Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
The first highlighted pitcher in this week’s piece has an ownership rate of 46% at Yahoo, but it’s below 20% at ESPN. The wide disparity between the two fantasy platforms motivated me to loosen the restrictions and include this mystery southpaw. He’s joined by a right-handed teammate I’ve yet to write about this year. The pitching suggestions are rounded out by a couple of hurlers on the mend whom I’ve sung the praises of previously.
Alex Wood (CIN): Yahoo – 46%, ESPN – 19%
Wood made his season debut for the Reds over the weekend, and the start was a mixed bag. He held the Rockies scoreless through his first four innings, but he was chased after two outs in the fifth inning and finished with a final line of two runs on seven hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. The 28-year-old lefty threw 82 pitches, and he did a masterful job of getting ahead with a first-pitch strike to 17 of 22 batters faced, per FanGraphs.
The veteran lefty used his full three-pitch repertoire, mixing his sinker, breaker (Brooks Baseball classifies it as a slider, FanGraphs classifies it as a slider in some sections and curve in others), and changeup. He coaxed only an 8.8% SwStr rate, but his 11.8% SwStr in one Double-A rehab start and 13.3% in three Triple-A turns provide some optimism that he’ll do a better job of missing bats going forward. Wood’s track record of fantasy usefulness is lengthy, and he’s worth rolling the dice on in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers after a first start with positives to build on.
Anthony DeSclafani (CIN): Yahoo – 27%, ESPN – 14%
DeSclafani’s season got off to a rough start. In his first 11 outings spanning 54.1 innings, he owned a 4.97 ERA (4.50 SIERA) and 1.34 WHIP. He coughed up three or more runs in seven of those turns, and he had no answers for left-handed batters. The 121 lefties he faced teed off to a .392 OBP, .670 SLG, and .428 wOBA.
He’s since righted the ship. Since June 1, DeSclafani has whipped up a 3.83 SIERA that’s 19th best out of 78 qualified pitchers. During that time frame, he owns a 2.94 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 5.9 BB%, and 27.0 K%. The 29-year-old righty is tough as nails on same-handed hitting foes. The 209 righties who’ve faced him this year have mustered just a .242 OBP, .338 SLG, and .242 wOBA. For his career, DeSclafani has held righties to a .285 OBP, .364 SLG, and .280 wOBA.
Part of the reason for his summer success is improvement against left-handed batters. He hasn’t been death on lefties by any measure, but he’s yielded a .349 OBP, .449 SLG, and .337 wOBA to 109 of them in his last nine starts. The veteran remains a risky start against lefty-laden lineups, but as long as he can continue to avoid being completely torched by them, his excellence against righties should result in useful fantasy starts for the most part. DeSclafani is worth rostering in 14-team mixers and larger, and he’s a viable streamer in matchups against righty-heavy lineups.
Danny Salazar (CLE): Yahoo – 18%, ESPN – 3%
It’s the last call to add Salazar for cheap. He made his final rehab start, and it was a dominant one. He pitched four scoreless innings at Triple-A, holding Gwinnett to one hit, one walk, and one hit batsman with five strikeouts. He threw 43 of his 69 pitches for strikes, per MiLB.com. In two Triple-A starts spanning 7.1 innings, Salazar struck out 11 batters with a robust 13.5% SwStr rate.
His major league role, however, hasn’t been revealed yet. Manager Terry Francona indicated Salazar is no longer throwing 97 mph, but said, “I think he averaged close to 93” in this piece from Mandy Bell of MLB.com. Salazar’s strikeout upside is worth taking a chance on in leagues as shallow as 12-team mixers. Gamers with an open IL spot can add him now and game the system a bit by stashing him there and waiting to see how he performs in a big-league game before activating him.
Pablo Lopez (MIA): Yahoo – 14%, ESPN – 7%
In the midst of a promising sophomore campaign, Lopez has been on the shelf with a shoulder injury since last making a start on June 15. Through 14 starts spanning 76.2 innings, he has a 4.23 ERA with a more promising 4.07 SIERA. Furthermore, his ERA is inflated significantly by a 10-earned-run meltdown in three innings against the Mets on May 10. If you strike that start from his totals, his ERA drops to an outstanding 3.18. The young righty also has a 23.3 K% and 1.12 WHIP this year.
His first rehab appearance on Sunday was admittedly rough. Lopez coughed up four earned runs on five hits with zero walks and three strikeouts in 1.2 innings. He threw 28 of his 45 pitches for strikes. He’s expected to make a few more rehab starts, but manager Don Mattingly indicated Lopez will return to the rotation when he’s ready, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Gamers with an IL spot to work with should scoop him up in 12-team mixed leagues and larger and monitor his progress.