Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
This week’s edition of “Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues” features numerous familiar faces. As a result of the returning pitchers, I’ve opted to scale back the analysis a bit to include more options for gamers to pluck out of the free-agent pool. Having said that, there is one fresh face below. The group, as a whole, is very widely available at ESPN with the highest ownership rate of any featured player below checking in at 11% there. One pitcher’s ownership rate at Yahoo is a touch on the high side for this piece at 29%, but the others have ownership rates there south of 20%.
Diego Castillo (TB): Yahoo – 29%, ESPN – 9%
Castillo’s saved seven games this year, but his last save came back on June 16 prior to an IL stint. It’s possible he won’t see any save opportunities the rest of the way, but there’s some potential for a few vulture saves. He’s totaled 12 holds, which is noteworthy for gamers in leagues using that category or saves plus holds, and he’s recorded a hold in one of five appearances since his return from the IL.
The 25-year-old right-hander coughed up two runs on two hits and a walk without recording an out in his last appearance, but he’s otherwise been sharp since his return on July 13. His velocity wasn’t down in the appearance, so I’m chalking it up to merely a rough day for the time being. He’s pitched 4.1 innings across five relief appearances since returning from the IL, tallying a 4.15 ERA (2.49 SIERA), 91.7% GB%, 1.62 WHIP, 10.5% BB%, and 26.3% K%, according to FanGraphs. Castillo’s only a deep-league option, but he’s an intriguing sneaky play in head-to-head formats that distinguish between starting and relief pitchers since he’s an SP-eligible reliever. I’m currently rostering him in a head-to-head 10-team mixer that has separate categories for holds and saves with a deep bench, SP, RP, and regular pitcher slots. Castillo’s not the only SP-eligible reliever on that roster, and gamers looking ahead at the fantasy playoffs in head-to-head leagues could consider giving Castillo and others of his SP-eligible reliever ilk a look as a strategic move.
Danny Salazar (CLE): Yahoo – 19%, ESPN – 5%
Salazar made his fourth rehab start on Sunday. The start was his first at the Triple-A level after a pair of Double-A starts. He pitched nine innings across those three upper-minor league starts and allowed just two runs on eight hits, four walks, and 12 strikeouts.
His most recent turn was his most impressive. He pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless ball on three hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. Salazar generated a 12.5% SwStr% at the Double-A level before bumping that up to a 14.1% SwStr% in his last turn at the Triple-A level, according to FanGraphs.
Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com indicated Salazar could be back after his next two rehab starts, but also says whether he starts or relieves will largely be dependent on the forthcoming pair of rehab starts. Gamers with an IL spot to work with (namely those in head-to-head leagues) should scoop up Salazar. He’s a wild card at this point, but he has game-changing strikeout potential that could play well in the fantasy baseball playoffs in head-to-head leagues.
Tyler Beede (SF): Yahoo – 16%, ESPN – 7%
I wrote about Beede a little over a month ago, and he’s since made a notable change to his repertoire while performing at a higher and more consistent level. Technically, Beede had used his slider 2.1% of the time in a June 11 start against the Padres before I wrote about him last time, but it was the only start in which he’d used the pitch, and he didn’t use it at all in his next start (which was made before I wrote about him last). Since then, however, the slider has become an integral part of his pitch mix.
Beede used his slider 1.1% of the time in a June 22 start at Arizona, then 3.6% of the time in a June 27 start in San Francisco against the visiting Diamondbacks, but his slider usage rate has been in the double-digit percentages for each of his starts since (not including Wednesday’s turn against the Cubs, since the PITCHf/x data isn’t available for that start at the time of this writing). Looking at FanGraphs’ pitch splits, it’s also possible the slider is a cutter, or he throws both and they’re getting clumped together on his main page while getting separated into two different pitches on the pitch splits page. Regardless, the offering/offerings have added depth and another bat-missing weapon (or weapons) to his arsenal.
He has a 13.0% SwStr% on his slider, 14.7% on his curve, 17.7% on his cutter, and 19.6% on his changeup. With numerous put-away pitches at his disposal, Beede has some strikeout potential that’s not fully manifested itself in his solid recent run. He’s struck out just 19.8% of the batters he faced in his three starts prior to Wednesday’s turn against the Cubs. In that three-start stretch, he totaled a 1.66 ERA (4.15 SIERA), 0.69 WHIP, 1.2% BB%, and 11.6% SwStr%. His walk rate is excellent and promising from a pitcher who’s routinely struggled with control in his professional career. In Wednesday’s start, Beede was hittable (10 hits allowed) and undone by the long ball (three homers coughed up), but he salvaged a non-disastrous line of 5.2 innings, 10 hits, four runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts.
His next two starts line up to be against the Phillies in Philadelphia on Tuesday, July 30 and at Colorado on Saturday, August 3. He’s only a desperation play in leagues larger than 14-team team mixers for those two starts. Gamers with a bench spot to work with in 14-team mixers or larger leagues could still scoop him and bench him, though, as there appears to be something cooking with Beede of late and a tangible pitch-mix change to point to as a reason to believe his good starts of late are more than merely a fluke.
Homer Bailey (OAK): Yahoo – 15%, ESPN – 8%
Bailey’s made two starts for the A’s. The first was a quality start in which he held the Mariners to just two runs on seven hits, zero walks, and six strikeouts. The second was an unmitigated disaster in which he was torched for nine runs on eight hits, three walks, and two strikeouts in two innings against the Astros. Houston’s offense is tied for the third-highest wRC+ (114) against right-handed pitchers this year, so gamers who brazenly rolled him out in a bad matchup have only themselves to blame for the damage he inflicted on their ratios.
Having said that, Bailey’s pitch mix for the start against the Astros was truly perplexing. Bailey threw fastballs 57.6% of the time against the Astros, his second-highest usage rate of the season. He threw his slider the second most at 24.2%, his highest usage rate in a start this season. According to the pitch values leaderboard on FanGraphs, the Astros have been the ninth-best offense against fastballs and the top offense against sliders. Maybe he didn’t have feel for his splitter or curve, but it would likely behoove Bailey to ratchet back up his splitter usage going forward.
Unfortunately for Bailey, his next opponent, the Rangers, are on the top of the pitch value leaderboard against splitters. Regardless, Bailey’s splitter’s 60 wRC+ against this year is too good to dial the pitch’s usage back because of the opponent. Furthermore, he gets the Rangers in Oakland instead of Texas’ hitter-friendly home digs. The Rangers are tied for 14th in wRC+ (93) on the road and have the highest strikeout rate (28.5%) on the road this year. Bailey’s a usable streaming option with some potential staying power in 14-team mixers or larger.
Jose Urquidy (HOU): Yahoo – 8%, ESPN – 11%
Urquidy wasn’t someone expected to be used in Houston’s rotation this year, but it appears he’s helping to stop the revolving door behind the top options in the rotation. The 24-year-old righty didn’t have much fanfare climbing the minor-league ladder, and he hadn’t pitched higher than High-A before this year. This season, however, he opened the year with seven starts at the Double-A level, was promoted to the Triple-A level for nine appearances (eight starts), and has made three starts for the parent club.
Urquidy’s pitched 13.0 innings across his three starts for the Astros, and his 5.54 ERA hardly screams fantasy relevance. However, his 3.01 SIERA is more intriguing and his first start in the bigs was at Coors Field. He was lights out in his most recent start, holding the Rangers to one run on two hits, zero walks, and nine strikeouts in seven innings. The 24-year-old has a mouthwatering 14.2% SwStr% for the Astros after posting a 16.2% SwStr% in Double-A and 15.7% SwStr% in Triple-A. He’s stingy with free passes with a 1.8% BB% in the majors, 5.6% BB% in Triple-A, and 3.8% BB% in Double-A.
The rookie righty’s four-seam fastball has decent velocity at an average of 93.6 MPH and a max of 96.9 MPH, per FanGraphs, but it’s been hammered to the tune of a 222 wRC+. His secondaries, though, have been electric and include a changeup (49 wRC+ and 21.5% SwStr%), curve (44 wRC+ and 18.4% SwStr%), and slider (44 wRC+ and 21.4%). I’m enamored with his secondary pitches, and his next start against the Cardinals in St. Louis on Friday is a favorable one. The Red Birds rank tied for 22nd in wRC+ (88) against right-handed pitchers this year. Urquidy can be streamed in leagues of any size for that turn, and he’s worth holding in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers.