Fantasy Baseball Category Impact: Pitching
Each week, Colby Conway provides in-depth analysis on specific category contributors who may be lingering on your waiver wire.
Unlike other weeks, we are attacking numerous categories this week in this edition of Category Impact! Based on the Twitter vote this week, #FANation, also known as the #Family voted on not just ERA, not just WHIP or strikeouts, but ALL pitching categories. Dang, I guess we are dealing with some lackluster pitching staffs! No worries, there’s plenty of time to turn things around and there are numerous guys in the article to boost your team’s pitching numbers.
Without further ado…
Chris Bassitt , SP OAK – To be quite frank, Bassit is a difference maker across the board right now, and while there are concerns with how long it will last, let the good times roll! The 30-year-old righty sports a wicked curveball that made Vladimir Guerrero Jr. silly a few nights ago. His strikeout percentage is currently at 12.00 K/9, which is well above his career norms, and that 0.75 ERA is sparkling clean. Sure, the 2.79 FIP, 2.94 xFIP and numerous other statistics SCREAM regression to the mean, but even so, Bassit is a worthy addition in all formats. He’s inducing more groundballs, more than ever before, and his strand rate of 100 percent looks pretty darn clean right now. Of course, again, regression is SCREAMING at us.
Now, there’s two ways to take his pitch chart above.
- Bassit has been successful despite not being very spot on with his pitches, which further screams regression. Or….
- Bassist has been successful despite not being very spot on with his pitches, but with more consistency, he can offset some of the regression.
I guess one could say he’s been effectively wild to date, but he’ll need to get out of the middle of the plate if he wants to extend any long-term levels of success.
John Gant , RP STL – It feels like just last week I wrote up Gant’s teammate John Brebbia in an edition of Category Impact, but Gant deserved a nod this week. Gant is a difference maker for your fantasy team right now and for the foreseeable future. He’s posted a 0.65 WHIP on the season, and that’s largely due to his control issues (7 walks in 20 innings pitched). He’s allowed just two earned runs on six hits through his first 16 appearances of the season. Furthermore, he’s a StatCast darling, posting above-average marks in all of the major categories. In fact, he’s vastly improved from last season. See for yourself below:
Oh, baby! Look at all of the red in the right! That is exceptional. Of pitchers with at least 40 batted ball events, no one in Major League Baseball has allowed less hard contact (16.7%) than Gant. Unlike most relievers, Gant has a full five pitch arsenal that he relies on, throwing each pitch at least eight percent of the time.
Shawn Kelley , RP TEX – Despite liking a tweet about his player profile during the offseason, Texas reliever José Leclerc has been removed from his duties as the team’s trusted arm in the ninth inning, and that opened the door for Mr. Kelley to close out some games for the team in Arlington. A seasoned veteran, Kelley has been around since 2009, but perhaps his best run of success has been his time last year in Oakland and now as a member of the Rangers. Through 12 appearances, he has one save, an 11:0 K/BB ratio, a 1.50 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP. Additionally, opponents aren’t hitting moon balls off him, as his 18.5 average launch angle would be his lowest mark since 2015. Yes, the barrel rate (12.9%) is alarming, as is the increased exit velocity, but the old fantasy adage states that closers don’t grow from trees.
He’s throwing his slider more than before, and it plays well off his sinking fastball. This is an instance where you need to be careful with how much of your FAAB you throw on him, and that’s for two reasons: 1) He’s going to cost more than his actual worth and skills, and 2) he’s just a few dominant low-leverage outings from LeClerc from being bounced from the closers role. Tread cautiously, but get your hat in the ring.
Gio González , SP MIL – I’m not a big advocate of the veteran left-hander, and have hardly ever owned him in fantasy, but there is an opportunity here for some fantasy value. Pitching for the Brewers should be profitable, considering they boasts one of the higher octane offenses in the game. For his career, Gonzalez has averaged just under a strikeout per inning, and in his debut with the Brewers, he didn’t look terrible. He didn’t get the win, but if he’s able to allow just two earned runs over five innings of work every time he toes the rubber, he could easily win 10+ games this season. He’ll need to continue to refine his arsenal and pitch usage as his fastball continues to lose velocity. He averaged just under 90 miles per hour with his fastball in his first outing with Milwaukee, and I expect things to continue in terms of using the fastball off of his changeup and curveball. Starting in 2017, his fastball usage has decreased each season, while the changeup usage has skyrocketed, and the curveball jumped to 28.1 percent last season, which was eight percent higher than the year before. This is another situation where you’ll want to throw your hat in the ring if you need pitching help, but it might not always be the prettiest of results.
Honorable Mention: Griffin Canning
Anthony DeSclafani , SP CIN – With a nickname like Tony Disco, one can only hope he continues to turn batters around like he’s out on the dance floor cutting a rug! Albeit a small sample size, DeSclafani’s 27.7 percent strikeout rate would be over five percentage points higher than his previous career high. Interestingly enough, his strikeout rate has increased every year since entering the big leagues, and at 29 years old with just 487 innings at the major league level, he’s still young and finally tapping into that upside that made him one of the top 200 picks in the 2011 Amateur Draft. His curveball is a big reason as to why his strikeout percentage has notably jumped this season. He’s throwing his curveball more and after posting a whiff rate of just 24 percent last season, that mark is all the way up to 50 percent this season! Additionally, the whiff rates on his sinker, slider and four-seamer have jumped 11, 11 and seven percentage points respectively. However, it’s not only lollipops and gumdrops with DeScalfani, considering that he’s allowing a lot of loud contact at a launch angle that is friendly to home runs. Keep that in mind.
Matt Strahm , SP SDP – After a bumpy start to the year, the long-haired southpaw has reeled things in. Not only has he pitched walk-free in three straight outings, but he’s allowed just three runs on 11 hits over his last 19 innings of work. Oh yeah, he’s also punched out 17 batters during that span. Recently, he’s done a good job of minimizing the loud contact against him, and he’s letting that glorious slider work. The chart below showcases how he’s on a solid trend of late.
Wins might be hard to come by with an inconsistent offense behind him, but Strahm’s stuff is good enough to routinely strikeout more than a batter per inning. He’s just under that mark for the year, but another positive takeaway is the fact that walks haven’t been a major problem. To become even more effective, Strahm will need to be more effective against lefties, as he’s allowed a .350 batting average and mustered just three strikeouts in 20 at-bats against southpaws.