March 27, 2017 | gregsauce
It’s easy to gloss over position eligibility when it comes to pitchers. Starters and relievers are well delineated for the most part. But in the words of a famous scientologist, “What about those who swing both ways? AC-DCs?” Starting pitchers with reliever eligibility have sneaky value in some formats. If your league settings dictate, dual-position hurlers should slide up your rankings a bit for the flexibility and leverage they can create during the season.
Take points leagues for examples. I recently drafted a head-to-head points format with FanDuel scoring, plus 6 points per save. In that league, even mediocre starters will outscore most of the good relief men if given adequate innings. R.A. Dickey beat out Andrew Miller, and Jered Weaver beat out Aroldis Chapman. The relative values between SP and RP depend on the scoring system of course, but in this particular league, it made more sense to target starters with relief-eligibility than closers for my RP lineup spots.
You may play in a different format, like weekly lineup locks, where the ability to use more rotation pitchers can be a big advantage over your opponents. If so, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the following players, all of whom figure to work primarily as starters with relief pitcher eligibility. I’ve included two sets of projections from FanGraphs. The first are ZiPs’. The second are Steamer’s 200-inning based projections, which loosely attempt to project what a season would like from these pitchers in full time starting roles.
Danny Duffy, KC (179.7 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 167.7 IP, 12 W, 155 K, 48 BB, 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 190 K, 62 BB, 3.80 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
Duffy is the only dual-eligible starter going in the top 200 picks of drafts (ADP of 96.5 according to FantasyPros). He’s coming off a strong year and Kansas City is a nice place for him to pitch. Kaufman Stadium was the fourth-best park for limiting home runs last season, which is a huge boon to Duffy, whose 0.85 ground ball to fly ball ratio ranked 64th of 73 qualifiers in 2016. His relatively lofty draft stock is justified, but his positional flexibility isn’t so appealing that I’d move him up the ranks much more. The majority of pitchers ahead of Duffy in ADP are more proven.
Ivan Nova, PIT (162.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 119.7 IP, 8 W, 87 K, 28 BB, 3.99 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 152 K, 48 BB, 4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Nova is the next closest guy to Duffy in ADP, all the way down at an average pick of 257.8. That’s a huge gap, and it goes to show how little most drafters care about positional flexibility from pitchers. To be fair, FantasyPros’ ADP includes data from ESPN, whose standard leagues don’t differentiate between starters and relievers. Back to Nova, he’s a decent starter, but not one I’m very excited to own unless his RP designation really helps my strategy. I know he’s having a great spring, and the Pirates have a knack for improving pitching performance, but I don’t see Nova as much more than an innings chewer. Some formats reward that, though.
Michael Wacha, STL (138.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 138.3 IP, 8 W, 117 K, 45 BB, 4.16 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 166 K, 64 BB, 4.04 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Once surrounded by a lot of hype in fantasy circles, the bloom is off the rose with Wacha. Drafters have ignored him for the most part this spring, but his preseason performance has been solid, so I expect him to creep back up draft boards in this final week leading up to the season. People love a post-hype sleeper. Dual-eligibility is gravy, but he doesn’t have it on Yahoo for some reason, only ESPN.
Patrick Corbin, ARI (155.7 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 123.7 IP, 7 W, 98 K, 42 BB, 4.51 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
Steamer200* Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 174 K, 63 BB, 3.83 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
*Note: Corbin’s 65-inning projections have been prorated for 200 innings.
Speaking of post-hype, Corbin had a lot of supporters in 2016 drafts, myself included. Last season turned out so bad that he eventually ended up in the bullpen for Arizona. Corbin is slated to regain a rotation spot this season after a strong spring. He’s holding opposing hitters to a .212 average and sports a 17-to-3 K:BB ratio over 18.3 innings. It’s only preseason, so don’t buy into those stats too much, but Corbin is a fine dart throw at the ends of drafts.
Steven Wright, BOS (156.7 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 122.0 IP, 9 W, 95 K, 42 BB, 3.98 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 152 K, 70 BB, 4.53 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
Life is like a knuckleballer’s game log, you never know what you’re going to get. Shit happens. Shrimp scampi, shrimp cocktail, shrimp gumbo… Sorry, my leg braces were strapped on a little too tight, and I think they were cutting off blood circulation to my brain. Not sure where all shrimp talk came from, so let’s get back to Wright. He should be able to work a lot of innings, but his high walk rate could kill your WHIP in roto leagues. I would much prefer to stream him in those formats rather than draft him. Wright is more draftable in points leagues, where is high baserunner count is offset by strikeouts and innings pitched.
Dylan Bundy, BAL (109.7 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 109.3 IP, 9 W, 108 K, 36 BB, 3.70 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 178 K, 76 BB, 4.67 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Bundy was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 amatuer draft, and finally got an extended look in the bigs last season. At only 24 years old, I’m willing to overlook his high walk rate and focus on his stellar K/9. The question for 2017 is how many innings the Orioles will let him pitch after only logging 109.7 last year. He could be a frustrating player to own if his starts are sporadically skipped, especially in leagues with weekly lineup locks, where you might not have enough notice on his days off. Still, Bundy’s upside is enticing, and I’m targeting him where I can.
Matt Andriese, TB (127.7 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 143.0 IP, 9 W, 126 K, 30 BB, 3.71 ERA, 1.19WHIP
Steamer200* Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 171 K, 48 BB, 3.78 ERA, 1.20WHIP
*Note: Andriese’s 65-inning projections have been prorated for 200 innings.
Control is the name of the game for Andriese, and the projections for his WHIP bear it out. He’s good at limiting walks, and that should help him last longer into games. His raw stuff isn’t exceptional, though, and the Rays won’t provide much run support for an American League team. On the whole, Andriese has streaming appeal, with extra value added if your league uses quality starts instead of wins.
Nate Karns, KC (94.3 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 119.3 IP, 6 W, 116 K, 49 BB, 4.30 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 185 K, 42 BB, 4.34 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Karns offers a nice K-rate, but like a lot of these guys, he carries the extra baggage of a bad walk rate. He’s locked up the fifth rotation spot for the Royals, and I noted above how their park plays well for flyball pitchers like Danny Duffy. Karns is cut from the same cloth (career GB/FB mark of 1.12), so he should also benefit from KC’s park and their solid fielding. If Karns can get his walks back down to 2015 levels, he could offer sneaky value from the late rounds and waiver wires.
Mike Montgomery, CHC (100.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 115.3 IP, 6 W, 94 K, 46 BB, 3.95 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Steamer200* Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 171 K, 78 BB, 3.67 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
*Note: Montgomery’s 65-inning projections have been prorated for 200 innings.
Montgomery will come out of the bullpen to start the season, but he’ll back his way into a handful of starts throughout the season. I’m no longer drafting him, but I’ll look to stream him during the season.
Andrew Triggs, OAK (56.3 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 66.7 IP, 2 W, 57 K, 18 BB, 3.78 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 11 W, 154 K, 65 BB, 4.42 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
His strikeouts and walks per inning numbers were great in limited action last season, and I’ve been drafting him all over the place in hopes he grabs Oakland’s final rotation spot. I like him more for quality starts than wins, and the Oakland brass could impose an innings limit at some point, but squeeze what you can from this stone right now and sort out the details later.
Luis Severino, NYY (71.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 152 IP, 10 W, 145 K, 46 BB, 4.20 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 13 W, 185 K, 68 BB, 4.09 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
I have no idea how to value Severino this season. The hype train in 2016 went off the rails almost immediately and never got back on track. His LOB% was even worse than Chacin’s last year (64.0%), which doesn’t quite line up with his strikeout ability. Some regression in that department should help his ERA, but WHIP could still be a problem considering his lack of command. If he had the innings to qualify in 2016, his 3.17 BB/9 would have ranked 22nd worst among starters. That walk rate isn’t a complete deal-breaker, though. Qualifying pitchers in that 3.00 to 3.30 BB/9 range include Matt Moore, Carlos Martinez, Jonathan Gray, Tanner Roark, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Archer. Severino’s K/9 was better than half those guys, all of whom are reasonable fantasy picks, so there’s still reason for optimism with the young Yankee.
Matt Strahm, KC (22.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 110.3 IP, 7 W, 106 K, 33 BB, 4.16 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 9 W, 201K, 69 BB, 3.36 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
If only those 200 IP projections were attainable, but there’s no way the Royals will give Strahm that much run this season. We already know he’ll start the season in the bullpen, so you can probably leave him on waivers and hope to pounce once the Royals start to stretch him out for more innings later in the season.
Jhoulys Chacin, SD (144.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 123.3 IP, 6 W, 100 K, 51 BB, 4.67 ERA, 1.45 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 11 W, 167 K, 74 BB, 4.23 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Chacin isn’t especially good, but his 2016 peripherals indicate a bit of bad luck. His FIP and xFIP were both lower than his ERA, and his 68.3% strand rate is a bit below league average (and his career mark of 72.1%). Unfortunately for Chacin, it’s entirely possible he’s simply a below league average pitcher anyway. Pitching in Petco Park is nice, but he’s not a starter I’m planning to use outside of choice streaming match-ups.
Luis Perdomo, SD (146.7 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 132.7 IP, 7 W, 98 K, 44 BB, 5.09 ERA, 1.48 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 10 W, 144 K, 69 BB, 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
Chacin’s teammate Perdomo doesn’t have much wow-factor to his game either, but he’s a lot younger, so there’s room for growth. With that said, Perdomo is very reliant on getting ground balls with his sinker. That can work in the context of real baseball, but his lack of strikeouts is a big wart for fantasy.
Anibal Sanchez, DET (153.3 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 134.0 IP, 8 W, 114 K, 42 BB, 4.77 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 165 K, 64 BB, 4.44 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Matt Boyd, DET (97.3 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 134.7 IP, 7 W, 111 K, 43 BB, 4.54 ERA, 1.37 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 162 K, 65 BB, 4.61 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
The spring competition between these two for Detroit’s final rotation spot has been fierce. Both are pitching well, and they are presenting the Tigers with a philosophical usage question to start the year. Let Sanchez start in the rotation and bring Boyd along later to limit his innings for the season, or go with Boyd from the onset because he’s more likely to figure into the team’s future? Either way, Boyd probably won’t hold a starting spot for the entire season. Sanchez will mix in so as not to overwork the youngster. Because we don’t yet know the how and when of their potential platoon, it’s best to leave them undrafted and plan on streaming.
Jesse Chavez, LAA (67.0 IP in 2016)
ZiPS Projections: 134.3 IP, 8 W, 115 K, 36 BB, 4.15 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
Steamer200 Projections: 200 IP, 12 W, 161 K, 66 BB, 4.18 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
Chavez isn’t an exciting fantasy talent, but he has a rotation spot and should eat up some innings for the Angels. He pitched in Toronto for most of last season, and moving from their bandbox to the Angel’s more forgiving stadium should help Chavez bring his ratios back toward what he posted between 2013 and 2015 with Oakland. Those numbers won’t win you a week on their own, but he Chavez can be a piece of the points league puzzle if you’re punting closers.