Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues (2019 Fantasy Baseball)

by Josh Shepardson | @BChad50 | Featured Writer
Jul 16, 2019

Homer Bailey gets a value boost in deep leagues by moving to Oakland.

One previous visitor to this piece joins a couple of fresh faces this week. One of those newcomers moves into his team’s rotation after spending time in the bullpen. The other is on a new team following a recent trade.

Import your team to My Playbook for season-long advice >>

Michael Pineda (MIN): Yahoo – 39%, ESPN – 18%
Pineda delivered an electric performance in his last start of the first half, holding the Rangers to just one run on five hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in six innings. The start extended his streak to four straight games with five or more strikeouts. He’s been in good form since returning from a short IL stint.

In six starts (prior to Tuesday’s turn against the Mets) since returning from knee tendinitis, Pineda has totaled 33.2 innings with a strong 3.21 ERA (3.80 SIERA), 1.10 WHIP, 3.7 BB%, and 25.0 K%, according to FanGraphs. He’s pitched at least five innings in each of those six outings, held the opposition to three runs or fewer in five, and yielded just one run in four of those starts. The 30-year-old righty’s stellar strikeout rate during that stretch is supported by a 13.9% SwStr rate.

Looking ahead, Pineda has middle-of-the-road matchups against the Mets and Athletics in his next starts this week. The Mets and A’s rank 15th and 13th in wRC+ against right-handed pitchers this season at 101 and 98, respectively. After that, he has a pair of cupcake road matchups against the White Sox (tied for 20th in wRC+ against righties at 88) and Marlins (29th at 78). Pineda’s a worthy addition in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers.

Daniel Ponce de Leon (STL): Yahoo – 28%, ESPN – 2%
Ponce de Leon will replace Michael Wacha in the rotation against the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon. The 27-year-old righty is an interesting pitcher when thrown under the microscope. He’s almost certainly not as good as his 2.37 ERA in 64.2 MLB innings split between eight starts and 10 relief appearances since 2018. Therefore, he also obviously can’t be expected to continue pitching to his 1.98 ERA as a starter for the Cardinals or 1.99 ERA this season. Having said that, he might not be as mediocre as his 4.06 xFIP and 3.85 SIERA in the rotation either.

I tend to lean toward ERA estimators when projecting a pitcher’s performance going forward, but Ponce de Leon has a lengthy history of smashing them throughout his minor league career. In 35 starts (and one relief appearance) spanning 180.2 innings at the Triple-A level since 2016, the righty owns a 2.74 ERA and 4.38 FIP. In Triple-A, he’s demonstrated spotty control with a 12.0 BB%, but he’s tallied a respectable 23.5 K% and a 1.28 WHIP aided by a .267 BABIP. He’s totaled an unsustainable .227 BABIP in his major league starts, but the regression might not be severe. He has held big-league hitters to a 26.3% hard-hit rate in his starts while coaxing a solid 14.0% infield-fly rate.

I suspect his true talent level is just north of a 4.00 ERA, and his 4.13 ERA projection from ZiPS is most closely in line with my leanings. Ponce de Leon is worth an add in 14-team mixers, and he could quickly play himself into usefulness in 12-team mixers, too.

Homer Bailey (OAK): Yahoo – 13%, ESPN – 6%
If you told me at the beginning of the season that there would come a point when I’d suggest adding Bailey, I would have called you crazy. It would have been painful doing so since I was once a big fan, but he appeared clearly washed up entering 2019. Instead, he’s pitched respectably enough for the Royals to trade him to the A’s.

So, before diving into Bailey’s work specifically, let’s take a look at the changes pitching for the A’s instead of the Royals. First, he joins a significantly better offense that should, theoretically, provide him more run support and enhance his likelihood of garnering wins. The A’s are tied for ninth in wRC+ (104), and the Royals rank 23rd (86 wRC+). The 33-year-old righty will also be treated to a significant park upgrade. Kauffman Stadium suppresses homers at a greater rate than Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum — with the former’s park factor for taters at 0.828 and the latter’s at 0.846 — but Kauffman actually enhances run scoring (1.045) while the Oakland Coliseum depresses it (0.921). Chalk that up to a positive home park shift for Bailey.

These positives come at the cost of a downgrade in defense. Yet defensive metrics remain less reliable than offensive metrics, and the drop appears small. FanGraphs ranks the Royals second in defense this year and the A’s sixth. In 2018, the Royals also ranked second in defense with the A’s in the next spot behind them. Bailey gets a bump in value from moving to the A’s.

As for the righty’s work this year, it’s mostly unexciting. However, it’s gotten more palatable as the year has worn on. His 4.80 ERA in 18 starts spanning 90.0 innings certainly doesn’t scream fantasy relevance, and his ERA estimators aren’t particularly promising either. In his last six starts, though, he’s totaled 35.0 innings of 2.83 ERA baseball. Yes, his 4.84 SIERA suggests bumpier days on the horizon, but his 1.23 WHIP, 8.9 BB%, and 19.9 K% during that stretch aren’t terrible. Furthermore, his 62 wRC+ allowed and 19.6 SwStr% on his splitter indicate he has one excellent offering to lean on, and perhaps a change of scenery and new coaching staff can pull a bit more out of his other offerings — which are all admittedly awful. Bailey is only a deep-league option, but he’s worth a speculative add in 14-team mixers or larger.

Import your team to My Playbook for instant Waiver Wire advice >>


SubscribeApple Podcasts | Google Play | SoundCloud | Stitcher | TuneIn

Josh Shepardson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Josh, check out his archive and follow him @BChad50.

What's your take? Leave a comment

1Dalvin Cook (MIN)RB
2Leonard Fournette (JAC)RB
3Saquon Barkley (NYG)RB
4Ezekiel Elliott (DAL)RB
5Chris Carson (SEA)RB
6Derrick Henry (TEN)RB
7David Johnson (ARI)RB
8Le'Veon Bell (NYJ)RB
9Julio Jones (ATL)WR
10Phillip Lindsay (DEN)RB
 View all Flex Rankings 
11Aaron Jones (GB)RB
12Cooper Kupp (LAR)WR
13DeAndre Hopkins (HOU)WR
14Mark Ingram (BAL)RB
15Josh Jacobs (OAK)RB
16Tyreek Hill (KC)WR
17Michael Thomas (NO)WR
18Sony Michel (NE)RB
19Marlon Mack (IND)RB
20Keenan Allen (LAC)WR
21T.Y. Hilton (IND)WR
22Tyler Lockett (SEA)WR
23Devonta Freeman (ATL)RB
24Adam Thielen (MIN)WR
25Kerryon Johnson (DET)RB
26Julian Edelman (NE)WR
27Tevin Coleman (SF)RB
28Joe Mixon (CIN)RB
29Michael Gallup (DAL)WR
30Robert Woods (LAR)WR
1Ronald Acuna Jr. (ATL)LF,CF
2Nolan Arenado (COL)3B
3Mookie Betts (BOS)CF,RF
4J.D. Martinez (BOS)LF,RF
5Trevor Story (COL)SS
6Justin Verlander (HOU)SP
7Cody Bellinger (LAD)1B,CF
8Trea Turner (WSH)SS
9Alex Bregman (HOU)3B,SS
10Jacob deGrom (NYM)SP
 View All Rankings 
11Max Scherzer (WSH)SP
12Francisco Lindor (CLE)SS
13Gerrit Cole (HOU)SP
14Freddie Freeman (ATL)1B
15Javier Baez (CHC)2B,3B
16Charlie Blackmon (COL)CF
17Aaron Judge (NYY)RF,DH
18Juan Soto (WSH)LF
19Anthony Rendon (WSH)3B
20Bryce Harper (PHI)CF,RF
21Jose Altuve (HOU)2B
22Xander Bogaerts (BOS)SS
23Starling Marte (PIT)CF
24Walker Buehler (LAD)SP
25Manny Machado (SD)3B,SS
26Anthony Rizzo (CHC)1B
27Kris Bryant (CHC)3B,RF
28Whit Merrifield (KC)1B,2B
29George Springer (HOU)CF,RF
30Paul Goldschmidt (STL)1B
1Anthony Davis (LAL)PF,C
2James Harden (HOU)PG,SG
3Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL)SF,PF
4Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)C
5Kevin Durant (BKN)SF,PF
6LeBron James (LAL)SF,PF
7Stephen Curry (GSW)PG,SG
8Nikola Jokic (DEN)PF,C
9Damian Lillard (POR)PG
10Victor Oladipo (IND)PG,SG
 View All Rankings 
11Russell Westbrook (HOU)PG
12Paul George (LAC)SF,PF
13Joel Embiid (PHI)PF,C
14Kawhi Leonard (LAC)SG,SF
15Chris Paul (OKC)PG
16Kyrie Irving (BKN)PG,SG
17Kemba Walker (BOS)PG
18Jimmy Butler (MIA)SG,SF
19Ben Simmons (PHI)PG,SF
20Jrue Holiday (NOR)PG,SG
21Rudy Gobert (UTH)C
22Donovan Mitchell (UTH)PG,SG
23John Wall (WAS)PG
24Kyle Lowry (TOR)PG
25Andre Drummond (DET)PF,C
26Bradley Beal (WAS)SG
27Khris Middleton (MIL)SG,SF
28Kevin Love (CLE)PF,C
29Draymond Green (GSW)PF,C
30LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS)PF,C
Follow the Pros!

Follow us on Twitter @FantasyPros for exclusive advice and contests