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The Watchlist: Jake Odorizzi, Jesus Luzardo, Luis Garcia, Dany Jimenez (2022 Fantasy Baseball)

by Ben Rosener
Aug 5, 2022
Jesus Luzardo

This is “The Watchlist.”

“The Watchlist” is a weekly column designed to help you monitor and pick up players in the coming weeks. Whether they’re waiver wire or trade targets, these are the players you’ll want to add now before becoming the hot waiver commodity or trade target in a week or two.

Using underlying and advanced metrics, “The Watchlist” will help you get ahead of the competition in your league and reap the rewards later from your pickups.

The players could be anyone from a prospect in an ideal situation close to the Majors, a reliever in a saves+holds league, or even a starter doing well with misleading surface-level stats like ERA.

They might even be hitters with quality underlying stats. Or they could be none of those types of players and a different kind of player entirely. The point is that they’ll help you find success in your fantasy league while staying ahead of the curve of your league-mates.

The payoff might not be immediate, but they should eventually provide notable value, more often than not.

These are some of those players for this week:

Jake Odorizzi (SP – ATL)

Pitching for the Houston Astros as a starting pitcher generally tends to be a good thing for a player’s fantasy value, particularly in the pitcher win department.

Houston’s rotation entered play Thursday with 51 pitcher wins, the most in the Majors and two more than the next closest rotation. Four different Astros starters have at least eight wins, and a fifth, Cristian Javier, has six in 16 starts.

However, in large part thanks to Javier’s emergence, there wasn’t necessarily a regular spot for Odorizzi after the likes of Javier, Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia.

That had little to do with Odorizzi and more to do with the crowded rotation. The veteran was solid in 12 starts for the club, logging 60 innings and pitching to a 3.75 ERA and a 3.62 FIP. And while his strikeouts per nine innings rate is down to 6.90, the lowest of his career, he’s making up for it, in part, by limiting hard contact at an elite rate.

That’s partly due to increased usage from his cutter, which he’s throwing 19% of the time up from 10.3% last year as his primary offering after his four-seamer. Opposing batters have managed just a .241 xwOBA and an 18.7% hard-hit rate against the pitch the lowest hard-hit rate among starters who have thrown at least 150 cutters this season.

Now Odorizzi is in Atlanta, having been dealt by Houston for reliever Will Smith. It’s a similarly ideal fantasy situation, with potentially more opportunity.

The National League East club is one of the few teams within striking distance of Houston’s pitcher win total in the rotation. Atlanta starters have combined for 44 pitcher wins this season, the fourth-most in the league. And while they’ve seemingly had a set rotation since Spencer Strider moved from the bullpen, it is worth noting that Ian Anderson has struggled at times this season, with a 4.99 ERA and a 4.24 FIP in 101 innings. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last six starts but gave up seven earned runs in each of the other two stats.

And that’s all without mentioning if Atlanta wants to limit Strider’s innings down the stretch. In short, there’s an opportunity for Odorizzi.

Jesus Luzardo (SP, RP – MIA)

Jesus Luzardo is back in the Marlins rotation full-time. He could be an impact starting option down the stretch for fantasy managers, especially those hurting for or searching for additional strikeouts each week.

The left-hander returned from the injured list in a start on Aug. 1 against the Cincinnati Reds and struck out five batters throughout five innings, giving him 46 total punch-outs in 34 frames of work this season.

Luzardo also gave up just three hits and a pair of runs against the Reds, not walking a batter in the process. His curveball and changeup pairing were as effective as well. The former A’s starter generated six swinging strikes with both pitches, and his changeup finished with a 55% CSW rate.

The start against the Reds marked only the second time this year that Luzardo has thrown his curveball and changeup more than his sinker and four-seamer. It’s certainly a potential trend to watch moving forward. If it continues, it should lead to similar, if not better overall swing-and-miss metrics.

Luzardo’s curveball, his most utilized pitch with a 37.6% usage rate, has registered a 41.5% whiff rate this season, while opponents have managed to hit just .120 with a .143 xBA and a .233 xwOBA against the pitch.

Luzardo’s changeup hasn’t been used quite as often, it has a 17% usage rate, but it’s been even more effective, with a 52.8% whiff rate and a .174 xwOBA.

Just four pitchers have a changeup with a higher whiff rate this season. Just one of those hurlers, Brandon Woodruff, is a starter.

Highest Whiff Rate Among Changeups This Season:

  • Michael King: 75 changeups thrown, 57.9% whiff rate
  • Drew Smith: 36 changeups thrown, 57.1% whiff rate
  • Brandon Woodruff: 235 changeups thrown, 55.7% whiff rate
  • Tommy Kahnle: 30 changeups thrown, 52.9% whiff rate
  • Jesus Luzardo: 102 changeups thrown, 52.8% whiff rate

Luis Garcia (RP – SD)

The San Diego Padres’ bullpen looks slightly different now that the trade deadline has come and gone. Taylor Rogers was traded away in the same deal that netted the Padres Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers.

That takes Garcia, who logged a pair of saves on July 31 and Aug. 1, out of the mix for saves, but it shouldn’t take him off the fantasy radar, especially in saves+holds leagues.

The 35-year-old has enjoyed a strong first season in San Diego, pitching to a 3.18 ERA and a 2.71 FIP in 39.2 innings. He’s struck out 42 batters compared to allowing just 12 walks. Garcia’s sinker is his most utilized pitch, with a 51.6% usage rate. While it doesn’t miss many bats (12.4% whiff rate), the veteran’s slider and split-finger offer more than make up for the sinker from a bat-missing standpoint.

  • Luis Garcia’s slider in 2022: 34% usage rate, 57.1% whiff rate, .053 average against, .048 xBA, .151 wOBA, .109 xwOBA
  • Luis Garcia’s split finger offering in 2022: 14.4% usage rate, 42.2% whiff rate, .217 average against, .156 xBA, .151 wOBA, .109 xwOBA

On top of Garcia’s ability to induce grounders with his sinker and miss bats with his slider and split-finger offering, he seems to be one of Bob Melvin’s most trusted relievers.

Only the since-traded Rogers has made more appearances out of the San Diego bullpen this season. Garcia and Rogers are also tied for the most high-leverage relief appearances among Padres relief pitchers this season. The fact that Garcia and Rogers are tied isn’t quite as crucial. What is vital is that the next closest reliever is Nabil Crismatt, with 15 high-leverage appearances.

Moving forward, Garcia looks like the best bet for ancillary saves in the San Diego bullpen and might be next in line for save opportunities if Hader is ever inconsistent or injured.

Dany Jimenez (RP – OAK)

Another reliever whose fantasy upside was impacted by trade deadline deals, Dany Jimenez’s pathway to consistent save opportunities looks much less cluttered now that Lou Trivino is a member of the New York Yankees.

Jimenez was activated from the 15-day injured list on Tuesday and returned on Thursday in a matchup against the Los Angeles Angels, needing just 14 pitches to generate four swinging strikes and three strikeouts in a scoreless inning work in the eighth. Three of those four swinging strikes came via the right-hander’s slider, which developed into a marquee out pitch.

Among pitchers who have thrown at least 200 sliders this season, just 14 pitchers have logged a higher whiff rate on their slider than Jimenez’s 47.4% whiff rate.

The slider is not just a marquee out pitch, but it’s also been crucial in helping Jimenez find success in the ninth inning this season. The reliever has converted 11 of 13 saves this season, pitching to a 4.38 ERA, a 3.24 FIP, 23 strikeouts and 12 walks in 24.2 innings of work.

Chances are Jimenez was dropped to the waiver wire in some leagues while he was on the injured list. As of Thursday, the 28-year-old was rostered in just 34% of Yahoo leagues. Now’s the ideal time to pick him up off waivers, especially before he starts logging saves. He’s a great target for fantasy managers who had one of their primary save options (like Taylor Rogers or Jorge Lopez) traded to a new club and now need more ninth-inning opportunities.


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