Fantasy Baseball: Pitching Sleepers #1


Baseball is on complete pause. COVID-19 has every baseball fan sitting on their hands with no baseball for the foreseeable future. However, we still have fantasy baseball. In that same breathe let’s take a dive into some pitching sleepers for the upcoming 2020 season. FYI the classification as a sleeper is if they are ranked 100 spots or higher than their ADP on my rankings list. This is the first of a series. Part two of pitching sleepers is coming soon.

Chris Archer, Pittsburgh Pirates

The 31-year-old right-handed pitcher was once considered a top pitcher in the game. However, 2019 saw a major decline in production as Archer pitched to a 5.19 ERA/5.02 FIP/ and 4.36 xFIP with a 36.3% groundball % and a 16.7% strikeout to walk %. The bad news is all of those numbers were career lows. The good news is that all of those numbers were career lows. While it’s concerning that Archer saw a major decline in 2019 it is quite unrealistic for his decline to be this dramatic. The projection systems on Fangraphs completely agree. The BAT is the least optimistic on Archer and yet, still has him improving to a 4.48 ERA which is closer to his 2018 numbers. FantasyPros has the best-case scenario for Chris Archer as the #65 player and the worst-case scenario as the #244 player. His current ADP is #260 which is extremely undervaluing the upside he brings. Chris Archer should be near the top of your starting pitching sleeper list.

Kyle Gibson, Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very interesting team to attempt to parse through for fantasy purposes. The Rangers went from a ban box outside stadium to an indoor stadium and for those of you that think that won’t matter then you are wrong. The heat in Texas often led to the ball flying out of the park at a much higher rate than other MLB stadiums. With the move to an indoor stadium, the ball should leave the yard at a more average rate. This is great news for Texas pitchers like Kyle Gibson.

Gibson, as a member of the Twins, pitched to a 4.84 ERA/4.26 FIP/ 3.80 xFIP in 2019 with a 51.4% groundball % and a 14.7% strikeout to walk %. The number that stands out the most is the .330 BABIP. His career BABIP is .308. Assuming his BABIP returns to his career average he should see a slight bounceback in 2020. According to FantasyPros, the best-case scenario for Gibson is #78 while his worst-case is #204 while his ADP currently sits at a #380.

Jakob Junis, Kansas City Royals

Jakob Junis is the first of two Kansas City pitchers on this list. This likely has something to do with the ballpark as Kauffman stadium being well known for its vast outfield, and for being one of the few pitching friendly American League parks. A pattern we should begin to take notice of is that most sleepers or bounceback candidates have park factors in their favor. That holds true for everyone on this list.

Junis pitched to a very rough 5.24 ERA/4.82 FIP/ 4.63 xFIP with a 42.4% groundball % and a strikeout to walk % of 13.7% in 2019. However, each projection system sees Junis’ ERA improving to a 4.73-4.88 range. According to FantasyPros, Jakob Junis currently has the best case of #112 with a worst-case of #217 with an ADP of #500. Everything points to Jakob Junis being a valuable pitcher in 2020.

Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals

Danny Duffy gets a similar advantage to Jakob Junis in that he gets to pitch in an extremely pitcher-friendly ballpark. He also continues the trend of pitchers that are expected to bounce back that has park factors in their favor.

Duffy pitched to a quality 4.34 ERA/4.78 FIP/ 5.14 xFIP with a 36% groundball % and a 12.4% K-BB %. The 2020 season is expected to hit Duffy with some regression as all of the Fangraphs projection systems have his ERA rising to a range of 4.65-4.86. That being said Duffy was held to just 23 starts in 2019 as he dealt with some nagging injuries. Every projection system has his start total rising to a range of 25-31. This is simply an acquisition of counting stats through innings pitched scenario. That being said the acquisition of those counting stats is being vastly underrated. FantasyPros has Duffy’s best-case as the #139 and his worst-case as the #239 while his ADP sits at #495. Don’t disregard the veterans who are going to eat innings, especially in formats like best ball, draft, and hold.

Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies

Finally, a pitcher that isn’t a sleeper because of his ballpark. Velasquez has the unfortunate distinction of pitching in a hitting friendly ballpark for the Phillies. That being said there is something to the fact that he will be facing a pitcher two to three times a game. However, the real reason for his sleeper designation is his elite stuff.

Velasquez pitched to a 4.91 ERA/5.21 FIP/4.75 xFIP with a 34.3% GB% and a 16.9% K-BB%. The K-BB% is elite so his struggles make little to no sense until we look at his home run to flyball ratio which sits at an astronomical 18.2%. HR/FB ratio is a good indicator of luck and 18.2% is a very unlucky ratio. Especially considering Velasquez’s career HR/FB% is 14.2%. The Fangraphs projection systems are expecting a bounceback from Velasquez as they all have his ERA dropping to a range of 4.46-4.65. FantasyPros has the best case for Velasquez at #139 while his worst-case sits at #241 while his ADP sits at #455. Vince Velasquez has elite stuff and strikeout ability. If his luck can return then he can become an extremely valuable pitcher in 2020.

Stay tuned for part two coming soon!!!

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