Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
This week’s targets in deep leagues are headlined by a top prospect who’s nearing a return. He’s joined by a righty who’s been previously touted on three occasions and due to come off the disabled list tonight. The picks are rounded out by a hard-throwing right-hander who appeared in this piece a few weeks ago and a reliever from the same club who’s starting pitcher eligible and possibly figuring things out.
Alex Reyes (STL): Yahoo! – 36%, ESPN – 19%
First, check this out. If you didn’t click the link, it’s to the Peoria Chiefs official Twitter account and a video of all 12 of Reyes’ punchouts in his most recent rehab start. The 23-year-old missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February 2017.
He’s made two rehab starts totaling 8.1 innings (3.1 in his first followed by five in his second). Reyes has been dominant in his two rehab turns with zero runs allowed on five hits, three walks, and 18 strikeouts. He threw 67 pitches in his first start and 80 in his second, per MiLB.com. The righty also reportedly reached the triple-digit mark on the radar gun.
The righty is one of the most highly touted pitching prospects in the game, and he entered the year ranked 17th on Baseball America’s Top-100 list, ranks 17th on MLB Pipeline’s list currently, and opened the year ranked eighth on Baseball Prospectus’ Top-101 list. Unlike many of the other top prospects, Reyes has significant — dominant — experience in “The Show.” Reyes barely retains prospect eligibility after dazzling for 12 appearances (five starts) spanning 46.0 innings in 2016. He spun a 1.57 ERA (2.67 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, and 3.96 SIERA, according to FanGraphs, and amassed a 3.29 DRA, per Baseball Prospectus), 1.22 WHIP, 12.2% BB%, and 27.5% K%.
The youngster used his electric stuff to induce an impressive 11.5% SwStr% that significantly outpaced the league average of 10.1% that season. Judging by his results and the eye-popping radar readings in his last rehab start, the stuff is plenty good post-TJ surgery.
The Cardinals intend on managing Reyes’ workload this year after the missed season recovering from Tommy John. Back in February, using him in the bullpen — at least initially after he returned to the active roster — was discussed as one way to manage his innings. Then again, at that point in time, Reyes had a soft return target of May 1.
Because the righty is on the 60-day disabled list, he won’t be eligible to be activated until May 28. Perhaps a bump back in his return date will prompt the club to turn to a six-man rotation or get creative with off days and skipping starts to use Reyes strictly as a starter.
It’s not clear how they’ll use him initially and throughout the year. However, it seems like it would be an odd decision to build up his workload to a starter’s allotment of pitches (again, he tossed 80 pitches in his second start) only to scale his workload back and then potentially build it back up later in the season. Regardless of how Reyes is used, he can be helpful to gamers in leagues as shallow as 10-team mixers. He’s worthy of stashing on the bench in leagues with limited or no DL spots.
Trevor Cahill (OAK): Yahoo! – 18%, ESPN – 12%
Cahill unexpectedly hit the disabled list with an elbow impingement after the last time I discussed him in this piece. The righty has missed one start thus far on the DL. He’s since thrown a bullpen session, and manager Bob Melvin said of Cahill, “he felt pretty good but not 100 percent at this point.”
Since then, they’ve decided he’s healthy enough to return to the rotation. I would not start him in a tough matchup against the Red Sox tonight, but if he comes out of the start unscathed, he’s good to go in all but the toughest of matchups. Among starters who’ve thrown a minimum of 20 innings, he ranks 16th in ERA (2.25), seventh in FIP (2.39), second in xFIP (2.27), fourth in SIERA (2.55), and sixth in K-BB% (27.2%).
Among all pitchers who’ve thrown a minimum of 20 innings, he ranks 15th in DRA (2.05). He was lights out early in the year, and he opened last year pitching quite well, too. The veteran righty should be rostered in 12-team mixers and larger leagues.
Chad Kuhl (PIT): Yahoo! – 14%, ESPN – 15%
In late April, I touted Kuhl and suggested he could turn the corner by scrapping his bad changeup or tweaking it. Kuhl has not scrapped the pitch, and has instead kicked up its usage. Despite using his worst pitch more often of late, he’s pitched pretty well.
In his last four starts, Kuhl has made three quality starts and been knocked around once by the Nationals. In all during that four-game stretch, he’s rattled off a 3.80 ERA (6.01 FIP thanks to an ugly 25.0% HR/FB%, 4.12 xFIP, and 3.94 SIERA), 1.10 WHIP, 9.6% BB%, 26.6% K%, and 10.7% SwStr%. Overall, that’s not too shabby.
Unfortunately, left-handed batters continue to knock him around. In his last four games, he’s thrown his changeup 20.11% of the time to lefties, according to Brooks Baseball. If Kuhl wants to take the next step in his development, he’ll need to either make strides with his changeup or find another way to retire left-handed batters.
It’s possible the template for success is already there for him if the changeup doesn’t make strides. Righty Garrett Richards uses both his curve and sliders to keep lefties in check. Regardless, for the time being, Kuhl has untapped upside. In the interim, though, he’s a viable deep-league option against lineups that aren’t lefty-heavy.
Tyler Glasnow (PIT): Yahoo! – 4%, ESPN – 2%
When I wrote this piece on the evening of May 1, Glasnow was included in it. Ultimately, I pulled him from it after the Nationals hung six earned runs on him in one-plus inning.
Glasnow relieved Kuhl with two outs in the bottom of the fifth that night and retired the first batter he faced. He then allowed a single, struck out a batter, induced a groundout, and then had things unravel when he yielded a two-out hit to Max Scherzer. The single pushed a run across, and he would follow that up with a pair of walks and a couple more hits allowed. He allowed five runs, and the sixth earned run he allowed was an inherited runner who came around to score. It was an ugly outing that threw a wet blanket on my optimism that sprung from the unveiling of a slider in his previous relief appearance.
On April 27, Glasnow held the Cardinals scoreless on two hits, one walk, and four strikeouts in three innings. In that appearance, he unveiled a slider he’d tinkered with but not used in games. He threw the pitch 18.2% of the time in that appearance.
He threw it just 2.8% of the time in his disastrous outing against the Nationals, but he’s continued to use it in his last two appearances. He used it 2.4% of the time on May 8, and he bumped the usage up to 8.1% on May 13. Since his meltdown against the Nationals, he’s made two multi-inning relief appearances spanning 4.1 innings in which he’s allowed no runs on three hits, one walk, and six strikeouts.
Here’s a look at his plate discipline numbers over the last four games. Glasnow’s three scoreless, multi-inning relief appearances have featured F-Strike percentages north of 70%, and Zone percentages above 51%. Even with the ugly appearance against the Nationals tossed in, during that four-game stretch, he has a 49.0% Zone% (43.2% is the league average this season, and 42.9% was his mark before his last four games). He also boasts a 70.3% F-Strike% (59.8% league average and 42.1% in his first six appearances this year).
Control has been a problem for Glasnow throughout his professional career, especially in “The Bigs.” Four appearances spanning 8.1 innings is apparently a tiny sample size, but it could be a sign of him genuinely turning the corner. Stuff has never been a problem for Glasnow. I wouldn’t advocate adding Glasnow in anything but extremely deep leagues (think at least 16-team mixer or deeper), but he’s a good speculative add in dynasty leagues to see if his most recent run of getting ahead and throwing more strikes sticks.