Man, the sound of the words rookie sleeper pitcher just makes my skin crawl. Prospect and rookie hitters are so much more exciting to own, and just as fun to write about. Pitchers, on the other hand, not..so..moooouch. Outside of the top 100 type guys, I typically stay away from spec arms in leagues of all shapes and sizes. Increasingly, over the past few seasons, some what unheralded starters and relievers have come from nowhere and made an impact in deeper leagues and dynasty’s. So to round out our rookie sleeper posts for the pre-season, we’re going to dive into some of the off the radar arms that should reach their rookie limits this season. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about Giolito, Urias, Berrios, Snell, Glasnow, etc. You should know those guys, if you don’t, go back and read my previous posts. BTW….you should know those guys. Rookie sleepers for 2016 fantasy baseball, this time with 113% less The Band and Da Band mix ups. Seriously, I was getting attacked in the comments and on Twitter, and all over a silly definite article mixup. Is Da a definite article?
Zack Godley, RHP | ARI: After making the jump from High A to the bigs in just one season, Godley returns in 2016 with a chance to log some for the D-Backs innings again this year. While certainly behind Robbie Ray in the battle for Arizona’s 5th rotation spot, Godley should see the first opportunity should anyone in the starting 5 go down. He mixes an arsenal of 4 pitches with good movement, but can struggle with control. He’s put up relatively good strikeout numbers in the minors, and tends to induce a good % of ground balls. So there’s a reasonably exciting profile here.
Zach Davies, RHP | MIL: I was initially pretty jazzed about Davies upon the trade to Milwaukee, from the spec arms killing monster know as the Baltimore Orioles farm system. He’s just the kind of arm I love in deep leagues. Overlooked because he’s not a hard thrower, but he gets by pitching down in the zone and inducing groundballs at an elite clip. He hits the corners consistently, and mixes a plus-plus change with a plus sinker and an average curveball. He won’t be in the opening rotation, but there’s still a very good chance we see him make some starts in the early part of the season.
Brian Johnson, LHP | BOS: After putting together a very nice year for the Red Sox AAA affiliate in Pawtucket, Johnson was still an outsider this spring in the competition for the Red Sox 5th starter spot. He’s likely to begin the season once again in Pawtucket. The stuff isn’t overpowering, but he knows how to pitch. Keeping hitters off balance with his ability to throw any of his four pitches in any count. He induces weak contact and grinds down hitters, as he works at an accelerated pace. He should be up within the first few months if some of the uncertainty in the back end of the Red Sox rotation is, well, uncertain?
Mike Clevinger, RHP | CLE: The Indians acquired Clevinger from the Angels in a August of 2014 waiver trade for Vinny Pestano. In other words he wasn’t any more than an after thought in a rather barren Angels system. Well, no wonder it’s barren, because in 2015, his first full year in the Cleveland organization, Clevinger bloomed. Leading all pitchers in the Indians system in strikeouts, and anchored a very good Akron rotation. He had a strong spring, but was optioned back to AAA for more seasoning, or for service clock purposes, we’ll see. He should get the first call should an opportunity open in the mistake by the lake. He’s a long-haired scoundrel with a 97 mph fastball, like a grown up Mitch Kramer. What’s not to like?
Brian Flynn, LHP | KC: After just missing out on the final spot in the Royals bullpen to Ryan Madson last season. The 6’7 lefties’ season was over just a few days later due to a torn oblique. He’s back again this year, and in the mix for the final spot in the Royals bullpen. I think he fares better this time around. Then again what’s worse than just missing out on a spot in “The Beatles” of bullpens and then tearing your oblique in your first AAA outing? Maybe finding pictures of your wife on Dan Bilzerian’s boat? As for actual useful information, he’s a capable reliever who’s equally effective against righties and lefties. He has an above average fastball-changeup combo, and some fringe offspeed offerings in his curveball and slider.
Ariel Pena, RHP | MIL: With injuries to Sean Nolin and Yhonathan Barrios, an opportunity for Pena to make the opening day roster has become an almost certainty. He was mediocre in his 5 starts with the Brewers last season, but has produced very nice K rates throughout his career. He may not be someone you own outside of very deep holds leagues. The thing is with the uncertainty in the backend of the Brewers bullpen, it’s worth keeping an eye on any of the potential closing options.
Colin Rea, RHP | SD: After destroying the Texas League in his first 12 starts last season, Rea was promoted to AAA and the majors, where he wasn’t met with as much success. He’s another guy without any real stuff, that gets by on knowing how to pitch. So boring, I feel asleep just writing this blurb. He looks to have the inside track for the 5th starter spot in the Padres rotation. So, we could be in for a little bit of the HodgePadre action with Rea.
Tim Cooney, LHP | STL: About a month ago I wrote this about Cooney “If not for a mid-season appendectomy Cooney would be listed at the top of the page with the graduated specs. He’s 25, so he’s older for a prospect, but the lefty college standout moved quickly up the minor league ladder after leaving Wake Forest. He mixes 5 pitches, and uses his plus plus change to make them all work. He’s got a very good chance of landing a back of the rotation spot with the Cards in 2016”. Injuries have delayed his season but Cooney could and should be the first arm called up to start.
Jon Moscot, RHP | CIN: A total BORP that will more than likely get the 5th starter spot out of camp. He’s only interesting because he’s keeping the seat warm until Cody Reed is ready. He’s not going to give you much in the way of wins, strikeouts, or anything but innings pretty much.
Miguel Almonte, RHP | KC: Another player I covered in the minor league previews, here’s what I said then; “After a rough MLB debut (4 homers, 6 earned in 9 innings), the hard throwing Dominican righty should head back to AAA Omaha for some more seasoning. He mixes an excellent change with a 94-97 mph fastball, and an average to below average curveball. Many project the finished product to be a mid rotation starter, but in order for Almonte to get there he’s going to need to work on commanding his pitches”. He was recently optioned to AAA where he’ll work on continuing to improve his command. Should be up by July, though I can say for sure whether it will be as a starter or reliever.