10 Post-Hype Pitchers for 2016
After taking a look at 10 post-hype hitters for 2016, I’ll continue with ten post-hype pitchers to targeting. All of these arms make for solid picks in the later rounds, or names to keep an eye on if they go undrafted. Although the success rate for these players is lower than that of normal sleepers, they also tend to be undervalued or underowned in fantasy leagues.
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays
Moore has gone from the number one prospect in baseball to an example for why Tommy John Surgery isn’t always a success in just a few short years. Maybe that shouldn’t be the case. Moore fell victim to a torn UCL in 2014, following two solid seasons in 2012 and 2013. Although his velocity and command was solid in a 2015 return, Moore wasn’t the same pitcher in 63 big league innings. A 5.43 ERA and 6.57 K/9 were far from comforting, and a nearly one-month long demotion to Triple-A underscored the fact that something wasn’t right. Initial struggles weren’t unexpected, but the way and degree in which he struggled was unprecedented. Moore’s changeup was responsible for his ineffectiveness, going from one of his best pitches to his worst. Given that Moore hasn’t seen his velocity or control felled due to the torn UCL, there’s hope that he can rebound this season. Although expecting his changeup to see a full recovery is far fetched, a 2.97 ERA in September and 1.74 ERA (with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 innings) this spring instill some confidence.
Andrew Cashner, San Diego Padres
Joe Kelly might be the poster boy for #GoodStuff, but Cashner could challenge him for the title. Cashner’s #GoodStuff is, well, pretty darn good—a mid-to-high nineties four-seam fastball, a sinker with similar velocity, and two solid secondary pitches in his changeup and slider. Even better, the 29-year old has solid control and saw his strikeout rate jump to 8.04 K/9 last season. But despite all of he has going for him, Cashner had a 4.34 ERA last season. There was some bad luck involved, sure, but things still went oddly poorly for him. A lack of clear flaws for Cashner both makes his profile intriguing, but also risky. It’s hard to tell what’s holding him back, so figuring out whether he can improve next season is a bit of a guessing game. Still, he’s well worth the investment this season given the considerable upside.
Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks
It seems like Bradley’s been around forever…probably because he has been. Bradley’s consistently been a top-25 prospect since being drafted in 2011, and finally reached the majors to start last season. His prospect pedigree and opportunity in the rotation made Bradley a popular late round flier, though he never really got going after being struck in the face by a comebacker. Bradley’s ERA was at 10.91 in four starts after returning, and he then landed on the DL for the rest of the season with shoulder tendinitis. 2015 went just about as bad as it could have, and that’s effectively pushed him off the fantasy map and into the scrap heap of failed pitchers. This seems like a serious overreaction, though. Bradley is just 23 and deserves a pass after the scary injury he suffered. The fact that he walked just one less player than he struck out isn’t exactly encouraging, and Bradley is without a rotation spot to start this season. But, nobody would be shocked if the 23-year old can force Rubby De La Rosa or Robbie Ray out of a starting spot, and he’s worth a look this season as an ultimate buy-low player.
Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals
It feels weird to label someone that had a full blown breakout in 2014 a post-hype sleeper in 2016, yet here we are. Yordano has had a pair of weird seasons, seemingly getting lucky in 2014 and getting unlucky last year. His 3.20 ERA two seasons ago set expectations a bit high, and his 4.08 ERA last season dropped expectations a bit low. Oddly enough, Ventura looked like a better pitcher in 2015 when ignoring ERA. Ventura’s K/9 jumped from 7.82 to 8.60, his BB/9 fell from 3.39 to 3.20, and his groundball rate was raised from 47.6% to 52.2%. He also improved as the season went on as well, with a 4.73 ERA in the first half and a 3.56 ERA in the second. The 24-year old has a load of talent, and some health and better luck could see Ventura live up to expectations next season.
Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
A 2.46 ERA in 2014 put Hendricks on people’s radars, but he was promptly wiped off it following a lackluster 2015. On the surface Hendricks seems like a boring backend starter, but there’s more than meets the eye here. Despite Hendricks’ disappointing ERA, just about every other part of his game was extremely encouraging. A 2.84 xFIP, 9.78 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, and 53.7% ground ball rate in the second half of last season all look the part of a top notch starter. In fact, there wasn’t a starter in the major leagues who bested all four of those marks in 2015. Now, I’m not saying Hendricks is going to win the Cy Young next year (or maybe he will, baseball is weird), but there’s a great chance Hendricks improves upon his 3.95 ERA. The 26-year old doesn’t look the part of an exciting fantasy asset, but his finesse on the mound and solid mix of pitches could make him just that in 2016.
Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins
Yes, there was once a time when Gibson had hype…though you may need to squint a little to find it. Back in the early 2010’s, Gibson was a top-100 prospect on most sites. Unfortunately, Jamie Moyer-like strikeout rates destroyed his fantasy value, especially when the lack of strikeouts came with mediocre ratios. But Gibson could finally become a player that fantasy owners want to have in 2016, not just one that is a last-ditch streamer in deep leagues. Gibson had the tenth best groundball rate in baseball last season, and his slider, curveball, and changeup are all good enough to push his strikeout rate to at least a league average mark. It feels weird to say that a 28-year-old could breakout, but Gibson could easily bring solid ratios and enough strikeouts to be a useful fantasy asset next season. His 9.7 K/9 this spring isn’t too shabby, either.
Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels
Skaggs, like Moore, is a victim of both Tommy John Surgery and a short memory. The name Tyler Skaggs doesn’t invoke a lot of excitement in fantasy owners, but he was a borderline top-10 prospect in 2013. So, what happened? Skaggs certainly hasn’t had the greatest start to his career, with a 4.72 career ERA and a torn UCL on his resume. But despite losing his prospect shine, Skaggs shouldn’t be given up on. He’s still just 24, and there’s reason to believe the skills that made him a top prospect remain. In addition, Skaggs is on the ideal Tommy John timetable—he’s had part of the 2014 season, the 2014 offseason, the 2015 season, and the 2015 offseason to recover. While Skaggs probably won’t live up to past expectations, he could return to fantasy relevance this season as a bright spot in the crippled Angels rotation.
Kendall Graveman, Oakland Athletics
Graveman’s stock gained some steam after a 2.15 ERA in the minors in 2014 and a trade to Oakland. He responded with a 4.05 ERA with Oakland, sinking his fantasy value. The profile is far from ideal, given a lack of strikeouts, but Graveman could still provide plenty of fantasy value. Last season’s struggles were partly a product of bad luck, and some mid-season success was overshadowed by an awful second half. Most fantasy owners don’t realize that Graveman had a 3.39 first half ERA, but instead remember the 5.73 mark in the latter half of the season. Although he won’t start punching out hitters left and right due to his lack of an above average secondary offering, the 25-year old could post solid ratios next season with a chance for a better strikeout rate.
Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners
We’ll round out the list with the two most obvious post-hype pitchers of them all. Walker was a sleeper back in 2014, expected to begin his first full season as a member of the starting rotation. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury limited him to 38 major league innings. The consensus top-10 prospect went into 2015 in a similar spot, but hype reached an all time high after an incredible Spring. Alas, Walker broke the hearts of many with a 4.56 ERA. Walker’s raw talent is undeniable, but he just hasn’t put it together yet. Despite posting excellent strikeout and walk rates, Walker has been victimized by a home runs and a mediocre groundball rate. There’s reason to believe that an improvement in his ability to limit the long ball (which could just come from a change in luck) could help Walker finally live up to his expectations.
Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles
Gausman’s journey to 2016 is incredibly similar to Walker. Gausman’s highly anticipated 2014 was, like Walker’s, a bit of a let down, and things in 2015 went even worse. Gausman’s been horribly mishandled by the Orioles, being moved between Triple-A and the majors countless times. The constant shifting has made it nearly impossible for him to find consistency and reach his sky-high upside, and a shoulder injury this Spring has further depressed his fantasy value. But assuming good health, there’s a lot of things going for Gausman. Just like in Walker’s case, Gausman has excellent walk and strikeout rates, with the longball keeping him from seeing the great peripherals show up in his ERA. Pitching in Camden Yards with a mediocre ground ball rate won’t do Gausman any favors, but better luck with the home runs and consistency (plus health) could allow Gausman to have a big 2016.