Who are the starting pitcher sleepers you should target this year?
Every year, pitchers emerge that help a Fantasy team that are not the usual names. Some are drafted late and some are picked up off the waiver wire. Many people classify these players as sleeper picks. Being able to identify the value of these pitchers in the draft can go a long way to putting you ahead of your competition.
This article is here to hopefully help you look at some names that others may not see the value in. Remember, some of these guys have injury histories, some only had good second halves.
None of these pitchers come without some type of risk. That’s also why these players can be had for a later pick or simply plucked off the waiver wire.
Without further adieu, here are the starting pitcher sleepers for the 2017 season! While these are broken down by league, these are mixed league sleepers.
2017 Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Sleepers
Dan Straily, Miami Marlins
The Reds picked up Dan Straily for nothing when they claimed him off waivers last spring. Surprising that he was not flipped at the deadline, the Reds just completed a trade to the Marlins. The haul the Reds received is a hefty one. The Marlins sent three prospects for Straily’s services. According to MLB.com, all three rank in their Top 30 prospects. Luis Castillo (8), Austin Brice (23) and Isaiah White (30) are a pretty nice return on a free pick up.
Straily enjoyed a nice year for Cincinnati. In 2016 he finished with a 14-8 record in 191.1 IP. His 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 162/73 K/BB are the best of his career. What is surprising about his record is he was actually better at Great American Ballpark than he was on the road. He had an 8-1 record, with a 2.90 ERA and a very good .197 batting average against in a notoriously friendly hitter’s park. Now he’s moving to a very friendly pitchers park in Miami. Straily looks to slot in as the fourth starter on the Marlins and could return real value in drafts this spring.
Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies
Take out the fact that Tyler Anderson plays in Coors Field. Let’s just look at the numbers he put up in his first season. Anderson started 19 games, had a 5-6 record with a 3.54 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP, 99/28 K/BB and a .272 batting average against. Now looking at his splits, here’s how it broke down at home and away. Anderson’s home numbers were a 5-2 record with a 3.00 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, 68/18 K/BB and a .271 batting average against. His away numbers were an 0-4 record with a 4.71 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, 31/10 K/BB and a .275 batting average against.
He does it by relying on pitches that induce ground balls. His ground ball rate was 51.5 percent; he achieved this by taking the curveball out of his arsenal. The curveball doesn’t quite bite the same in the thin air of Coors as it does in other ballparks. Maybe it is an anomaly. I would much rather take a chance on a pitcher that was a first-round pick to fill out the back of my Fantasy rotation.
Chad Kuhl, Pittsburgh Pirates
With all of the other pitchers in the Pirates system getting all of the love, Chad Kuhl could have been a guy who slipped by most owners. Like some of the others on this list, it was a story of two half’s for Kuhl. Granted he only had three starts before the break, but they were not very good. In three games started, Kuhl had 13.1 innings pitched with a 6.08 ERA, a 1.73 WHIP, 8/5 K/BB, and a .327 batting average against. Not a line that would keep a pitcher in the rotation.
Injuries kept him around and he fared much better in the second half. In the 11 games after the break, Kuhl compiled a 4-4 record with a 3.77 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, 45/15 K/BB and a .252 batting average against.
The walks are still a little high, but you can see a pitcher gaining more confidence. He should fare better with a full spring training with the pitching coaches. He wasn’t a top prospect people clamored over like Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, but he didn’t have much trouble getting hitters out in the minors.
You see the reclamation projects that the Pirates have taken on with Ivan Nova and Francisco Liriano. That alone should give you assurance that the Pirates are going to put him in a position to succeed as a back-end guy in the rotation.
Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks
If you like K/9, Robbie Ray was your guy in 2016. He achieved the 21st best K/9 in baseball history with a lofty 11.25 K/9 in his third year in the bigs. The problem with Ray is that he walked a career high 3.7 batter per nine innings and had an ERA of 4.90. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Defense was to blame for the Diamondbacks issues all year.
When you lose an outfielder like A.J. Pollock for the year and get inconsistent defense behind you, you give up a lot of runs. I would not expect Ray to turn into an ace because of the pitches he has. Hopefully the majority of Fantasy players largely think his K rates were a fluke and that could allow for him to be a mid-to-late flyer for your team. If you can pair him with a couple of stud pitchers and if his defense doesn’t show up, you can stomach the ERA that may accompany an elite strikeout rate.
Wily Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers
Wily Peralta did not have a successful first half to his 2016 season. After getting demoted on June 11 with a sky high 6.68 ERA, he didn’t fare well in Triple-A either. Peralta got another shot when Junior Guerra went down with an injury. He seemed to turn the corner upon returning to the big league club. After being recalled for an August 9 start, Peralta lowered his ERA in every start he had.
From that point on, Peralta had a 3-4 record, with a 2.94 ERA, and a 7.5 K/9. As bad as the Brewers rotation is, Peralta may still have to compete for a job in spring training. Depending on how the spring shakes out and what they ultimately decide to do with Josh Hader, Peralta could start in the pen. With that said, he would be just a bad start or injury from being inserted into the rotation. It is a situation to be monitored for sure.
James Paxton, Seattle Mariners
James Paxton enjoyed a really nice 2016 season. He compiled a 3.79 ERA, but his 117/24 K/BB ratio and only nine homers allowed in 121 innings. His first and second half did not look too dissimilar. It was his command that improved in his second half. Pre-All Star break, Paxton had a nice 3.2 K/BB rate to a stellar 7.2 after the All Star break. Those are the type of numbers that make a pitcher elite. Unless you really follow baseball, pitchers like Paxton get lost out on the west coast among the top pitchers.
Obviously, names like Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, King Felix, and Sonny Gray are the first names you think of as elite. Still, Paxton could soon insert himself among the those names if he can keep up those strikeout numbers. Playing in Safeco should still help him keep the ball in the park, even with his pop up numbers growing. And with the lineup the M’s are rolling out, he should enjoy a much better win-loss record come the new season.
Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics
Just like Paxton, Sean Manaea had a better second half in 2016. He reached a career high 144.2 innings pitched. His first half was a little rough for the young pitcher. He had an uninspiring 5.24 ERA in only 67 innings. After the break he started to put it all together, almost cutting his ERA in half with a 2.67 in 77.2 innings pitched.
His second half peripherals were more than respectable with an 8.0 K/9 and a 4:1 strikeout ratio. Not only were the K rates up, but his WHIP went down to 1.02 from a 1.39, which is a significant drop for a young pitcher figuring it out.
He’s not quite to the ‘Ace’ status the A’s envisioned when they acquired him from the Royals, but he is well on his way. Assuming Sonny Gray comes back as his usual self in 2017, the A’s may opt to trade him and get another haul of prospects to start developing.
Manaea could move into the top rotation spot. The one caveat is his injury history. But you’re also not drafting him in the top half of drafts either. Get him in the second half of drafts and reap the rewards, if he can stay healthy the whole way.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
The talent has always been there for Dylan Bundy. He just didn’t live up to the hype, yet. So Bundy falls into post-hype sleeper category. Bundy, who is out of options in his age 23 season, was thrust onto the Orioles 40-man roster out of necessity. For the first three months of the season he was in the Baltimore pen. Bundy, in the relief role, pitched 38 innings and posted a 3.08 ERA and a 32/12 K/BB ratio.
Then the time came that the Orioles put the former first round pick into their starting rotation. In 72.2 innings pitched, Bundy had a 4.52 ERA in 14 starts, with 72 strikeouts and 30 walks. Even after the move to the rotation, he was still firing his fastball in the mid-90s.
This was a really good sign from someone who had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and shoulder issues in 2015. There was also talk from Bundy that he is again toying with the idea of adding a cut fastball. He originally scrapped the pitch because he felt it contributed to his arm troubles.
He is still at risk of giving up the long ball in hitter friendly Camden Yards. Could he possibly turn the corner and be the ace the Orioles thought they drafted in 2011? Maybe, but that’s why he is on this list.
So there are the sleeper starting pitchers to target to fill out the back end of your Fantasy Baseball rotation.
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