Pitchers in a dynasty format pose a dilemma from my point of view. Based partly on my own bad luck with Tommy John surgeries and my own research on success rates for pitching prospects, I have come to the conclusion that I must avoid paying full price for anything but the most reliable pitchers. I get my pitchers in one of two ways – I trade second-tier minor leaguers for them and I get them for free off the waiver wire before other owners do. This article shall attempt to identify a few pitchers who might be either available for free or, at the very least, a modest price. They are pitchers that I am personally optimistic about that are not listed on the The Dynasty Guru’s Top-500 list.
James Kaprielian was the first-round pick of the New York Yankees last June. He was thought of as a safe pick, one that would likely reach the majors fairly quickly with his high-80s to low-90s fastball and plus slider. Soon after being drafted, he showed a fastball that peaked in the upper 90s. An increase in velocity of eight-to-nine miles per hour is impressive, to say the least. The Yankees’ Scouting Director has gushed about Kaprielian’s development, specifically in regards to the velocity uptick, and indicated that a 2016 debut is not out of the question. For a pitcher that now has a higher ceiling than initially expected, a small investment that may pay off in four to five months seems fairly reasonable to me. He won’t be an ace but he could conceivably top out as a number two pitcher for a perennially competitive team. The AL East won’t do any favor to his ratios but he could be a solid source of counting stats across the board. Note: He reported soreness in his elbow after I had submitted this for editing. If his recovery goes poorly, you can drop him from this list.
Joe Musgrove is a personal favorite of mine. There’s just something about pitchers that throw in the mid-90s and hardly ever walk anyone that appeals to me. Musgrove fell off of most people’s radar a few years ago as injuries sapped his velocity and stalled his progress. But last year, at three levels, his K:BB rates were 23, 43, and 5. Forty-three strikeouts per walk really happened over a month-plus period of time! Needless to say, in leagues that use the ratio of strikeouts to walks, Musgrove could be a stud. Even in his time in Double-A, when his K:BB fell to a mortal 5.50:1, Musgrove maintained his excellent WHIP and ERA. Without any analysis, the player comp that came to mind was the good version of Kevin Slowey. It was comforting to look back at old scouting reports and see that Slowey never reportedly threw harder than 90-92. I believe Musgrove’s ceiling is significantly higher. For a more detailed analysis of Musgrove, by our very own Nick Doran, click here.
Spencer Adams is another control specialist that might just have enough juice to go with his propensity to deny free passes to become a fantasy asset. He’s never had a walk rate above 2.1 per nine at any level of the minors and after showing no real signs of being an asset in strikeouts in his first taste of action above rookie ball, Adams has seen his strikeout rate jump to 8.0 per nine innings. I don’t think you need to see my degree in fantasy baseball analysis to trust that more than 8 strikeouts per nine paired with less than two walks per nine is a recipe for success. I realize that it’s very early in the 2016 season, but I suspect that strikeout rate is more of a true talent statistic that stabilizes quickly. Conversely, I’m not at all worried about his extremely high WHIP driven by a ridiculous BABIP of .367. Trust the strikeouts and walks and the WHIP will take care of itself in time. To summarize the scouting reports from what I consider the big-3 of scouting – Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and Minor League Ball – Adams possesses enough polish to have a high floor and enough potential to max out as high as a number two starter. He’s young and has room to fill out so hopes of an eventual velocity increase are fairly reasonable. In fact, he threw harder in high school than he did in his first professional season. Right now he sits in the 92-93 mph range and maxes out around 96. If he can bump that up a tick he could very reasonably reach his potential.
If the first three players on this list are notable for their low risk profile and high floor, Dylan Cease is the opposite. He has immense upside and extreme risk. For starters, he already has had one Tommy John surgery, although he seems to have recovered nicely as long as throwing 100 mph is considered “nice.” His one abbreviated season showcased both the best and worst in Cease. He struck out more than a batter an inning, barely gave up half a hit an inning but really struggled to consistently throw strikes. This is a player that you make room for in a deeper dynasty league where 150-plus prospects are rostered. As the Dynasty Guru, Bret Sayre, says, “when you’re betting on distant arms, go stuff first, stuff second, and everything else third when assessing future fantasy value.” Unlike the players above, who if they regress there shouldn’t be a lot of hesitation in dropping them, Cease is the type of prospect that you’ll have to be patient with. It might take him years to refine his control and develop effective offspeed pitchers but the payoff could be great. He reminds me a little bit of Robert Stephenson circa 2014-2015 but with slightly worse control. If that’s the type of pitcher he develops into he’s worth rostering in a dynasty format.
Everyone loves to prospect for future aces in dynasty fantasy baseball. Everyone dreams of having a rotation headlined by the next Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, and Madison Bumgarner. But that’s easier said than done. I put a lot of eggs in the Dylan Bundy basket several years ago due to thinking along these lines and I was left with nothing but a diminished trade chip this winter. My favorite kind of pitching prospect is the one that costs you nothing. Depending on the size of your league, I’d expect these four pitchers to mostly be available. Investing in any prospect, much less the pitching variety, is a very risky business. In my opinion, you could do a lot worse than the three safe bets and one wild card detailed above.