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Friends In Low Places: 5 Pitcher Values on Bad Teams

Just like in part 1 where I highlighted good hitters to target on bad teams, in part 2 I am going to now give you pitcher values to target on bad teams. I do so while trying to highlight players who haven’t been spoken about enough.

Everyone knows about Joe Musgrove and Mitch Keller, and rightfully so, but I’m aiming to discuss players who’ve had far less press this offseason. Again, these pitchers are on teams that are perceived to be “bad” teams this coming season. The idea being to highlight players who may be valuable to you in said situations.

Essentially, These are friends in low places. Yes, just like the song. Now let’s dive in.

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Friends In Low Places – 5 Pitcher Values

Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins

As a Marlins fan, yes we exist, I often get given a bit of a hard time whenever a Marlin makes my articles. Well, for one, I am pretty good at removing any form of fan bias from my analysis. Second, this is actually me acknowledging the Marlins are bad since I have put Caleb Smith on this list.

I was buying into Caleb Smith last year. He was really showing out to start the year and it all was mostly backed by the underlying numbers. The peripherals suggested he was more of a high 3 ERA pitcher but the strikeout stuff was definitely there.

So what went wrong? Well, I’ll tell you.

He got hurt and it appeared to derail what was a coming-out season for the now 28-year-old pitcher. On June 7, left hip inflammation sent him to the IL and, well, the rest of the season was basically a disaster. Prior to the injury, the stats speak for themselves.

From June 7th to the end of the season he just wasn’t the same pitcher.

It’s obvious the injury had a huge impact and ultimately derailed his season. Also after the injury, his velocity dropped a tick the rest of the way and his pitch mix changed. He relied more on the fastball and less on the offspeed offerings.

These struggles all go back to dealing with ongoing issues with the hip. I like him to bounce back and I think he will be closer to the first half pitcher we saw compared to the second half pitcher he finished as. If so he ends up one of the better pitcher values of 2020.

Kevin Gausman, San Francisco Giants

Kevin Gausman is coming off a very interesting season in 2019. He was a starter for part of the year and then transitioned to a relief pitcher and found a lot of success. He had career numbers in quite a few areas.

Here are a few career-best marks he set in 2019:

  • K% of 25.3%
  • K-BB% of 18.2%
  • O-Swing% of 37.8%
  • SwStr% of 14.8%
  • Contact rate of 71.7%
  • Swing rate of 52.7%

All this essentially backs up the growth in strikeouts. Gausman was able to get more swings on pitches both in and out of the zone while reducing his zone rate as well. He just improved across the board.

This makes you wonder why he had such a bad ERA, which was 5.72.

Well, the 3.98 FIP, 4.05 xFIP, and 4.10 SIERA all indicate he was VERY unlucky last year. Not to mention he also had an extraordinarily high BABIP of .344 last year. This was a career-worst and further backs up just how unlucky he was.

Kevin Gausman also had a career-worst strand rate by a large margin and it came in greatly below league average in the process. These should both fall more in line with career norms entering 2020.

Although a lot of these stats, both good and bad, can in part be attributed to his transition to a relief pitcher last season. He is entering 2020 as a starter.

He gets a boost in park factors. Getting to call Oracle his home can do wonders for a guy’s numbers. There aren’t a lot of wins likely coming his way but he can be solid and serviceable as an SP 5 in fantasy leagues.

Unfortunately, he only has a two-pitch mix so that limits his upside but those two pitches can be effective enough to get him through a lineup twice. It’s tough to gauge how much the increased effectiveness was due to being a relief pitcher last year as well. Ultimately, I think we will get the answers to these concerns rather quickly in the season.

We will see how long the leash is early on in the year but at his price, and the likely positive regression coming his way, I will gladly take a shot on Gausman this season.

Justus Sheffield, Seattle Mariners

Justus Sheffield definitely underwhelmed in his short stint last season with the Mariners. I’m expecting him to get a full run as a starter in the majors and a chance to get going in 2020.

Sheffield in 2019 threw about 160 innings when you combine the majors and minors. This leads me to believe an innings limit should not be a concern in 2020.

Taking a look at some of the underlying metrics and it’s apparent he underperformed a bit. He put up a 5.50 ERA but a 4.71 FIP, 4.68 xFIP and a 4.77 SIERA. That is nothing to write home about but I believe there is some untapped potential and he can definitely be better entering his first full season as a starter.

Sheffield offers a three-pitch mix with his fastball, slider, and changeup. It was a small sample size but the pitches all seemed to underachieve. Let’s focus on the secondary offerings a bit. First, I will take a look at the slider.

Well, this tweet above summed it up pretty well. It is a good pitch and let’s hope he continues to use it as much. He threw it 35.7% of the time in 2019 and there’s no reason not to throw it as much this year.

The changeup also was a solid pitch and doesn’t get much discussion on it. It’s great at inducing weak contact and ground balls. It had a xBA of .220, weak% of 82.6% and a ground ball rate 69.6%. This also came with a slightly above average SwStr% of 15.7%.

So essentially it seems he has 2 solid secondary offerings he should continue to hone in on and grow with. This is the year we see that prospect pedigree and growth come together.

Chris Archer, Pittsburgh Pirates

We’ve seen this show a time or two and I’m here for the encore. Chris Archer looked real rough last season to start the year but as the season went on he started to get going a bit. Let’s take a look at the first half.

Now that you see the bad first half, take a look at the second half. You may notice a bit of a difference.

It was like a night and day difference. It is almost like he was the Archer of old. Well, that is actually kind of what he reverted to. The reason behind the better second half was a change in his pitch mix.

In the first half, Archer utilized a sinker and a changeup more. In the second half he dropped the sinker altogether and threw a lot more four-seem fastballs and sliders. He went back to the pitch mix he utilized in his Tampa Bay days and it paid dividends.

Chris Archer is now entering a full season and likely reverting back to what worked best for him. That is paired with a new coaching staff that is said to use the analytics to play to their pitchers’ strengths. I am not saying Archer will be the top-20 pitcher we once drafted him to be, but I do think he can be one of the better pitcher values on draft day for the back end of your fantasy baseball rotations.

Joran Lyles, Texas Rangers

I don’t think the Rangers will be bad but Jordan Lyles required some love as a player going late or undrafted in leagues. I’m calling an audible and making an exception here to include him.

You may not have realized it, but Lyles had a pretty solid season last year. I know a 4.15 ERA is not a lot to be excited about but that was heavily affected by two really bad months in the middle of what was a solid season overall.

As you can see, the two months he struggled were in June and July. He managed to put up a 6.00 ERA in June and an 11.12 ERA in July. Ouch! However, the other four months he posted great ratios.

Three of the four months he had a sub 3.00 ERA and one month it was a mid 3.00 ERA. So, what happened during that two-month span of terrible production? I think I found out what the issue was.

The fall-off in production lines up with a pitch mix change in the middle months. He increased his four-seam usage while dropping the changeup and slider use. He obviously noticed the production change as well and adapted by reverting to the pitch mix that was successful to start the year and it allowed him to finish strong. I am curious to see how he starts the year but I have a bit of Lyles shares as it is and I do not see myself not targeting him anytime soon.

That’s going to do it. I hope you enjoyed this and as always feel free to drop a comment or reach out on twitter for all things fantasy baseball. Stick with Fantrax and let us help you win your fantasy baseball leagues.

Got your eyes on any other pitcher values on bad teams? Drop some names in the comments below.

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  1. Stop Theshanagins says

    Chris archers second half was better than the first. Unfortunately his second half was still a controlled, smaller dumpster fire. Can’t you just stop making excuses and let him RIP.

    1. Mike Kurland says

      As an Archer owner, this it wasn’t easy to add him. You just can’t argue with the results that followed the changes and now with his price being very cheap, why not take a shot and see if there truly was anything to the 2nd half success? That’s my outlook on it essentially. But I totally get how you feel lol

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