Hello, again. I forgot the comma last time. Oops. Back again with Part 3 of my little PBS period piece miniseries, which features Fantasy Baseball 2020 draft bargains due to the coronavirus situation we all find ourselves in (that’s the period piece element, in case you were having a hard time following my airtight analogy). At this point, I’m sure all of you have been touched in some way by this pandemic. It’s a crazy time to be alive, and I sincerely hope everyone reading this is doing okay. Continue to socially distance yourselves! Wash those filthy mitts! And this is the third time I’ve had to tell you to leave that booger alone. Just blow your nose really hard until it comes out. Use a q-tip if you have to, geez.
In COVID Bargains Part 1 (it wasn’t labeled as such, oops again), I talked about some big names who were sliding down some draft boards because of injury question marks. In COVID Bargains Part 2 (labeled!), I did some not-quite-as-big names. For Part 3, I’m focusing only on starting pitchers – specifically, starting pitchers who were likely to have some sort of cap on innings for 2020. I think it’s pretty safe to say that won’t be a talking point now. The elite starters go earlier in drafts because you’re getting 200+ elite innings as opposed to 150 or 175 or whatever. That matters even more in leagues where you get points for innings, but it still means more strikeouts either way. But again, I don’t think this is going to be much of a talking point this season. If you ask me, fade everyone not named Gerritt Cole and maybe Walker Buehler and go for anyone on this list instead.
No particular order here. Just a stream of consciousness type thing. I’ll probably forget someone. Let me have it in the comments!
A.J. Puk – OAK (NFBC ADP 247.26)
The Oakland A’s avoided a major scare with A.J. Puk. About a month ago, it was revealed he didn’t have structural damage to his shoulder. Shoulder injuries are scary, man. They can linger and pop back up any time they please. Sounds like Puk avoided a huge bummer after already missing all of 2018 with Tommy John recovery. One of my very favorite resources, FanGraphs’s Roster Resource, has Puk slotted as the A’s #5 starter. The Florida Gator product pitched quite well in 10 outings last season, all in relief. I have a very loose, gut-check kind of rule-of-thumb for pitchers – I like to see a sub-8 H/9 and a 10+ K/9. I don’t have any fancy schmancy reasoning behind it other than it means the guy has pretty good stuff. Puk posted a 7.9 H/9 and 10.3 K/9 in 2019. In his whole minors career, he’s never been worse than that.
Puk doesn’t have a lot of professional innings to his name, but he does have very good numbers in the innings he’s thrown. Back in 2017, he threw 125 innings in A+ and AA ball. Then he missed all of 2018 and came back in 2019 to throw 36.2 innings across A+, AA, AAA, and MLB play. That’s pretty damn impressive to rise from A+ to the majors after recovering from Tommy John. I’ll admit I don’t know what he was tossing prior to 2019, but last season he was averaging 97.1 MPH on his four-seamer. None of his offerings got barrelled, either, so that’s a nice little plus. Yeah, yeah, it was 11 innings. But 11 good ones!
Puk is Oakland’s #2 prospect according to MLB.com, so taking a stab at him late in your draft isn’t the worst risk you could take. What we’ve seen so far leads me to believe big things are in store.
Jesus Luzardo – OAK (NFBC ADP 117.59)
Let’s do this backward, shall we? I just covered the A’s #2 prospect. Well, here’s #1: Jesus Luzardo. This dude was untouchable last season! Oh yeah, it was only for 12 innings of work. But still. A lot to be excited about here. A’s fans might just have themselves some Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, and Mark Mulder 2.0 stuff going on with these two plus Frankie Montas. And there’s that Sean Manaea guy, too. And those bats! Oakland looks pretty damn good all of a sudden – if all these young arms pan out, that is. Luzardo gave up only two earned runs and whiffed 16 in his 12 innings last year. Only allowed five hits and walked just three. Like Puk, these were all relief innings, so it’ll be interesting to see if his dominance translates multiples times through a lineup.
Luzardo’s ADP tells you how hot he is right now. Sexy name a lot of people have their eye on, and for good reason. Entering 2019, he was a top prospect across all of baseball, and that’s just risen higher for 2020. He’s pretty much been elite at every level of his pro career – doesn’t give up many hits, doesn’t walk at an egregious rate, and strikes out a hella lotta batters. Luzardo is rockin’ a 2.47 ERA across all levels, even MLB. Dude’s got the stuff. Baseball Savant doesn’t have a ton of data on him with only 171 total pitches thrown, but can’t complain about what you see: .152 xBA, .298 xSLG, .228 xwOBA, and almost a 30% difference in K% and BB%.
Lance McCullers Jr. – HOU (NFBC ADP 190.39)
Kinda weird to me that Lance McCullers Jr. is only 26 years old. It feels like he’s been a fantasy baseball bummer for a long time, yet he’s still got time to get healthy and have a nice career. His limited career thus far has been very good, and he even eeked out an All-Star bid in 2017. Little McCullers falls in my unofficial sexy zone for his career numbers – 7.9 H/9 and 10.1 K/9. I also have a soft spot for oft-injured guys in any sport who just can’t ever seem to put a full season together. McCullers feels like one of those who would be a true star if able to showcase his skills consistently.
As we all know, Little Mac missed all of 2019. Back in 2018, he pitched only 128.1 innings, which is the most he’s ever done. In three of his four MLB seasons, he’s been able to make 22 starts, but never more than that. It may come to the point where his career high in innings is closer to the league average if this 2020 season ever gets underway. And if that’s the case, and if Little Mac can replicate 2018’s numbers, then we could be looking at a superstar season. Looking at 2018’s Statcast numbers, McCullers was 16th overall in launch angle against at 5.1. All the other stuff looks pretty good, too. He could work on that walk rate some, but his other stuff makes up for it for the most part. Despite all the voodoo surrounding the Astros this year, they’re still gonna be a force. McCullers should outperform that ADP pretty easily assuming he’s healthy.
Tyler Glasnow – TB (NFBC ADP 69.03 (nice))
I’m rounding that 69.03 down to 69…NICE. Tyler Glasnow, man. That’s a name I’ve had on my radar for 15 years it feels like from his days in Pirates system. Things didn’t pan out there, but he’s been everything and then some since becoming a Tampa Bay Ray. Command (and health) were the only things plaguing his otherwise sensational stuff. Somehow Tampa fixed his walk issues, and he was absolutely unhittable last season. In 12 starts, he posted a 1.78 ERA, 5.9 H/9, 2.1 BB/9, and an 11.3 K/9. His record was 6-1. The Statcast metrics are just absolutely ridiculous; I mean straight up video game stuff. Glasnow dominated in just about every aspect imaginable – he was in the top 2% or 1% in xBA, xSLG, wOBA, xwOBA, and xERA. I mean, it’s like he got on The Show 19, edited his own stats, and made himself the best pitcher in the game. Then somehow channeled that virtual self into real life.
Durability has always been a concern with Glasnow, and last season was no different. He got shut down after a May 10 start but came back to pitch a few times in September, though never more than 4.1 innings at a time. It’s likely Tampa would be watching his innings closely in 2020 – he’s never thrown more than 124.1 in a season, and that was way back in 2014. A condensed season might just be ideal for Glasnow owners.
Shohei Ohtani – LAA (NFBC ADP 117.31)
I talked about Shohei Ohtani in the last piece mainly for his bat. Let’s get into the pitching side of things. It’s hard to predict what new manager Joe Maddon will do with him, but Ohtani’s arm is a little sexier in my eyes if his innings are more comparable to other starters. Yeah, he still won’t pitch every five days like most, so don’t forget that. But in a short season where no one is getting elite innings, I don’t mind that as much.
Ohtani didn’t pitch at all in 2019 thanks to everyone’s favorite surgery, good ole Tommy John. Is someone named Tommy John collecting royalties on all these? I mean, damn. Everybody gettin’ their TJ on. So, Ohtani is still recovering from that and was slated to come back around mid-May for pitching duties, even though his hitting wasn’t affected. Looking deeper into his offerings, I was surprised to see his fastball velocity is elite, but the spin isn’t. It was by far his most-used pitch, and batters teed off on it in 2018, with a .382 BA and .539 SLG against it. That’s ugly. But his other three pitches were very effective. Didn’t throw a curve much, but when he did, it worked. His slider and split-finger were especially deadly. The whiff rates were high and the batting metrics were minuscule. Maybe all this time off has given him time to figure how to make his fastball more effective. Who knows. All I know is I’m excited to see the dude sling the rock again, even if there’s bound to be some rust to shake off at first.
Other Names To Keep An Eye On
All right, that’s all the extensive writing I feel like doing on players. But there are some other names I want to toss out there, I just didn’t want this to turn into an honors thesis or something.
Julio Urias – LAD (NFBC ADP 151.14)
Probably most people expected an innings cap for Julio Urias coming into 2020, but it’s been said somewhat recently that they’re gonna let him do his thang. No limits. Just some beast mode Urias. He’s never gotten all that close to even 100 innings in a season, but it looks like he’s gonna get his shot to fully break out this year.
Alex Wood – LAD (NFBC ADP 354.62)
Oh look, Alex Wood is a Dodger again. 2017 and 2018 were good years for Wood in blue, but last year as a Red was…not. Wood is hurt a lot, so there’s always a good deal of risk with him, but he figures to get a look in the rotation for the NL pennant favorites. And with that ADP, why not scoop him up?
Griffin Canning – LAA (NFBC ADP 307.27)
Griffin Canning pitched 90.1 very good innings last season. I’m not 100% sure there would be a potential innings restriction on him, but I’m always a tad wary of the first year of being a full-time starter for fantasy purposes. Maybe I’m alone on that. I’m okay with it, if so.
Chris Paddack – SD (NFBC ADP 54.54)
I was on the fence about putting Chris Paddack in here, but I figured I’d err on the safe side. He pitched more than many thought he would in 2019, so it’s not crazy to think he’d get full reign in 2020 after being a truly elite ace last year. But it’s also not crazy to think they’d want him to take it a little easy since he looks like he might be a franchise type.
Dinelson Lamet – SD (NFBC ADP 122.64)
That’s a helluva 1-2 punch the Padres are packing. Dinelson Lamet is a strikeout wizard, but he only has 187.1 MLB innings to his name. A very good 2017, nothing in 2018 thanks to (you guessed it!) ole TJ, and then a baller 2019. Lamet was bound to be capped around the 150-160 mark. Now, you can draft him with confidence.
Michael Kopech – CWS (NFBC ADP 279.33)
According to MLB.com, Michael Kopech has been a top-20 prospect since 2017. His brief spell in the majors in 2018 was part awesome and part awful. He looked untouchable, but then he got slapped around like a little leaguer. The stuff is sizzling, and if he’s healthy for 2020, then he’ll blow past that ADP. Kopech squeezed in a single perfect inning with one strikeout before all this COVID business.
Dylan Cease – CWS (NFBC ADP 278.21)
Dylan Cease is being drafted almost at exactly the same time as his fellow White Sock (is it White Sock? Sounds weird). Cease tossed 73 innings last year, flashing some brilliance along the way. He looked especially good in September, so hopefully he can pick that right back up. Cease and Kopech could be the nastiest duo in the league before long. Both were probably going to be handled pretty carefully this season, so it’s good news for their owners if the season is short.
Zac Gallen – ARZ (NFBC ADP 125.38)
Last but certainly not least is Zac Gallen. If you don’t take much stock in just 15 starts, then whatever. But I am all in on this guy. Gallen went 3-6 last season pitching for the Marlins and D-Backs, with a 2.81 ERA, 7.0 H/9, and 10.8 K/9. His AAA numbers were nuts. The walks spiked in the MLB, but he barely walked anyone down in the minors so I’m not overly concerned. He’s only 24 years old and doesn’t have a lot of mileage on the arm yet, so Arizona likely would have been looking to handle him carefully in 2020.
Okie dokie, folks. That’s all I got. Keep these youngsters on your radar! Fade those old geezer household names and get these guys instead. You’ll be very happy you did. Comment below or hit me up on the Twitter at @jkj0787.