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RP-Eligible SP to Target (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

RP-Eligible SP to Target (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

Everyone loves when they can find an edge in fantasy baseball. One tactic I’ve relied on over the years has been maximizing the value of positional eligibility. Of course, many gamers recognize the value of multi-position-eligible hitters. However, using a relief-pitcher-eligible starting pitcher in an RP spot can have value, too. So, let’s look at some of my favorite RP-eligible SPs to target in 2022, as well as a few honorable mentions.

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Ranger Suarez (PHI): ADP – 141.5, SP44/RP11

Suarez had an excellent 2021 campaign, seamlessly transitioning from elite reliever to top-shelf starter. According to FanGraphs, in a dozen starts spanning 65.2 innings, Suarez twirled a 1.51 ERA, 3.68 SIERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.3 BB%, 25.0 K%, 26.9 CSW%, and 56.7 GB%. As the gap in ERA and SIERA suggests, he was lucky to an extent. Nevertheless, a 3.68 SIERA was a rock-solid mark.

The 26-year-old lefty had superb underlying stats, including a ground ball rate that ranked well among his peers, mitigating the risks of pitching at a homer-friendly home ballpark. Moreover, Suarez has a pair of pitches that generate whiffs at an above-average clip, namely his sinker and changeup. But, obviously, the sinker’s primary function is to induce grounders, not miss bats. So, I like his odds of continuing to strike hitters out at an above-average rate. As a result, I have ranked Suarez as a high-end to mid-tier SP3 for 2022.

Michael Kopech (CWS): ADP – 181.8, SP53/RP16

Before last year, Kopech last pitched in 2018. The fireballing righty missed 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery and opted out of the 2020 season. Thankfully, he was dazzling in 40 relief appearances and four short starts. Overall, Kopech spun a 3.50 ERA, 2.70 SIERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8.4 BB%, 36.1 K%, and 32.9 CSW%.

This year, he’s ticketed for the rotation. White Sox general manager Rich Hahn explicitly stated a need to be creative when managing Kopech’s innings as a starter this year. Understandably, he’s not going to be tasked with a workhorse role after pitching only 72.1 innings last year, including the postseason. Nonetheless, Kopech has a high-octane arsenal, proved healthy, and has significant upside. However, he may endure some hiccups transitioning to starting. As a result, I’m a little lower on Kopech than his average draft position (ADP). Still, his ADP isn’t outlandish, and he’s a viable target at his cost and an even more attractive option if he slips a bit.

Tanner Houck (BOS): ADP – 198.8, SP56/RP19

Despite having a slightly later ADP than Kopech, I’m considerably more interested in Houck this season. Kopech is outside my top-60 starting pitchers, and Houck is inside my top-55 starting pitchers. Boston’s righty appeared in 18 games spanning 69.0 innings last year during the regular season, making five relief appearances and 13 starts. He also pitched 21.0 innings in the minors and 10.1 innings in the postseason, bringing his 2021 total to 100.1 innings. Therefore, he should pitch more innings than Kopech this year.

Moreover, he has pitched more innings as a starter than Kopech, giving us a larger body of work to analyze — albeit, it’s still a small sample. Houck threw 58.2 innings in 13 starts last season, amassing a 3.68 ERA, 3.21 SIERA, 1.13 WHIP, 6.2 BB%, 30.0 K%, and 30.8 CSW%.

Houck had sterling numbers as a starter. In fact, among non-qualified starting pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched in 2021, Houck was tied for the 10th-highest CSW%. In addition, among that same group of pitchers, he was tied for the sixth-lowest SIERA. Thus, I’m enamored with Houck as a high-upside bargain, sporting an ADP barely inside the top-200 picks.

Jesus Luzardo (MIA): ADP – 263.3, SP76/RP30

First, allow me to temper your enthusiasm for Luzardo. I’m not calling him a shoo-in to break out this year. Still, I went from largely disinterested when I started my offseason ranking process to intrigued as a late-round or one-dollar auction flyer now.

I loved Luzardo entering 2021. But, unfortunately, he was a train wreck last year. The young lefty had a 6.52 ERA in 29.0 innings at the Triple-A level, 6.87 ERA for the A’s in 38.0 innings, and 6.44 ERA in 57.1 innings (all in starts) for the Marlins.

Luzardo’s control abandoned him last year, resulting in an ugly 11.0 BB% in the Bigs and an 11.1 BB% in Triple-A. However, in his first 71.0 innings in The Show, he had only a 6.8 BB%. So, maybe last year was an outlier, and he’ll revert to pre-2021 control.

Additionally, Luzardo struggled mightily to strand baserunners. He had a 59.4 LOB% in Triple-A and a 65.4 LOB% in the Majors in 2021. According to FanGraphs, 72.1 LOB% was the league average in 2021. Further, Luzardo had a 79.5 LOB% in 2019 and 2020 for the A’s. As a result, he’s a prime candidate to enjoy positive regression in LOB%.

Nevertheless, my growing intrigue in Luzardo was fueled by his 2021 whiff rates. I recently used the Baseball Savant pitch-type Whiff% leaderboards for the Advanced Stats Leaderboard series. Luzardo popped out after appearing on two leaderboards. Luzardo was 18th out of 145 pitchers that used a changeup in at least 50 plate appearances against them, generating a 35.0 Whiff%. More impressively, he was 10th out of 114 pitchers that threw a curveball in at least 50 plate appearances against them, coaxing a gaudy 42.1 Whiff%. Therefore, he has a pair of top-shelf bat-missing pitches. Simply, that’s enough to get him on my radar as a post-hype sleeper.

Other Notable RP-eligible SPs: Luis Severino (NYY), Cal Quantrill (CLE), Drew Rasmussen (TB), and Nestor Cortes Jr. (NYY) 

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


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