Pitchers to Target in Deep Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
A few fresh faces and one previous visitor make up the quartet of touted pitchers this week. The repeat visitor is a youngster champing at the bit to make his big-league debut, and he has difference-maker potential in head-to-head leagues as a probable September call-up. The other three pitchers share the common thread of ranking within the top-30 starting pitchers (minimum of 10 innings pitched) in K-BB% since the All-Star break, per FanGraphs. Of course, they boast more than just one promising stat in their profile, too.
Brendan McKay (TB): Yahoo – 37%, ESPN – 20%
McKay came on like gangbusters when first called up, but he’s yielded three runs or more while failing to pitch at least six innings in each of his last three turns. One of those three starts was an ugly six-run affair in which the White Sox chased him out after just 3.1 innings. He’s somewhat bounced back since, allowing 13 hits, six runs, two walks, and striking out 15 in his last two starts spanning 10.1 innings.
Among starters who have pitched at least 10 innings since the All-Star break, McKay ranks fifth with a 29.4 K-BB%. Being stingy with free passes while racking up strikeouts — which are backed by a 14.5% SwStr rate that’s tied for 12th-best in the second half — is a recipe for better success than McKay has enjoyed in recent turns.
McKay is a solid option Tuesday night against a Padres offense that’s 10th in wRC+ (102) against left-handed pitchers this year but owns an exploitable 24.9 K%. Furthermore, they’re no great shakes at home, ranking 21st in wRC+ (91) with a 25.4 K% at Petco Park. His next two projected starts are even more tantalizing against the Tigers (26th in wRC+ at 83 versus southpaws) and the Orioles (25th in wRC+ at 87). McKay should be rostered in all 12-team mixers and larger formats.
Dinelson Lamet (SD): Yahoo – 33%, ESPN – 8%
Lamet is pitching well in his return from Tommy John surgery. In seven starts spanning 35.0 innings, he has totaled a 3.86 ERA (3.83 SIERA), 1.26 WHIP, and jaw-dropping 32.5 K%. The young righty’s juicy strikeout rate is supported by a gaudy 13.9% SwStr rate. He’s struck out at least five batters in all seven of his starts and six or more five times.
Lamet has been in a groove in his last five turns. In that time frame, he’s twirled a 2.88 ERA. His next start at Philadelphia might seem like a stay-away game, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Phillies are tied for just 21st in wRC+ (89) against right-handed pitchers, and they’re merely middle of the pack at home in wRC+ (99) this season. Lamet, however, should be benched in most leagues for his ensuing start against the Red Sox. He’ll probably draw the Dodgers after, which is another one to bench him for, but he’ll potentially have tasty matchups at Arizona and against the Rockies in San Diego. If he’s bumped off schedule, Lamet could also face the Giants in San Francisco.
Jesus Luzardo (OAK): Yahoo – 16%, ESPN – 5%
A’s manager Bob Melvin said Luzardo probably won’t be called up before September, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. As a result, the prospect is more of a stash option for head-to-head gamers comfortably on the cusp of a playoff berth and looking ahead for an impact arm. The young lefty is building up his pitch count after missing a month with a Grade 2 lat strain. He’s made two starts this month, one on August 5 in the Arizona League and another on August 10 in High-A. Luzardo pitched five scoreless innings in those two turns, yielding only one hit and zero walks with 12 strikeouts. The 21-year-old was up to 43 pitches in his most recent start, according to MiLB.com.
He’s supposed to dominate at those levels, but it’s still promising that Luzardo has done just that while avoiding another injury setback. He should make a few starts at the Triple-A level to prove his big-league readiness while also building up his pitch count before a potential September promotion.
Mike Montgomery (KC): Yahoo – 3%, ESPN – 1%
Since acquiring Montgomery back in July, the Royals have stretched him out to start after working exclusively out of the bullpen for the Cubs. He was roughed up in his first start, but he’s hit his stride since.
In his last four starts spanning 21.1 innings, Montgomery has a sparkling 2.95 ERA (3.39 SIERA), 1.22 WHIP, 3.5 BB%, 26.7 K%, 49.2 GB%, and 12.7 SwStr%. The veteran lefty’s formula for success is easy to dissect in his plate-discipline numbers.
Montgomery is starting hitters off with a first-pitch strike at roughly the league-average rate (61.6 F-Strike% in his last four starts compared to a league-average 61.0% this season) and attempting to get batters to chase pitches out of the zone thereafter. He’s thrown only 31.3% of his pitches in the zone in his last four starts, which is well below MLB’s average of 42.0%. He’s also coaxed hitters to swing at balls often with a 38.2% O-Swing rate that’s well above the 31.4% league average while stealing strikes in the strike zone with a 66.4% Z-Swing rate.
Patient teams could put his approach to the test, but his next two opponents don’t fit the bill. He’ll square off with the Mets next. While their 114 wRC+ against lefties ranks fifth-best, their 8.0 BB% is tied for just 19th. After that, Montgomery projects to have a dreamy matchup with the Orioles. Baltimore ranks 25th in wRC+ (87) against lefties and 27th in walks (6.4%) with 26.4% K rate.