While casually scrolling through pitchers from last year who should be better this year, I saw Andrew Heaney. My first thought was, “RIP Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan.” Then, I Googled “professional wrestlers who have prematurely died,” and, five weeks later, when I was done reading the results, I returned to Andrew Heaney. Am I suddenly more optimistic about the Angels now that they have the new manager, Brad Ausmus? Well, no, not necessarily. He is devilishly handsome — between Ausmus and Gabe Kapler, can a Jewish grandmother get some grandkids up in here?! — and Ausmus can’t be worse than The Sciosciapath. At least he won’t have to make out the lineup card with a pencil in his mouth, because he’s wearing a straitjacket. How much will Ausmus do for the Angels’ starters? Meh, he finished under .500 as the Tigers’ manager after four seasons, and seems to fail sideways. His bullpen management was goofy at best, and he thinks catchers, who are pitch framers, should go work at Aaron Brothers, the national chain of picture framers, not Rex Brothers’ brother (stutterer!). Luckily, I don’t think Ausmus has any bearing on Heaney, there’s too much going in his favor, which I will now tackle, after this clunky segue: So, what can we expect from Andrew Heaney for 2019 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
There’s three starters who finished last year with a sub-3.70 xFIP and a 4+ ERA — Nick Pivetta, Marco Gonzales and Heaney. That’s about as good of a place to look for value as any. Pivetta I’ve touched on already in another sleeper post (Nick Pivetta sleeper — see?), here we are with Heaney, and Gonzales lacks something the other two have — Ks. Gonzales’s command does make him somewhat attractive though, but for another day. Heaney had a 9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9, that just misses a seven point difference, and where I think aces mostly inhabit. If he gets to 9.3+ K/9 with a 2.3 BB/9 or 9 K/9 and an even 2 BB/9, he will need to be wildly unlucky to not return major value this year. His percentage of pitches seen inside the strike zone was 42.7%, which is 35th best in the league. Wait there’s more! The number of pitches a batter swung at outside the zone for him was 33.5%, that was top 14 in the league. So, to clarify for the guy picking his nose in the back of the room, if a pitcher throws mostly pitches inside the strike zone, but then throws a few outside the zone that a hitter swings at? That’s good. He was 12th best for first pitch strikes, 21st best for swinging strike rates and his velocity went up a tick, while throwing 180 innings. That puts him on pace to throw 200 IP for the first time in a season when he’s entering it at 27 years old. All this with newfound command of his changeup that went from a negative pitch, to the sixth best changeup in the major leagues. Health, obviously, has been an issue for him, but, if he stays on the field, I will guarantee you he’s a top 30 starter with a chance to be a top 15 starter. Seriously. For 2019, I will give him the projections for 14-7/3.58/1.16/192 in 194 IP with a chance for more.