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.

NL

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.

AL

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.

  1. The Great Knoche says:
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    Just took Anderson with pick 608

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      Nice, 608 is a hell of a high number when it comes to a fantasy baseball draft pick. I can only imagine what else was left at that point…

    • Cram It says:
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      Reach!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Wow what a reach!

  2. Matt says:
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    Caleb Smith & Robbie Erlin for me. I’m also a sucker for a low walk rate, and Erlin’s 12 in 109 IP was the lowest rate of anyone to throw even 60IP last year.

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      Let’s just say I may have left a name or two off this list until after my drafts are over ;)

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        WUT…Holding back on the good players?! Aw, geez

        • Laura Holt

          Laura Holt says:
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          My posts don’t involve the good players!

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Damn, you’re using some next level deception here

            • Laura Holt

              Laura Holt says:
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              I meant that I’m always writing about deep-league guys that are gone after all of the ‘good’ players, not that I’m advising folks to go for junk players in an attempt to avoid a bidding war over Robbie Erlin!

  3. Justin says:
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    Good article. Thanks.
    A little help please?
    I seriously waited on pitchers and kind of love it. My bats are big. I had Milolas as a 21st round keeper. Got Berrios in the 5th round, then later Morton, Freeland, Maeda, Luzardo, Nelson, Strahm, Peacock, Holland, Fulmer. Thoughts?
    Would you drop anybody for P. Lopez, Burnes, and/or Whitley?

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      Love a lot of those guys; if everything breaks right you could be in great shape pitching-wise. I wouldn’t rush to add anyone, but I think you could lose Fulmer for any of those 3 if you’re wanting to stash someone with more upside — Whitley is of course the biggest lottery ticket, but I probably like Burnes the best in a re-draft if you’re looking for someone who could make a nice impact sooner rather than later if he finds his way into the rotation.

  4. Jeremy in Fort Collins says:
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    Why bother?
    Try harder.

    AL
    Drew Smyly
    Frankie Montas

    NL
    Caleb Smith
    José Ureña

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      Hey Jeremy, I assume you mean try harder to find some good names? In this case, I was originally looking for deep league free-round type guys, so names like Urena (went for $5 in my NFBC NL-only auction; Caleb Smith went for $2) and Smyly ($4 in LABR AL-only league) didn’t make the cut. Once I threw out Strahm and Paddack, w I wanted to get back to the even fringier names. Montas terrifies me this year but it’s certainly not like the guys listed are sure things so I do like hearing other folks’ take on these lists… I ‘ll have a list of new deep-league names every week, some deeper than others, so we’re just getting started and it’s great hearing who others have their eye on as well since the deep-league fantasy baseball community isn’t the largest!. Anyway, good luck this season and thanks for reading : )

  5. WhampWhamp says:
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    @grey 12 team H2H I have keepers Sale, Hoskins, Robbie Ray, Bryce my 1st pick is 2nd round best available according to the gospel is Altuve, Bryant, Rizzo,Speinger, Mondesi, Berlinger. What do you think ? Draft is live first thing in the morning. thank you for your service.

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      Most folks would tell you Altuve, but Grey has Mondesi ranked one spot ahead of him if you want to go by his rankings– I’m not so excited about Altuve this year either. Mondesi here would be bold but his speed alone would be a sweet addition to an offense that already has Hoskins and Bryce!

      • Whampwhamp says:
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        Good call feels early but fortune favors the bold

  6. Landisimo3 says:
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    Hi Laura! 14 team H2H points … Keep 11 .. was just offered Reyes and Wheeler for Bieber .. pitching usually wins the day in that league.. Would give me:

    DeGrom
    Buehler
    Berrios
    Paxton
    Wheeler
    Reyes

    Votto
    Lindor
    Bregman
    Blackmon
    Hoskins

    With Marte and Encarnacion outside looking in and time to trade them yet before keepers lock .. What do you think ? Thank you!

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      That’s a pretty sick top 5 SP… as much as I love Bieber, I love Wheeler too and who knows what dividends Reyes could pay down the line — so without knowing more about the parameters of your league I’d say pull the trigger if you are so inclined. Your offense already looks pretty stacked too; Lindor & Bregman on the same team is pretty drool-worthy. Depending on what else is available via waivers/FAAB, it’s hard to tell if Marte (I’m assuming you mean Ketel and don’t have Starling parked on your bench!) and Encarnacion are truly expendable — just make sure you have yourself covered if you get unlucky with injuries, just in case Lindor and Bregman’s issues linger and since Votto & Blackmon aren’t getting any younger.

      • Landisimo3 says:
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        It’s actually Starling … but you lose a point for every K.. so he’s still solid in this league… but diminishes his value a decent bit

        • Laura Holt

          Laura Holt says:
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          Ah, got it. To be honest H2H is still a bit of a mystery to me (as witnessed by the fact that Marte doesn’t crack the lineup), but both your pitching and hitting sure look damn good on paper!

  7. Harley Earl says:
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    Your Shelby Miller comments … LMAO.

    You made me laugh Laura. Too funny. Love the “no expectations left of him category.” Hahhaha!!

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      Thanks for reading Harley! I could probably include a “no expectations left” type of guy pretty much every week when it comes to these deep-league types.

  8. J-FOH says:
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    In your deep leagues do you track the non- highly ranked prospects in AAA arms in case of a call up. We always hear about the “guys” to own but what about the other arms that come up and become serviceable. I used to do that and had some solid success with guys like Robbie Ray but what are your thoughts on that. Looking at the FA pool, you ask yourself, ” I can pick up the 4.50 guy or take a shot on the guy who is 18th in his org but has been pitching well in AAA, these nimrods I play with will never see this one coming”

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      First of all, I’m a little confused that I’m getting a J-FOH comment without mention of something inappropriate or at least off-topic , let alone a greeting. But moving on, that’s a very good question for any deep-league player. And I’d never consider myself anything close to a minor league expert compared to the guys who are really into such things, so I guess the short answer is yes — I kind of need to look at those guys a few tiers down because in the leagues I’m in, by the time a Forrest Whitley-type guy in on my radar, I find out he’s been on someone else’s team since he was like 17. It is nice when I scoop up someone who other owners don’t value and he performs beyond expectations… trying to think of a pitching example but can only think of 2 hitters I got in my AL/NL only keeper leagues last year — Tyler White & Pete Alonso — who were ranked way lower than sexier minor league names but have already far surpassed many of them in perceived value.

      • BJFOHOHL says:
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        Off-Topic? I know so not me. Inappropriate? That’s a little hurtful. I have always been a respectful gentleman every time in your posts. Strange but never inappropriate. Now you got me on the no greeting. This time of year I go by BJFOHOHL which is obviously me at my best but alas, I’m not in mid-season form. But enough about me, how is Mr. Holt? The kids? Beating Grey’s ass in your league?

        I took Zac Gallen in a 30 teamer I’m co-managing. He checks a few boxes in that he’s on a crappy team (Marlins) with a crappy rotation who had good but not great minor league numbers. He looks like crap in spring which means he’s either hurt or working on a pitch. I hope its a new pitch. He’s a total watch lister.

        • Laura Holt

          Laura Holt says:
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          I didn’t necessarily mean inappropriate in a bad or ungentlemanly way, so I guess that wasn’t the right word… edgy, maybe? Or maybe “strange” what I was looking for, like you said — and I got nothing against strange. Mr. Holt, Laura Jr., and Laura Laura Jr. are all well, thank you for asking. We’ve not had our draft with Grey yet but I’m very much looking forward to it. I also have an NL-only keeper league farm draft coming up — may have to jot Zac Gallen’s name down since I always fear getting to the end and literally having no one left on my little sheet!

          • BJFOHOHL says:
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            I’ll hit up Senor Lifshitz too and see if he has any other names. Gallen came over in the Ozuna deal and looks like that boring back end arm that you end up owning in a deep NL with a satisfactory smile. His walk rate is usually under 3 and his K rate is usually 9.

            How many players do you draft in the farm draft? How deep do you go in terms of years kept with your farm? You win now or org depth kinda person. Actually that feels like a dumb question. You are totally a win now

            • Laura Holt

              Laura Holt says:
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              The farm draft is super weird and would take forever to explain, but basically the best players available are either guys that came over from the other league (e.g. Yusniel Diaz) or guys whose stock has risen enough that they didn’t get drafted last year (e.g. Jonathan India). Not a ton to choose from early, and then it really drops off in a hurry. And yes, I’m definitely win now, to the point where I ignore my farm prep to the point that I am probably destined to come in 4th or 5th every year for the life of these leagues. Anyway, I’d asked Ralph last year if he’d help me with the farm drafts this season; maybe we can have a quick 3-way conference call at some point and you guys can give me some advice. Heh heh, “3-way.”

  9. dontbichetteme says:
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    Hey Laura,
    I was wondering who you liked better in a 12 team H2H league for this year? J.Nelson or B.Peacock? I have to drop one for a waiver claim. I am intrigued by Nelson and curious if he can get back to his 2017 numbers but like Peacock peripherals and opportunity in that loaded Astros lineup.

    • Laura Holt

      Laura Holt says:
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      That is a tough one because I really think either could put up a big year, or bust completely. I think I’d hold Nelson only because he’s looking healthy at least this spring and the upside is definitely there. Peacock was pretty brilliant last year, but I’m just too worried that once he’s starting and facing lineups a few times a game his numbers could really suffer.

  10. Joeg414 says:
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    Can Reynaldo Lopez break out this year?

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