Your classic 12 team, 25 man roster format, will sift through 300 players in creating the other 11 competitors to conquer for fantasy glory. Once you kick it up a notch to 15 teams, rosters start looking uniquely constructed, especially yours, if you choose to wait a little bit longer on pitching in favor of all the electric bats on display in the top 100 – I’m looking at you Dominic Brown.
I’ve paid extra attention this offseason to some deep starting pitchers, which in early drafts, I have gladly targeted at their current price tags to create some SP depth. These guy are somewhat overlooked, placed in the 300+ sphere in Razzball’s top 500 rankings, and sure to give you heart palpitations come April 2nd and beyond. Why care about them? Well, it really only takes one or two of these guys to hit and you’re staring at a top 40 SP that you paid a Jered Weaver price tag for.
That tag apparently says $3m on it too. Wait, wasn’t that what Dellin Betances got in his horror story arbitration hearing over the weekend? Something seems a bit off. If Randy Levine thinks Betances is surely worth less than $5m, I can’t imagine his thoughts on Jered Weaver.
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Tyler Glasnow (372 overall)
More than happy to spark the bandwagon on this one, but I have a feeling it’s already off the ground. Continuing along the theme of inspiring, but not groundbreaking SP prospect debuts in recent years, Glasnow’s was just that. Big stuff, two pitches, no control, presence. I watched his first career start against the Cardinals last year with anticipation and boiling down it down to four phrases was pretty easy. When it comes to young pitching prospects, our leash is generally short and easily cut, but for good reason. Young starters generally lack control, and when they don’t, they generally lack the ‘stuff’ to kindle some intrigue in fantasy owners. The combination of ‘stuff’ and control usually means they’re too highly touted to fall under the radar. But rocky debuts push guys like this nicely back under the covers. While some of the best arms that we consider ‘young’ in today’s crop of the top SPs are over the age of 25. Glasnow is 23 years old. I know there aren’t any people kicking him to the curb in dynasty leagues, but he’s not really on the radar for redrafts, and I support the gamble.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll realize I’m a fan of betting on mechanical changes in players that others may be overlooking. My ‘change’ philosophy can even extend to pitchers adding third pitches – which Eno Sarris does a great job of breaking down each year. When you combine both a mechanical change and a new pitch grip, we’re presented with my prospect crush, Tyler Glasnow. While I would like to see results off these changes before investing, *cough* James Paxton *cough*, at pick 300+ we need not be greedy. Glasnow both shortened his stride to the plate in order to dampen the affects of the run game, and adopted a new changeup grip, a pitch he threw only 3.6% of the time in his 23.1 MLB innings.
Simple, concise, understandable storylines to follow for 2017. It looks like he’ll start at AAA Indianapolis, but if these improvements stick, I don’t see any reason why Huntington and the Pirates front office hold him down past May. Fangraph’s Steamer has Glasnow at 130 innings with a 10+ K/9 and a sub 3.9 ERA. The WHIP will likely be a little gross, but Steamer and ZiPS both pegged Glasnow for a 10 K/9 with two pitches. As a starting pitcher. Sign me up if Christmas comes early for this future ace.
Robert Gsellman (360 overall)
There are a ton of varying opinions on Gsellman coming into 2017. Baseball Prospectus being the entity highest on his potential (see top 100 prospects). I’m finding myself somewhere in the middle, which is a classic cop-out, but your opinion should hinge on how much you believe in the Warthen Slider. Gsellman started throwing it last season and his jump to a 8.5 K/9 pitcher was all the sudden accepted as the norm. The negative is he only did it for 44 innings, and Warthen’s magic can’t be the sole reason for night to day success in my eyes. The positive is that it looked liked a genuine improvement in his overall profile as a 23 year old starter, his FIP, xFIP, and BABIP all agree.
I strongly believe in Glasnow over Gsellman for 2017 in roto formats, but that’s assuming you aren’t expecting to slot this SP into your lineup on day one (think 15 teamers). The Mets’ 2011 amateur draft flyer has the asset that is Zack Wheeler’s unfortunate medical history working alongside him. 5th starter for New York? Gsellman is nearly a lock, and we haven’t even seen a pitch thrown. What we have seen is crazier things happen to Mets’ starting pitchers, so keep an eye on Gsellman, and his great hair.
Ishikawa. Matheny. Two things that make Cardinal fans angry, with Wacha’s shoulder in the conversation for third. Humor me, but the Cardinals are projected for a 76 win season by PECOTA, yet they have a rotation that gets to decide between Wacha, Weaver, and Lance Lynn for their 4-5 starters? This is the same PECOTA that has a Brewers team at 76 wins? With Matt Garza and Wily Peralta as their 4-5? I have to be missing something.
Weaver has flown through the Cardinals’ system, and topped it off with some head scratching numbers in 2016. He managed to maintain a 11.15 K/9 over 36.1 innings, with a swinging strike rate below 10%. for 2017 he projects for a high 3s ERA by Fangraph’s Steamer, and his 2016 xFIP at 3.34 backs up the fact that he isn’t Jered Weaver bad. He’s basically a random number generator at this point, but the two things he has working for him are a good track record of control and the Cardinals pitching development behind him. High floor low ceiling asset, but I keep looking at his 10.29 K/9 in AA and wondering if that could propel him closer to an 8.5 K/9 in his major league career.
Wacha’s has been a roller coaster. From 17 wins and postseason dominance, to postseason collapse (Ishikawa!) and injuries. The hope is there at only 25 years old, but the path towards a full time bullpen role ominously hangs overhead. For now, the signs are positive, with Matheny raving about Wacha’s spring bullpen, and hope he re-discovers the release point on one of the better changeups the league has seen.
Whichever of these two gets the job, I’m happy to bench on my roster if Glasnow/Gsellman/De Leon are gone. The Cardinals always seem to find a way, and chances are Lance Lynn won’t be 100% for the whole season. That means at some point, both will have value. Deep leaguers, take notice.
Jose De Leon (355 overall)
Even though Evan Longoria may passively imply he doesn’t like you De Leon, I am more than happy to add you to my fantasy team for substantially less money than you’re making right now. If you’re a Rays fan who is content with Matt Andriese being your number five starter, I apologize, but De Leon is immensely more interesting of an arm to slot into that rotation. The falloff in strikeouts is a little bit worrisome (11.57 K.9 in AAA to 7.94 K/9 in MLB – both 2016), but most projection systems seem optimistic that was just a fluke. De Leon possesses a great combination of swing-and-miss offspeed pitches, coupled with good control. His final outings in AAA were insanely dominant, now it’s just a matter of time before the Dodgers wonder how much better he could’ve been in the more strikeout prone NL West.
When De Leon comes up to the bigs this season due to injury or Adriese boring everybody, I don’t expect worse than 9.5 K/9 and a 3.6-3.7 ERA. Yes, he is that good, and ranked at 355 overall. We’re overlooking an arm that got off to a slow start in a small sample size last year, if you can’t give him a second chance at this price tag, feel ashamed, cause the Red Sox gave Rich Hill a fifty-ith chance and it panned out. I’d put De Leon’s chance to outperform his ADP somewhere in the 80% range. 355 is way too low, even for an AL East starter.
My roto big board for these SPs?
Glasnow – De Leon – Gsellman – Wacha – Weaver
You can follow Lance on Twitter, @LanceBrozdow, if you prefer to act like a proper millennial.