Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
A pitcher who nearly got the nod last week headlines this week’s picks. He’s joined by a righty who has teased at various times but continues to struggle with inconsistency. The second time is hopefully the charm touting a pitcher who burned me when I last suggested adding him. He’s joined by a teammate coming off of a brilliant performance whose ownership is under 10% at both Yahoo and ESPN.
Griffin Canning (LAA): Yahoo – 24%, ESPN – 9%
Canning is handling his promotion to the majors with aplomb. Through four starts spanning 21.1 innings, he has a 3.80 ERA that’s nearly identical to his 3.81 SIERA, per FanGraphs. He’s struck out a whopping 27.6% of the batters he’s faced, only a bit below his 28.3 K% at the Triple-A level to open the year. He’s walked just 8.1% of batters, and his plate discipline numbers are rather tasty.
Among starters who’ve thrown a minimum of 20 innings this season, his 17.7 SwStr% is second to only Blake Snell’s 19.2%. He’s coaxing batters to fish out of the strike zone at a 35.3% clip, well above the league average of 30.4%. He’s also doing a great job of getting ahead of batters with a 67.8% F-Strike rate, 7% better than the league average.
The young righty reached The Show with some fanfare after entering the year ranked 63rd among prospects at both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline while checking in 56th at Baseball Prospectus. He has a four-pitch mix of average to plus offerings, per MLB Pipeline’s pitch grades, that includes his fastball, curve, slider, and changeup. Canning’s worth adding in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers, and he’s startable on Friday against the visiting Rangers. He’ll draw the A’s in pitcher-friendly Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (0.921 for runs and 0.846 for homers) in his ensuing start.
Reynaldo Lopez (CHW): Yahoo – 20%, ESPN – 18%
Reynaldo Lopez can be maddening to roster, looking brilliant in one start and getting bombed in the next. He owns a ghastly 5.14 ERA that’s only slightly worse than his 4.97 SIERA thus far this year. His ugly full-season line is dragged down by his first three starts of the year in which he yielded 18 earned runs in 13.1 innings. He’s since turned things around in a big way.
In his last seven starts spanning 42.2 innings, he has a 2.95 ERA (4.35 SIERA), 7.5 BB%, 24.3 K%, and 1.17 WHIP. The righty’s fly-ball heavy batted-ball profile makes him susceptible to homers, but during his stretch of pitching well, he’s earned a staggering 20.3% infield fly rate. Pop-ups are basically gimme outs, so that eye-popping rate helps offset the homer risks. Lopez’s three highest average fastball velocity marks of the year have come in his last three starts, so it’s promising to see him throwing his hardest while performing well. The Twins make for a challenging start in his next turn, but he’ll draw a much more favorable opponent with the Royals after that. Lopez is worth a look in 14-team mixers or deeper formats.
Pablo Lopez (MIA): Yahoo – 8%, ESPN – 4%
This isn’t my first call for adding Pablo Lopez. Nope, I did that in advance of a start in which he coughed up 10 earned runs to the Mets on 10 hits and two walks in three innings. Yikes. The 23-year-old righty demonstrated moxie and a short memory by holding the Mets scoreless through seven innings on one hit, two walks, and seven strikeouts in his next turn.
Lopez hasn’t had much help from the baseball gods this year, as his 5.06 ERA through nine starts spanning 48 innings is way above his 3.69 SIERA. Among qualified pitchers this year, his SIERA is tied with Noah Syndergaard for 24th. Not a fan of SIERA as an ERA estimator? No problem. His 3.53 FIP is 35th, his 3.66 xFIP is 27th, and, according to Baseball Prospectus, his 3.31 DRA is 31st among pitchers with a minimum of 30 innings pitched.
The youngster has kept more than half of the balls put in play against him on the ground with a 53.0 GB%. He’s been stingy with free passes with just a 6.5 BB%, and he’s struck out a rock-solid 24.5% of batters faced. Even his 1.17 WHIP has been stellar. Miami’s dreadful offense will make wins tough to come by, but the rest of his profile looks legit. He’s worth rostering in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers.
Sandy Alcantara (MIA): Yahoo – 6%, ESPN – 4%
I’m a bit surprised Alcantara hasn’t received a recency-bias fueled ownership bump. The young righty pulled off a Maddux by shutting out the Mets on only 89 pitches in his most recent turn. He ceded two hits and one walk while striking out eight batters. The young righty’s exhausted his prospect eligibility, but he was a top-100 prospect at Baseball America prior to the 2018 season and ranked in the preseason top 100 at Baseball Prospectus from 2017-2019.
He pumps in serious cheddar with his four-seamer and sinker averaging 95.7 and 95.4 mph, respectively, this year. He backs those pitches with a slider, curve, and changeup. Alcantara has struck out an underwhelming 15.9% of batters while walking an alarming 10.6% of hitters. However, his plate discipline numbers suggest substantial improvement for both on the horizon.
The 23-year-old hurler boasts three pitches with a swinging-strike percentage of 14% or better this year, starting with his sinker at 14.0%, followed by his slider at 16.0%, and headlined by his changeup at 17.2%. Even his curve’s swinging-strike percentage of 9.0% isn’t too shabby. His repertoire certainly has potential for a surge in strikeout rate, and he could simply be a pitch-mix tweak away from tapping into his immense strikeout ceiling. I’m bullish on Alcantara’s outlook the rest of the year, and Canning is the only starter in this piece I’d rather roster despite him having the lowest ownership percentages of the quartet of highlighted pitchers.