Fantasy Baseball: Pitching Sleepers #2
This is the second part of a series on fantasy baseball sleepers, pitching addition. As stated in part one which you can find here, the classification as a sleeper is if they are ranked 100 spots or higher than their ADP on my rankings list. As we noticed in part one, many of these sleepers have park factors in their favor so keep that in mind when thinking about pitchers deeper in drafts. Especially in formats like draft and holds or best ball.
Brad Keller, Kansas City Royals
Keller is the third Kansas City pitcher to make it on this series. Much like Danny Duffy and Jakob Junis, Keller isn’t considered anything special talent-wise. However, he gets the benefit of pitching in a pitching friendly ballpark and he should get as many innings as he can handle.
Unlike his teammates, Keller is young at just 24 years old. This means that still has room for improvement as data shows that most players peak around the age of 26. 2019 was a solid year for Keller as he pitched to a 4.19 ERA/4.35 FIP/4.94 xFIP with a 50% GB% and a 7.3% K-BB%. Unfortunately for Keller his inability to strike guys out, and his BABIP of .282 means he’s likely going to regress a bit in 2020. The Fangraphs projection systems agree as they have his ERA sitting in a range of 4.35-4.72. Regardless of his expected regression Keller is expected to get 30-31 starts and his age gives him leeway to struggle and keep his job.
Martin Perez, Boston Red Sox
Another sleeper, another veteran expected to get as many starts as he can handle. Perez finds himself in a Boston Red Sox rotation that saw David Price depart and Chris Sale have Tommy John surgery, before the season even began. The Red Sox rotation is so depleted that Perez actually ranks as one of their better starting pitchers still standing. That should give him a long leash.
Martin Perez spent 2019 with the Minnesota Twins and he was extremely uninspiring. He pitched to a 5.12 ERA/4.66 FIP/4.69 xFIP with a 48% GB% and a 9.2% K-BB%. As you can see Perez’s ERA indicators show that he was better than what his said ERA shows. This means that Perez should see a minor bounceback in productivity. Add in the fact that he should see every inning he can handle with no one to push him out of his role. Fangraphs projection systems agree with the notion that Perez should bounce back as he is expected to have an ERA between 4.57-5.00. Martin Perez should see lots of work this season and therefore, receive a bunch of counting stats. Even if it isn’t particularly exciting.
Trevor Williams, Pittsburgh Pirates
Williams profiles similarly to all the other guys on this list with a bit more upside. He gets the benefit of a pitcher-friendly park of PNC Park. He also gets to pitch in the National League, meaning he faces a pitcher spot at least twice a game. Lastly, he gets to pitch against the National League Central that has good, but not scary good teams in the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and Brewers. This leads to some room for upside for the 27-year-old Trevor Williams.
In 2019, Trevor Williams was downright atrocious pitching to a 5.38 ERA/5.12 FIP/5.25 xFIP with a 37.1% GB% and a 10.8% K-BB%. However, his groundball % (37.1%) and HR/FB% (14.5%) were much higher than his career averages of GB% 42% and HR/FB% of 11.4%. Assuming his groundball % and HR/FB% return to their normal ranges then Williams should see a return to form. The Fangraphs projection systems have his ERA hovering between 4.24 – 4.98. The Pirates are a terrible team and have no reason to unseat Williams if he struggles meaning he is in a good spot to have a solid 2020.
Mike Leake, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sensing a pattern yet? Veterans are vastly underrated in fantasy baseball. Most will get caught up in the upside of the young, upcoming pitchers. However, there is something to be said for veterans who pile up the counting stats that can stabilize your roster. This allows a fantasy player to draft upside earlier in drafts knowing they can get Mike Leake towards the end. This can help to establish a floor with the already grabbed upside.
Mike Leake pitched to a 4.29 ERA/5.19 FIP/4.76 xFIP with a 46.8% GB% and a 12% K-BB%. While Leake should regress due to the fact that he is now 32 years old he will remain a source of value. The Fangraphs projection systems have his ERA in the range of 4.61 – 5.10. Those numbers aren’t great but Leake is expected to get around 30 starts on a competitive Diamondbacks team. He also sees a minor boost in ballpark factors. Chase Field introduced the humidor and became a pitching friendly ballpark.
There are a couple of things we can learn from this list of sleepers. The first being pitching sleepers can often be found on teams that play in pitching friendly ballparks. Especially bad teams that pitch in pitching friendly ballparks. The second being that veterans that eat innings and provide steady production are very valuable towards the end of drafts. Veterans can give your fantasy pitching staff a much-needed floor while allowing you to shoot for upside early.
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