates as he went up in levels (A > A + > AA) a cause for concern, but that was likely associated to the impending injury. He just reintroduced breaking balls so he’s a ways away, but he could be an option around late June. They’re currently in 1st, and all their starters other than Tilman could have 4.75+ ERA’s so there’s a chance they’ll need him to be an effective starter later this year.
Review: Again, I’m not targeting the top prospects with clear 2014 impact, and we’re going deeper than the Robbie Erlins, Brandon Maurers and Taylor Jordans of the world. There’s a boatload of options I didn’t touch upon. And while I might not touch them with a 12-16 team pole, go ahead and verify that below.
Follow Dano on Twitter @Rotobanter or as a chubby 30-year-old playing adult baseball with the TCMABL Lake Monsters.