Greetings, friends and fellow humans that enjoy fantasy baseball!
Those of us who spend approximately 52 of 52 weeks of the calendar year thinking about this glorious time we like to call fantasy baseball drafting season have, at this point in March, read countless “sleeper” articles by now recommending players we should be able to pick up late in a draft. But these articles quickly become laughable for those of us who go the extra fantasy mile and play in AL-only, NL-only, and other crazy deep leagues. Yep, life sure would be sweet if I could grab Jonathan Schoop or Eduardo Rodriguez at the end of my AL-only draft to fill out my infield and my rotation, but that’s just not how it works. It would also be nice if I could scoop up Jesse Winker or Nick Senzel for a few bucks at the end of my NL-only auction, but in at least one of my leagues, guys like Senzel have been parked on another fantasy owner’s minor league team for three or four years. And this brings me to our little corner of the Razzball-verse: the place where we talk about players who we might actually be able to draft or buy on the cheap in world of deep-league fantasy baseball.
This week we’ll look at a handful of starting pitchers, who might be available late in even deeper-format leagues, that have caught my eye for one reason or another. (And as has been known to happen in real life, sometimes these guys caught my eye simply because they were available). Sure, it might be easier, and probably smarter, to just take a middle reliever at this point in a draft. But drafts and auctions can be a long, arduous process, and sometimes at this point it’s more interesting to grab a one-dollar lottery ticket and just start scratching. Plus, the one good thing these players have in common is that, as long as you don’t go crazy and put yourself in a position to count on them (or feel so desperate for counting stats that you’re compelled to leave them in your lineup no matter how badly they flame out), there’s very little cost/downside to taking a chance on them, even in the deepest of leagues.
Matt Strahm and Chris Paddack and Logan Allen. Player values can change insanely quickly at this time of year, and between the announcement that Strahm was competing for a spot in the Padres’ starting rotation and his rather dominant performances so far this spring (12 Ks in 9 innings without allowing a run), Strahm days as a bargain-basement value may already be numbered — or may be gone altogether. Tommy John recover-ee Paddack, meanwhile, has been nearly as impressive and looks like he could make a 2019 impact even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, so he too may already have entered the mixed-league conversation. Meanwhile, digging a little deeper still we come to Logan Allen, whom I recently took in the “free round” snake portion of a 12-team NL-only NFBC auction. His spring ERA isn’t pretty (over 10 is bad, right?), but he’s a lefty who has made some big strides in the last year or so after coming to the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel trade a few years ago. He also has a great back story that involves John Cena, if you’re in the mood to Google it.
Pablo Lopez. A Marlin whose never had a great K rate and who probably won’t open the season in the rotation is hard to get excited about, but we’re not really here to get excited, now are we? You should probably also take a few cents off his price given that he hadn’t pitched above High-A until last year, was shut down early in 2018 with a (theoretically minor) shoulder issue, and of course, factor in the reality that he never gets to face the Marlins. But… his velocity has looked A-OK this spring, and throughout his career he’s had a pretty impressive walk rate. As you may or may not already know about me, I’m always, always, a sucker for a guy who doesn’t give out a bunch of free passes.
Drew Pomeranz. Looking at Pomeranz’s incredibly beautiful 2016 makes one want to give him one more chance and just hope that a potential return to health and a new start with the Giants in a pitcher-friendly ballpark can produce some fantasy dividends. And even through his disastrous attempts to pitch in 2018 (I think we can call an ERA over 6 and a 1.77 WHIP disastrous using any metric), his K rate stayed not-horrible, so there’s that.
Jordan Lyles. According to the latest out of Pittsburgh, Lyles is “still on track” to be the Pirates’ fifth starter to open the season, in a meh little competition for the spot that also includes Nick Kingham and Steven Brault. Lyles hasn’t been particularly impressive this spring, but he’s another guy whose Ks and BBs looked pretty good last year: 84 K/28 BB in 87.2 innings. I also grabbed Lyles a couple weeks ago in the free round of the the NFBC draft I took Logan Allen in, so the price was definitely right.
Felix Pena. Pena may not start the year in the Angels’ rotation, but of course all that does is make him an even better potential bargain in the deep-league world. Plus, when one takes a look at said rotation… well, let’s just say it would be a surprise if there wasn’t an opening or two due to injury sooner rather than later. Pena’s not a youngster any more in baseball terms (he already turned 29 this year), and he ended up with a decent little sample of major league innings last year (92 2/3 of them to be exact). While his numbers weren’t eye-popping, they weren’t horrible. Anyone buried this far down an ADP list who cleared a 3-to-1 K/BB ratio (he had 85 strikeouts and 28 walks in those 92 innings) gets a moment of my attention.
Shelby Miller. As we arrived at the post-hype prospect portion of our program, it’s time to mention Miller. Honestly I’d be pretty terrified to draft him let alone put him in a lineup in even my deepest league, and I suspect that the next time Miller is mentioned on this website, it will be in conjunction with stacking an opposing team’s hitters against him in DFS. But…he has a job with the Rangers, so file that in the back of your mind in the ‘just in case of a miracle where someone finally blossoms now that there are no expectations left of him’ category.
Brett Anderson. Look, I know no one wants to draft Brett Anderson on his fantasy team, regardless of league size, but we’re talking about a group where all have some pretty giant warts. Anderson’s biggest is his complete inability to stay healthy for more than a few minutes at a time. Oh, there’s also that strikeout rate that’s just a blip higher than yours or mine. The A’s rotation though, is somewhat open to say the least, so Anderson should certainly have the opportunity to pitch, and could be deep-league serviceable if and when matchup is right.
Matt Shoemaker. More injuries, more disappointment, and more deep-league last minute opportunity. A pitcher who gives up too many homers who lands in the powerful AL East doesn’t scream rebound, but Shoemaker’s numbers haven’t been atrocious when he’s been healthy enough to pitch. Over the last three years, he’s only averaged 89 innings a year, but he’s also averaging 82 strikeouts in those innings against just 23 walks.