It really doesn’t matter if Yonny Chirinos (24, SP/RP, Tampa Bay Rays: 10% FAAB) is a starter or reliever, as long as he is on the mound in the MLB, he should be on fantasy teams. It only took him 54 pitches to get through 5 scoreless innings of the Red Sox lineup. The sinker has some great movement and he also carries two other pitches above 18+% SwStr% to start the season. He has been a staple on the Fringe Five, written by Carson Cistulli, and the KATOH prospect lists on Fangraphs. This means the numbers have been good, but watching him pitch in the bigs is confirmation. Since reaching A-ball in 2015, he has not posted a BB% above 4.2% and that elite command has been paired with a 50% GB% more often than not. This makes him extremely talented at limiting baserunners, which showed in Fenway. He could become available in more leagues if people are impatient with a hybrid-bullpen role. Yonny will provide serious ratio help and strikeout upside with a nasty slider/splitter combo to play off that bendy sinker. After taking down Boston twice he may cost a bit more, but anything around 10% of your FAAB is acceptable. I can see a 2017 Brad Peacock stat-line at the end of this season for Yonny Chirinos.
Nick Pivetta has shown flashes of excellence in the 161 registered pitches thrown on Fangraphs. The spin on his curveball is legit and has finally been generating swinging strikes outside the zone. Pivetta’s fastball also looks great so far with plus velocity and location. Playing these two pitches off of each other is not enough, but last year his best pitch based on multiple plate discipline metrics was the slider. This offering had over 17% SwStr% in 2017 and has increased in a very small sample this season. Adding a better curveball is something that can play north/south in the zone while his slider can continue to dominate east/south. Offseason changes made him focus on elevating the fastball more and this has been evident. Pivetta is one of the first pitchers that may be added off the wire and held for most of the season as a streamer with consistent K% and ratio upside.
Jed Lowrie posted a solid fantasy season last year with 14 HR, 67 total XBH, 86 runs, and a .277 AVG. In 2018, he already has 5 XBH in 10 games. Not only are the numbers looking consistent from last season, his Statcast data is coming back with very positive readings. By searching for balls within the 19-39° launch angle and 95+ MPH exit velocity, Lowrie floats right to the top. Tied with Xander Bogaerts and Justin Upton, both on fire to start, these parameters are most correlated with home run type-contact. Jed Lowrie has put up good fantasy seasons in the past, including one of his best in 2017. He is still available on way too many waiver wires and can be used as a reliable middle infielder when healthy. The price should be pretty cheap and he probably won’t shock anyone by posting a Top 50 season, so don’t blow more than 5% of your FAAB. However, the replacement value of a bat like Lowrie goes very underrated in fantasy and will provide excellent consistency whenever a player is injured or has a day off.
Diaz will always be the player I mistakenly bid on for $64 in a $260 budget NL-only league. Being that this was a draft on the ESPN interface, there was no going back and my season was pretty much shot. Not only was Aledmys worth less than $64 in auction value last year, he was worthless to the St. Louis Cardinals in general. He was traded in the offseason to the Toronto Blue Jays for J.B. Woodman, 23-year-old OF, in what seemed to be a dump-off move. However, so far this season Diaz has the highest percentage of BBE between the launch angles of 19-39° and above 95 MPH of exit velocity. Right now nearly 11% of his batted balls have fallen within this range, discovered via Statcast search. This is an extremely favorable piece of contact and usually results in home runs or hard hits. Just like Jed Lowrie, Diaz may not be the most exciting fantasy profile but his 2016 stat-line of .300 AVG, 17 HR, and 4 SB in 460 PA would be extremely valuable in a full season. Batting average and power is a hard combination to come by and Aledmys Diaz is only one year removed from this coveted profile.
If you play fantasy like me, you’re looking for diamonds on the wire. There are going to be tons of people in your leagues heading after names like Josh Fields, Jacob Barnes, Jeremy Jeffress, etc. Kenley Jansen has mechanical issues, Corey Knebel is hurt and these moves make sense, at the right price. I am here to say, going out and spending an unfathomable amount on a closer who may not even receive one save is NOT a necessary evil. This week the pivot is to the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. Hector Neris has looked pretty bad to start the season and closermonkey.com already has the Phillies listed as “closer by committee”. Adam Morgan is the second name on their list and has the stuff for the job. His sample of 16.5% SwStr% in 54 IP last season shows the ability to miss bats. Early this season he is throwing the slider, his best pitch, 51% of the time which has allowed him to sustain double-digit swing and miss rates on each of his four offerings. He has 6 whiffs on 29 overall fastballs which are good for 20% SwStr% in this incredibly small sample.
Victor Arano is a personal favorite. Last season, he came up around the same time as Atlanta Braves pitcher A.J. Minter, provided an equally small sample also with dominant swing and miss stuff, but no one mentions the former while the latter was drafted in most 15-team leagues. Arano is still missing from Closer Monkey, ESPN, and is even hidden way down in the Depth Charts projections. He was given a measly 10 IP by the DC system on Fangraphs, which is criminally low for the talent he has shown. His worst pitch last year was the sinker which generated a total of zero swinging strikes in 34 tosses. He seems to have scrapped that pitch entirely and is now throwing the four-seam and slider at a near 50/50 clip. Deception will be key with these two pitches but they have shown dominance in a small sample, 31.1% SwStr% on 90 sliders in 2017. Both of these closers should be ignored in leagues while people scramble to target situations like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Angels. Throw a buck or two on these guys and see if one can grab the job for an underperforming Neris sometimes soon. Morgan would be the first choice while Arano should be monitored very closely until his name starts popping up all over the place.
There are not many options on the wire in only leagues, so it is extremely important to maximize upside and playing time with all transactions. Drew Robinson was seen as somewhat of a placeholder for prospect Willie Calhoun, but I think he could be a bit more. The 25-year-old got his first taste in the MLB last season, playing 49 games for the Rangers. He has shown power/speed upside in the minors with double-digit BB% potential. After his call-up, Robinson was able to surpass 95 MPH of exit velocity on 35% of his batted balls. He was also 19th in Brls/BBE when using 60 events as a qualifier. All-in-all this shows that Robinson can hit the ball hard, and starting off 2018 with a 36.4% LD% is proving that the barrels are a consistent skill. As a lefty bat, he should find ways into the lineup all season against RHP by way of Choo injury, or Willie Calhoun not being truly ready with the glove. I don’t think the latter is the biggest issue, but Robinson has upside to be worthy of some FAAB in Only-leagues. Just don’t get carried away with the bid because Calhoun is clearly a threat. He’s still very much overlooked at should not even cost 10% of your budget, but I would be comfortable putting that on this kind of upside in such a deep format.