Draft Sleeper: Matt Andriese
Back-of-the-rotation starters who have always been back-of-the-rotation starters don’t often have the look of exciting fantasy sleepers, especially ones who have no prospect pedigree to speak of and a lack of big league success. Despite this, Matt Andriese may be a special case, carrying hidden upside that most fantasy owners haven’t yet recognized.
Andriese is certainly built like a prototypical workhorse starter checking in at 6’3″ and 210 lbs, but his mechanics and throwing motion are anything but typical. Andriese generates good power and momentum with a high leg kick and a very long stride to the plate, but has a unique motion because of the arm action and how he throws across his body. That aspect of his delivery gives Andriese an element of deception, one that isn’t easily quantifiable but has shown its effect in games.
Andriese has been the beneficiary of a velocity bump since being drafted, with his fastball going from the mid-to-high 80s as an amateur to an average of 92 mph in 2016. His arsenal is rounded out by a curve, slider, and changeup. His change and curve emerged as strikeout pitches last year. The curve jumped from a K rate of 17.1% to 21.4% according to PITCHf/x, while the changeup, a new addition to his repertoire, managed an outstanding 31.4% K rate and 17.6 SwStr %. Although his 7.68 K/9 last season wasn’t exactly eye-popping, there’s certainly room for growth given his impressive offspeed pitches.
While Andriese’s minor league numbers should be taken with a grain of salt at this point, given his advanced age, he’s consistently shown excellent results below the big league level. Back at the highest level, Andriese hasn’t been quite as successful, but he’s been steadily improving since his rookie year in 2015. Andriese’s walk rate dropped to 1.76 BB/9 last year, while his strikeout rate saw a bump from his debut. While there was concern over how the righty could handle left-handed hitters after a .276/.338/.446 line in 2015, that dropped to .238/.283/.423 this past season.
Andriese is the type of player fantasy owners are slow to trust (college draftee without major headlines, not overly athletic, pitches for a small market team, relies more on pitchability more than pure stuff), but there’s reason to hope that the former third round pick can see his 4.37 ERA improve in 2017. With a full season of starts, Andriese has a floor of an unspectacular fourth or fifth starter, but could also see his strikeouts take another step forward and the rest of his stats do the same. The upside isn’t exactly dizzying, but a mid-3s ERA with an 8 K/9 would be great for owners considering his current price.