Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Starting Pitchers
Some of you have already drafted your fantasy baseball teams, and if you are one of those people, tell your commissioners to use their minds and draft later! Either way, we’re getting into crunch time as opening day is less than a month away. We’ve made it through all of the positional sleepers and now will address pitching sleepers. We’ll start it off with starting pitching sleepers. Much like the outfield, pitching is a position on your fantasy baseball roster where you need to hit some studs early yet find those sleepers later in the draft to round out your roster. That’s where the five players listed below come into play.
Dylan Bundy (Los Angeles Angels)
Positional Rank: 94th
2019 Stats: 7-14, 4.79 ERA, 161.2 IP, 162 SO, 1.35 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 7-13, 4.6 ERA, 172 IP, 171 SO, 1.35 WHIP
Dylan Bundy gets a massive home park upgrade moving from Camden Yards in Baltimore to the Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Along with the upgrade in a home park, he’ll also get friendlier road stadiums in the AL West. He also moves out of the AL East, avoiding powerhouses such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox several times a year. He played last year on the league’s worst Baltimore Orioles. He gets a huge upgrade in team talent and defense behind him, which can be a pitcher’s best friend. The one concern here is his poor fastball, but he does possess a great slider and change-up. He pitches for weak contact and has strikeout potential. I’m a big fan of Bundy this season.
Marcus Stroman (New York Mets)
Positional Rank: 57th
2019 Stats: 10-13, 3.22 ERA, 184.1 IP, 159 SO, 1.307 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 11-9, 3.85 ERA, 180 IP, 152 SO, 1.34 WHIP
When it comes to Marcus Stroman, I’m going to get real statistical about things here. His cutter is a real weapon. After joining the New York Mets last year, Stroman used his cutter 35-percent of the time against left handed hitters. While using his cutter he posted a .302 xwOBA, .398 xSLG and an average spin rate of 2,649 RPM. These numbers were up from his time in Toronto earlier in the season where he threw it 22.7-percent of the time against lefties, posting a .356 xwOBA, .494 xSLG and an average spin rate of 2,546 RPM. His other pitches, including his slider and sinker were not as effective after moving to the Mets, but after a full off-season and spring training with his new team, he’s ready to go and will be dealing on the mound.
Lance McCullers (Houston Astros)
Positional Rank: 54th
2018 Stats: 10-6, 3.86 ERA, 128.1 IP, 142 SO, 1.169 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 7-6, 3.85 ERA, 117 IP, 126 SO, 1.29 WHIP
Lance McCullers missed the 2019 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and due to that, has fallen off the fantasy radar. Thus far into spring training, he appears to be healthy, which is not only a promising sign for himself and the Astros, but for fantasy owners looking for a steal later in drafts. In 2018 he posted 10.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings and has a career ERA of 3.67. The Astros really need help replacing the power arm of Gerrit Cole. I’m not saying Cullers is of Cole’s caliber, but he is a very good pitcher. He throws his curveball 44.5-percent of the time and has the velocity to off-set that. He is one of the best values in all of fantasy baseball.
Anthony DeSclafani (Cincinnati Reds)
Positional Rank: 87th
2019 Stats: 9-9, 3.89 ERA, 166.2 IP, 167 SO, 1.2 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 8-10, 4.42 ERA, 163 IP, 158 SO, 1.26 WHIP
Anthony DeSclafani pitched 166 innings last season coming off of injury, which is promising. Many believe he over-performed last year, I’m not one of them. He does possess an excellent fastball, curveball and slider combination. He posted 4.3 xFIP and 3.89 ERA in 2019 as well. The Reds are a better team than they were a season ago. His one downside is that he struggles against lefties as they hit him hard. This is year two post injury, so we can assume that DeSclafani could be even better than a year ago, although many believe him to be worse.
Aaron Civale (Cleveland Indians)
Positional Rank: 76th
2019 Stats: 3-4, 2.34 ERA, 57.2 IP, 46 SO, 1.04 WHIP
2020 Projection (via RotoChamp): 5-3, 3.84 ERA, 75 IP, 64 SO, 1.24 WHIP
I have to give credit where credit is due. Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) with Fantrax put me onto Aaron Civale. Civale offers a weak contact-percentage of 67.1 and an overall barrel percentage of 2.4. He throws his sinker extremely well, with a 0-percent barrel rating a season ago. He also had a 0-percent barrel rating on his curveball in a small sample. He does lack strikeout ability but that may come as he starts more and more games and gets his feet underneath himself more. His curveball does have a 14.6-percent swinging strike rate, which is well above the league average. Let's also not forget about how well Cleveland is at developing young pitchers.