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Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner: April 15–21

Welcome back to the Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner. Based on the Roster Resource Probables Grid, I’ve organized every starter slated to start next week into four categories: start, maybe, risky, and sit. The first and last category are pretty self-explanatory. Starters who fall into the “maybe” category are guys you could start if you need to keep up with the innings pitched pace in points leagues or need to hit your games started cap in head-to-head leagues; they’re good bets to turn in a decent start, but you shouldn’t automatically insert them into your lineup. If you’ve fallen behind on the innings pitched pace or you’re really starving for starts in a head-to-head matchup, you could turn to a “risky” starter or two.

I’ve also calculated a “Matchup Score” for each series using a straight combination of opponent’s home/away wOBA, opponent wOBA over the last 14 days, and the park factor for the ballpark the teams are playing in. It’s indexed so that 100 is average and anything above that is a favorable matchup and anything below is unfavorable. That matchup rating informs some of the sit/start recommendations I’m making, though the quality of the pitcher definitely takes precedence. To start the season, I’ll be relying on projected team wOBA until there’s sufficient in-season data to start calculating these matchup ratings.

April 15–21
Team Series 1 Matchup Series 2 Matchup Start Maybe Risky Sit
ARI CHC (93) @SFG (165) Merrill Kelly 켈리 (x2), Zac Gallen Brandon Pfaadt, Jordan Montgomery (?) Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson
ATL @HOU (45) TEX (54) Max Fried, Chris Sale, Charlie Morton Reynaldo López (x2) Darius Vines
BAL MIN (156) @KCR (118) Grayson Rodriguez, Corbin Burnes Tyler Wells Cole Irvin (x2), Dean Kremer
BOS CLE (102) @PIT (104) Kutter Crawford (x2), Garrett Whitlock (x2), Tanner Houck Brayan Bello Cooper Criswell (?)
CHC @ARI (90) MIA (160) Shota Imanaga Javier Assad, Ben Brown (vMIA) Ben Brown (@ARI), Kyle Hendricks, Jordan Wicks, Jameson Taillon (?)
CHW KCR (61) @PHI (81) Garrett Crochet Erick Fedde 페디 (x2) Jared Shuster, Chris Flexen 플렉센, Michael Soroka
CIN @SEA (149) LAA (52) Frankie Montas (@SEA), Hunter Greene, Nick Martinez Andrew Abbott, Nick Lodolo, Frankie Montas (vLAA)
CLE @BOS (77) OAK (145) Logan Allen, Tanner Bibee (vOAK) Tanner Bibee (@BOS), Carlos Carrasco, Triston McKenzie Ben Lively 라이블리 (?)
COL @PHI (81) SEA (120) Ryan Feltner Cal Quantrill (x2), Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, Kyle Freeland
DET TEX (77) @MIN (151) Tarik Skubal, Jack Flaherty Reese Olson (@MIN), Casey Mize (@MIN) Reese Olson (vTEX), Casey Mize (vTEX), Kenta Maeda
HOU ATL (23) @WSN (118) Ronel Blanco, Cristian Javier Spencer Arrighetti (x2), Hunter Brown, J.P. France
KCR @CHW (129) BAL (122) Seth Lugo (@CHW), Brady Singer, Michael Wacha, Cole Ragans Seth Lugo (vBAL) Alec Marsh
LAA @TBR (136) @CIN (41) Reid Detmers Patrick Sandoval (@TBR) Griffin Canning, Tyler Anderson, Patrick Sandoval (@CIN) José Soriano (x2)
LAD WSN (111) NYM (97) Tyler Glasnow, Yoshinobu Yamamoto Bobby Miller, Walker Buehler (?), Gavin Stone, James Paxton
MIA SFG (160) @CHC (77) Trevor Rogers, Jesús Luzardo A.J. Puk (x2), Edward Cabrera (?), Braxton Garrett (?)
MIL SDP (77) @STL (127) Freddy Peralta DL Hall Joe Ross (x2), Wade Miley, Colin Rea
MIN @BAL (109) DET (161) Pablo López, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober Chris Paddack Louie Varland (x2)
NYM PIT (97) @LAD (14) Jose Quintana, Luis Severino Sean Manaea Adrian Houser (x2), José Buttó
NYY @TOR (90) TBR (104) Carlos Rodón (x2), Marcus Stroman, Luis Gil, Nestor Cortes Clarke Schmidt
OAK STL (136) @CLE (100) JP Sears Paul Blackburn Ross Stripling (x2), Joe Boyle, Alex Wood
PHI COL (75) CHW (136) Aaron Nola (x2), Ranger Suárez, Cristopher Sánchez, Spencer Turnbull, Zack Wheeler
PIT @NYM (129) BOS (95) Jared Jones Mitch Keller Martín Pérez (x2), Bailey Falter Marco Gonzales
SDP @MIL (72) TOR (115) Joe Musgrove (x2), Dylan Cease, Yu Darvish Michael King Matt Waldron
SEA CIN (72) @COL (65) Logan Gilbert George Kirby (vCIN), Bryce Miller Luis Castillo, George Kirby (@COL) Emerson Hancock
SFG @MIA (183) ARI (102) Kyle Harrison (x2), Jordan Hicks (x2), Keaton Winn, Logan Webb, Blake Snell
STL @OAK (181) MIL (109) Sonny Gray (x2), Steven Matz Lance Lynn Kyle Gibson, Miles Mikolas
TBR LAA (106) @NYY (47) Aaron Civale (vLAA), Ryan Pepiot Zack Littell (vLAA), Zach Eflin Aaron Civale (@NYY), Zack Littell (@NYY) Tyler Alexander
TEX @DET (179) @ATL (38) Cody Bradford (@DET), Jon Gray (@DET), Dane Dunning Michael Lorenzen (?) Cody Bradford (@ATL), Nathan Eovaldi Jon Gray (@ATL)
TOR NYY (38) @SDP (97) José Berríos Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt (@SDP) Chris Bassitt (vNYY), Yusei Kikuchi Bowden Francis
WSN @LAD (14) HOU (38) MacKenzie Gore Patrick Corbin (x2), Jackson Rutledge (?), Jake Irvin, Trevor Williams

A few general schedule notes:

  • It looks like the Phillies have a pretty easy schedule this week; they’ll host the Rockies and White Sox. Citizens Bank Park is fairly hitter friendly, but both Colorado (outside of Coors) and Chicago have been punchless to start the season. Aaron Nola is the lucky recipient of a two-start week against these weak opponents.
  • I’m also recommending you start everyone in the Giants rotation; they’ll start the week in Miami and then return home to face the Diamondbacks next weekend. Arizona could pose some problems, but the cavernous ballpark in San Francisco should prevent things from getting too out of hand.
  • After their easy week this week, the Braves face both Texas teams next week. That will present some tough matchups, and after Max Fried’s blow up last weekend, it’s hard to trust anyone from Atlanta’s rotation next week.
  • It’s possible we’ll see the season debuts of Walker Buehler, Jordan Montgomery, Edward Cabrera, Braxton Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, and Jameson Taillon next week. If you roster any of those guys, you’re probably already monitoring their rehab starts. Buehler and Montgomery both have pretty easy matchups if they stick to their schedule — those would be the only two I’d recommend starting so quickly off the Injured List.

Ottoneu Drip: Finding Under-rostered Pitchers: April 9, 2024

This column went through a journey last year. It started as a bi-weekly effort to try and find streaming targets for Ottoneu leagues. Due to the large roster sizes and difficulties lining up auctions with the right start dates, streaming wasn’t really a viable strategy for Ottoneu. After a few months, I pivoted to trying to find under-rostered pitchers who were performing well enough to get a second look. I’ll be following that model for this season except this piece will run once a month and it will cover both starters and relievers together.

With so few games played so far, it’s hard to get a gauge on who has actually made tangible improvements and who has simply started off hot. With so many injuries plaguing some of the best pitchers in baseball, at this point, you might just be looking for a warm body to fill some innings. Hopefully the pitchers highlighted below can be more than just filler. Let’s dive in.

Under-rostered Starters
Player Team IP FIP K-BB% Pts/IP Roster%
Alec Marsh KCR 11.2 2.32 12.8% 5.97 14.7%
Spencer Turnbull PHI 11 1.36 29.3% 8.04 13.1%
Cody Bradford TEX 12.2 2.87 20.5% 6.72 12.7%

The entire Royals starting rotation has been extremely impressive to start the season but lost amid the hype surrounding Cole Ragans and the post-hype surrounding Brady Singer were two solid starts from Alec Marsh. Marsh made his major league debut last year, bouncing between the bullpen and the starting rotation throughout the year. He was undone by a 11.4% walk rate and an 18.4% home run rate, both of which drove his ERA and FIP up close to six. Command was always an issue for him during his minor league career so to take a step forward in the big leagues, he’d have to figure out that problem. Through his first two starts of the season, he’s only walked two batters, his Zone% has increased by more than 10 points up to 57.8%, and his Location+ has improved from 94 to 101. His strikeout rate has dipped a bit as he’s filled the zone which bears monitoring, but if he’s managed to address his biggest weakness, he could be in store for a big breakout season.

Back in 2021, it looked like Spencer Turnbull was in the midst of a breakout until a UCL injury derailed his forward momentum and caused him to miss the entire following season. He returned last year and made seven forgettable starts for the Tigers. He managed to win a spot in the Phillies rotation out of spring training and has turned in two brilliant starts already. He’s allowed a single unearned run in 11 innings while striking out 13 and walking just a single batter. The biggest difference for him is a new sweeper that has become one of his primary pitches. His four-seamer also looks a bit different — I’m pretty sure it’s a classification error and the pitch is now more of a hard cutter — but it’s been an effective piece to play off the horizontal movement of his breaking ball.

Cody Bradford is one of the pitchers tasked with filling in until the Rangers get Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, and Tyler Mahle back after the All-Star break. So far, he’s turned in two excellent starts, allowing just three runs in 12.2 innings. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff with a fastball that sits in the low 90s. He makes up for the lack of raw velocity with elite extension and tons of carry on his heater. He’s also added a slow, looping curveball to his arsenal this year, giving him a consistent breaking ball that he didn’t possess last year. With Michael Lorenzen’s ramp up time coming to a close soon, it’s possible Bradford will be bumped from the rotation within the next couple of weeks. That could pose a risk if you’re looking for a long-term solution for your pitching staff, but he looks good enough to add as long as he has a job in the near future.

Under-rostered Relievers
Player Team IP FIP K-BB% gmLI Pts/IP Roster%
Fernando Cruz CIN 5.1 1.12 33.3% 1.47 11.23 25.0%
Justin Slaten BOS 5.2 1.06 33.3% 2.19 10.94 9.1%
Hunter Gaddis CLE 5.1 1.68 28.6% 1.74 9.20 0.9%

With starters, you’re looking for longevity and real changes in talent. With relievers, sometimes riding the hot hand is enough.

Fernando Cruz is currently listed fourth on the Reds bullpen pecking order behind Alexis Díaz, Emilio Pagán, and Lucas Sims. Still, he’s earned three holds on the season and has struck out nearly half the batters he’s faced so far. His calling card is an unhittable splitter; that pitch is running a ridiculous 70% whiff rate and has been put in play just once thus far. Even though batters can’t hit his splitter, he has trouble locating it consistently and doesn’t have great command of his other pitches either. That’s led to a pretty high walk rate which could be his downfall. I’m betting he’ll be the number one setup guy behind Díaz in a month or two.

Justin Slaten is a rule-5 pick who is making a name for himself in the Red Sox bullpen. He’s already earned a save and a hold and has the highest average leverage index among the relievers listed above. He struggled with command while a prospect in the Rangers organization, though that hasn’t been a problem for him so far in his brief big league career; he’s struck out six and walked no one so far. Like so many relievers these days, he has a good, hard fastball and a sweeping slider that earns plenty of whiffs. If he’s actually figured out his command issues, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him creep up the pecking order in Boston’s bullpen.

Here’s my deep cut for this article. Hunter Gaddis was an up-and-down spot starter for the Guardians last year, struggling through seven starts and four relief appearances. He struck out just 13.2% of the batters he faced and relied heavily on producing weak contact for his limited success. Fast forward a year and he’s reinvented himself as a hard-throwing reliever. His fastball velocity is up nearly three ticks this year and he’s throwing his slider more than ever. The results speak for themselves: seven strikeouts and one walk in 5.1 innings with three holds. The Guardians are missing a handful of their established high-leverage relievers and Gaddis certainly looks like he’s stepped up to fill the gap.

Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner: April 8–14

Welcome back to the Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner. Based on the Roster Resource Probables Grid, I’ve organized every starter slated to start next week into four categories: start, maybe, risky, and sit. The first and last category are pretty self-explanatory. Starters who fall into the “maybe” category are guys you could start if you need to keep up with the innings pitched pace in points leagues or need to hit your games started cap in head-to-head leagues; they’re good bets to turn in a decent start, but you shouldn’t automatically insert them into your lineup. If you’ve fallen behind on the innings pitched pace or you’re really starving for starts in a head-to-head matchup, you could turn to a “risky” starter or two.

I’ve also calculated a “Matchup Score” for each series using a straight combination of opponent’s home/away wOBA, opponent wOBA over the last 14 days, and the park factor for the ballpark the teams are playing in. It’s indexed so that 100 is average and anything above that is a favorable matchup and anything below is unfavorable. That matchup rating informs some of the sit/start recommendations I’m making, though the quality of the pitcher definitely takes precedence. To start the season, I’ll be relying on projected team wOBA until there’s sufficient in-season data to start calculating these matchup ratings.

April 8–14
Team Series 1 Matchup Series 2 Matchup Start Maybe Risky Sit
ARI @COL (93) STL (124) Brandon Pfaadt, Zac Gallen (vSTL) Zac Gallen (@COL), Merrill Kelly 켈리, Ryne Nelson Tommy Henry
ATL NYM (135) @MIA (176) Charlie Morton (x2), Reynaldo López (x2), Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Chris Sale
BAL @BOS (81) MIL (115) Corbin Burnes, Grayson Rodriguez Tyler Wells Cole Irvin (x2), Dean Kremer
BOS BAL (92) LAA (77) Nick Pivetta Brayan Bello (x2), Kutter Crawford, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck
CHC @SDP (106) @SEA (142) Shota Imanaga Jordan Wicks Javier Assad (x2), Kyle Hendricks
CHW @CLE (102) CIN (36) Erick Fedde 페디, Garrett Crochet Michael Soroka Chris Flexen 플렉센
CIN MIL (68) @CHW (124) Nick Martinez, Frankie Montas (@CHW) Frankie Montas (vMIL), Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft (@CHW) Graham Ashcraft (vMIL), Nick Lodolo (?)
CLE CHW (147) NYY (68) Shane Bieber (x2), Logan Allen, Tanner Bibee Carlos Carrasco, Triston McKenzie
COL ARI (34) @TOR (95) Dakota Hudson Kyle Freeland (x2), Cal Quantrill, Austin Gomber, Ryan Feltner
DET @PIT (106) MIN (142) Tarik Skubal, Jack Flaherty Reese Olson (x2), Casey Mize, Kenta Maeda
HOU @KCR (135) TEX (50) Cristian Javier (@KCR), Hunter Brown Framber Valdez (x2), Cristian Javier (vTEX) J.P. France, Ronel Blanco
KCR HOU (70) @NYM (138) Cole Ragans (x2) Michael Wacha Seth Lugo, Brady Singer, Alec Marsh
LAA TBR (81) @BOS (81) Reid Detmers Tyler Anderson (x2), Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning Chase Silseth
LAD @MIN (124) SDP (77) Tyler Glasnow, Bobby Miller, Yoshinobu Yamamoto James Paxton (x2), Gavin Stone
MIA @NYY (63) ATL (61) Jesús Luzardo (x2) A.J. Puk, Trevor Rogers, Max Meyer Ryan Weathers
MIL @CIN (32) @BAL (111) Freddy Peralta, DL Hall Jakob Junis (x2), Colin Rea Joe Ross
MIN LAD (47) @DET (167) Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober Pablo López, Chris Paddack (@DET) Louie Varland (@DET) Louie Varland (vLAD), Chris Paddack (vLAD)
NYM @ATL (38) KCR (115) Sean Manaea Jose Quintana, Luis Severino Julio Teheran (x2), Adrian Houser (x2)
NYY MIA (138) @CLE (102) Nestor Cortes (x2), Marcus Stroman Carlos Rodón, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil
OAK @TEX (54) WSN (149) Paul Blackburn, Alex Wood (vWSN) JP Sears, Joe Boyle Alex Wood (@TEX), Ross Stripling
PHI @STL (124) PIT (70) Zack Wheeler (x2), Aaron Nola Spencer Turnbull (@STL), Ranger Suárez, Cristopher Sánchez Spencer Turnbull (vPIT)
PIT DET (154) @PHI (77) Mitch Keller (vDET), Jared Jones Martín Pérez, Mitch Keller (@PHI) Bailey Falter, Marco Gonzales
SDP CHC (79) @LAD (13) Yu Darvish (vCHC), Joe Musgrove, Dylan Cease Yu Darvish (@LAD) Michael King Matt Waldron
SEA @TOR (95) CHC (72) Luis Castillo (x2), George Kirby, Logan Gilbert Bryce Miller Emerson Hancock
SFG WSN (151) @TBR (126) Blake Snell (x2), Kyle Harrison, Jordan Hicks, Logan Webb Keaton Winn
STL PHI (120) @ARI (86) Miles Mikolas (x2), Zack Thompson, Lance Lynn, Steven Matz, Kyle Gibson
TBR @LAA (56) SFG (138) Zach Eflin (x2), Ryan Pepiot Aaron Civale, Zack Littell Tyler Alexander
TEX OAK (149) @HOU (32) Nathan Eovaldi (vOAK), Jon Gray Michael Lorenzen (?) Nathan Eovaldi (@HOU), Dane Dunning Andrew Heaney (x2)
TOR SEA (124) COL (104) José Berrios (x2), Chris Bassitt, Kevin Gausman Yusei Kikuchi, Bowden Francis
WSN @SFG (149) @OAK (185) MacKenzie Gore Jake Irvin Trevor Williams (x2), Josiah Gray, Patrick Corbin

A few general schedule notes:

  • It’s a great week to roster any of the Braves starters; they host the punchless Mets and then travel to Miami. Charlie Morton and Reynaldo López are the lucky starters to pull a double shift next week.
  • If I had any confidence in their starters, this would also be a great week for the Nationals; they’re on a West Coast swing through the Bay Area next week and play six games in those cavernous stadiums. As it is, I can only recommend MacKenzie Gore wholeheartedly with the rest falling somewhere between “maybe” and “risky.” That’s a shame.
  • The Astros and Rangers have a wrap around four-game series that ends on Monday before meeting up again over the weekend. That means Framber Valdez lines up to face the Rangers twice in one week. After a rough first start to the season he looked much better against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Still, I don’t really have much interest in seeing if he can tempt fate twice against the Rangers high-powered offense.
  • It’s a rough week to roster any of the Marlins starters; they travel to New York to face the Yankees and then host the Braves.
  • There are a handful of starters who are slated to come off the injured list next week including Blake Snell, Nick Lodolo, and possibly Michael Lorenzen. Normally I wouldn’t recommend starting a pitcher coming off a stint on the IL but Snell and Lorenzen have pretty juicy matchups against the Nationals and A’s, respectively.

Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner: March 28–April 7

Welcome back to the Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner. Based on the Roster Resource Probables Grid, I’ve organized every starter slated to start next week into four categories: start, maybe, risky, and sit. The first and last category are pretty self-explanatory. Starters who fall into the “maybe” category are guys you could start if you need to keep up with the innings pitched pace in points leagues or need to hit your games started cap in head-to-head leagues; they’re good bets to turn in a decent start, but you shouldn’t automatically insert them into your lineup. If you’ve fallen behind on the innings pitched pace or you’re really starving for starts in a head-to-head matchup, you could turn to a “risky” starter or two.

I’ve also calculated a “Matchup Score” for each series using a straight combination of opponent’s home/away wOBA, opponent wOBA over the last 14 days, and the park factor for the ballpark the teams are playing in. It’s indexed so that 100 is average and anything above that is a favorable matchup and anything below is unfavorable. That matchup rating informs some of the sit/start recommendations I’m making, though the quality of the pitcher definitely takes precedence. To start the season, I’ll be relying on projected team wOBA until there’s sufficient in-season data to start calculating these matchup ratings.

March 28–April 7
Team Series 1 Matchup Series 2 Matchup Series 3 Matchup Start Maybe Risky Sit
ARI COL (133) NYY (67) @ATL (0) Zac Gallen (x2), Merrill Kelly 켈리 (x2), Brandon Pfaadt (vCOL) Tommy Henry (vCOL) Brandon Pfaadt (@ATL) Tommy Henry (@ATL), Ryne Nelson (x2)
ATL @PHI (60) @CHW (124) ARI (87) Spencer Strider (x2), Max Fried (x2), Chris Sale (x2), Charlie Morton (x2) Reynaldo López
BAL LAA (82) KCR (127) @PIT (140) Corbin Burnes (x2), Grayson Rodriguez (x2) Dean Kremer (x2) Tyler Wells (x2), Cole Irvin
BOS @SEA (124) @OAK (191) @LAA (44) Brayan Bello (x2), Nick Pivetta (x2) Kutter Crawford (x2), Garrett Whitlock (x2), Tanner Houck (x2)
CHC @TEX (49) COL (118) LAD (42) Shota Imanaga (vCOL), Justin Steele (vCOL) Justin Steele (@TEX) Shota Imanaga (vLAD), Javier Assad Kyle Hendricks (x2), Jordan Wicks (x2)
CHW DET (120) ATL (4) @KCR (140) Garrett Crochet (x2), Erick Fedde 페디 (x2) Michael Soroka (x2), Chris Flexen 플렉센 (x2), Nick Nastini (x2)
CIN WSN (124) @PHI (60) NYM (62) Hunter Greene (x2) Frankie Montas (x2), Nick Martinez (x2) Andrew Abbott (x2), Graham Ashcraft
CLE @OAK (191) @SEA (124) @MIN (113) Shane Bieber (x2), Tanner Bibee (x2) Logan Allen (x2), Carlos Carrasco (@OAK), Triston McKenzie (x2) Carlos Carrasco (@MIN)
COL @ARI (102) @CHC (100) TBR (73) Kyle Freeland (x2) Cal Quantrill (x2), Austin Gomber (x2), Ryan Feltner (x2), Dakota Hudson (x2)
DET @CHW (124) @NYM (102) OAK (189) Tarik Skubal (x2), Kenta Maeda (x2), Jack Flaherty (x2) Casey Mize (x2), Reese Olson
HOU NYY (35) TOR (76) @TEX (49) Framber Valdez (x2) Cristian Javier (x2), Hunter Brown (x2) J.P. France (x2), Ronel Blanco (x2)
KCR MIN (131) @BAL (95) CHW (180) Cole Ragans (x2) Seth Lugo (x2), Brady Singer (x2), Michael Wacha (x2) Alec Marsh (x2)
LAA @BAL (95) @MIA (167) BOS (27) Reid Detmers (x2), Patrick Sandoval (@MIA) Patrick Sandoval (@BAL), Griffin Canning (x2) Tyler Anderson Chase Silseth (x2)
LAD STL (44) SFG (120) @CHC (100) Tyler Glasnow (x2), Bobby Miller (x2), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (x2) James Paxton (x2) Gavin Stone (x2)
MIA PIT (153) LAA (95) @STL (89) Jesús Luzardo (x2) A.J. Puk (x2) Ryan Weathers (x2), Trevor Rogers (x2), Max Meyer (x2)
MIL @NYM (102) MIN (89) SEA (111) Freddy Peralta (x2) DL Hall (x2) Colin Rea (x2), Jakob Junis (x2)
MIN @KCR (140) @MIL (102) CLE (149) Pablo López (x2), Joe Ryan (x2), Bailey Ober (x2) Chris Paddack, Louie Varland
NYM MIL (124) DET (155) @CIN (27) Jose Quintana (x2), Sean Manaea (vDET) Luis Severino (x2), Tylor Megill (x2), Sean Manaea (@CIN), Adrian Houser
NYY @HOU (31) @ARI (102) TOR (76) Nestor Cortes (x2), Carlos Rodón (x2), Marcus Stroman (x2) Clarke Schmidt (x2), Luis Gil (x2)
OAK CLE (169) BOS (80) @DET (175) JP Sears (x2) Alex Wood (x2), Ross Stripling (x2), Paul Blackburn (x2), Joe Boyle (x2)
PHI ATL (11) CIN (38) @WSN (140) Zack Wheeler (x2), Aaron Nola (@WSN) Aaron Nola (vATL), Ranger Suarez (@WSN), Cristopher Sánchez (@WSN) Ranger Suárez (vATL), Cristopher Sánchez (vCIN) Spencer Turnbull
PIT @MIA (167) @WSN (140) BAL (95) Mitch Keller (x2) Jared Jones (@MIA) Martín Pérez (x2), Jared Jones (vBAL) Bailey Falter (x2), Marco Gonzales (x2)
SDP SFG (149) STL (73) @SFG (175) Yu Darvish (x2), Joe Musgrove (x2), Dylan Cease (x2), Michael King (x2) Matt Waldron (x2)
SEA BOS (49) CLE (138) @MIL (102) Luis Castillo (x2), George Kirby (x2), Logan Gilbert (x2), Bryce Miller (x2) Emerson Hancock (x2)
SFG @SDP (144) @LAD (13) SDP (171) Logan Webb (@SDP) Logan Webb (@LAD), Jordan Hicks (x2) Kyle Harrison (x2) Mason Black (x2)
STL @LAD (13) @SDP (144) MIA (160) Lance Lynn (vMIA), Steven Matz (vMIA) Miles Mikolas (x2), Zack Thompson (x2), Lance Lynn (@LAD), Steven Matz (@LAD), Kyle Gibson (x2)
TBR TOR (107) TEX (75) @COL (82) Zach Eflin (x2) Aaron Civale (x2) Zack Littell (x2) Tyler Alexander (x2), Ryan Pepiot (x2)
TEX CHC (89) @TBR (124) HOU (36) Nathan Eovaldi (x2) Jon Gray (x2), Andrew Heaney (x2), Dane Dunning (x2) Cody Bradford
TOR @TBR (124) @HOU (31) @NYY (13) José Berríos (x2), Chris Bassitt (x2), Yusei Kikuchi (x2), Kevin Gausman (x2) Bowden Francis (x2)
WSN @CIN (27) PIT (109) PHI (64) MacKenzie Gore (x2) Josiah Gray (x2), Patrick Corbin (x2), Jake Irvin (x2), Trevor Williams

A few general schedule notes:

  • The first week in the Ottoneu season runs from March 20 through April 7 (including the two games in Korea). If your head-to-head league has a games started cap, you’ll have four extra days of games to juggle with a cap that isn’t proportionally bigger. And if you started any of the four starters from those games in Korea, you’re already down a start. Make sure you’re really keeping track of the best matchups and plan out your starters accordingly.
  • Most teams have either one or two off days over these first 11 days of the season. The Twins and Brewers have three off days which should give their starters an extra bit of rest.
  • I think JP Sears has a particularly nice pair of matchups to start the season. He’s had a great spring training and he’s lined up to face the Guardians at home and then the Tigers in Detroit. He’s an under-the-radar starter who could get off to a quick start this season.
  • The Astros have a particularly tough schedule to start the season with series against the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rangers lined up. You could start Framber Valdez since he feels pretty matchup proof, but I’d fade Cristian Javier and Hunter Brown.

Ottoneu: Jake’s Keep or Cut Decisions at SP

We’re wrapping up our Ottoneu keep or cut series with a look at starting pitching. Lucas Kelly and Chad Young already shared their difficult choices; now I’ll join them with four more pitchers who are on the bubble for me.

Justin Verlander
Salary: $21
Average Salary: $15.2
2023 P/G: 4.46
Projected 2024 P/G: 3.96

The days of elite production from Justin Verlander appear to be behind us. A year after winning the Cy Young upon his return from Tommy John surgery, father time finally caught up with the flamethrowing right-hander. The velocity on each of his pitches fell by nearly a tick leading to some serious ramifications across his entire profile.

His strikeout rate fell to 21.5%, the lowest it’s been since 2015, and his FIP rose to 3.85, the highest it’s been since 2008. While the loss of velocity significantly impacted his fastball, his secondary offerings appeared to be as effective as ever. The whiff rate on his slider was still intact and batters had an incredibly difficult time putting his breaking balls in play with any authority. That’s a big reason why his home run rate sat below league average and well below the relatively high norms he had established since his career renaissance with the Astros.

Despite the inevitability of time, Verlander isn’t totally cooked yet. He made 27 starts last year even after missing a month to start the season with a minor shoulder injury. His health isn’t a guarantee, but he’s now proven he can be a productive accumulator in Ottoneu. The ceiling isn’t what it once was, but finding a reliable starter who has the potential to turn in a gem or two every once in a while is pretty valuable.

Keep or cut?
Low-ceiling point accumulators are particularly important in head-to-head leagues where you need to make the most of every single start you have every week. That’s the context where Verlander is probably the most valuable these days. You should be relying on him to anchor your rotation and you certainly shouldn’t be paying him for his name value or history. I’m cutting at $21 but it’s more of a cut to recycle because I’ll be targeting him in the draft and hoping to pick him up for around $10.

Joe Musgrove
Salary: $21
Average Salary: $18.7
2023 P/G: 4.80
Projected 2024 P/G: 4.36

Injuries sunk Joe Musgrove’s 2023 season; he fractured his big toe just prior to spring training and then a shoulder issue cut his season short by two months. When he was on the mound, he looked like essentially the same pitcher that had dazzled over the last two seasons. His ERA and FIP were right in line with the norms he’s established since joining San Diego in 2021. He was even in the midst of a particularly dominant stretch of starts before his shoulder injury at the end of July; he had made 12 straight starts allowing three or fewer runs with just a 1.84 ERA and 2.78 FIP.

Under the hood, things looked like they were in good shape, too. His arsenal was as effective as ever and he even made a slight repertoire change that could portend good things in 2024.

Musgrove had relied heavily on his excellent slider since joining the Padres pitching staff — that breaking ball was his primary weapon for the first two years on the team — but that changed last season. He deemphasized that pitch in favor of his curveball and changeup. His other breaking ball is just a slightly slower and deeper version of his slider and it’s just as effective so the overall effect on his repertoire was pretty negligible.

The biggest difference was the increase in changeup usage. That pitch has always been an afterthought in his pitch mix, especially after moving to San Diego, but it’s been an effective pitch when he has used it. Last year, he increased the whiff rate on the pitch to 40.6% and opposing batters collected just three extra-base hits off it. It gives him a solid weapon to use against left-handed batters and yet another pitch with an above average whiff rate in his arsenal.

Keep or cut?
Steamer is projecting a pretty significant step back from Musgrove in 2024 and I definitely don’t see why. The projection calls for a huge jump in home run rate despite his recent history of running below average rates. His injuries last year are certainly a concern but I don’t see anything in his peripherals or pitch arsenal that raise any red flags. I’m keeping him at $21 and hope to see him cut in a bunch of leagues so I can target him in the draft.

Sonny Gray
Salary: $15, $17
Average Salary: $14.4
2023 P/G: 5.66
Projected 2024 P/G: 4.37

Fun fact: Sonny Gray’s 0.39 HR/9 in 2023 was the fifth lowest single-season HR/9 from a qualified starting pitcher in the last decade. Unsurprisingly, Steamer does not believe he’ll be able to pull that feat off again in 2024. Still, he’s shown that contact management is a skill of his — or at least as much as contact management can be a skill for a pitcher. Over the last five years, his HR/9 has risen above 1.0 just once — in 2021 when it was 1.26 — otherwise it’s been an astonishingly low 0.67.

Even if you think there will be some home run rate regression in Gray’s future, there are plenty of other reasons to be bullish about his future. His ability to spin a pitch has always been a strength, particularly since his fastball velocity started dropping as he’s aged. Last year, he added a cutter and a changeup to his arsenal, doubled the usage of his sweeper, cut out his traditional gyro slider, and dialed back the usage of his curve and sinker.

His strikeout and walk rates essentially stayed static from what he accomplished in 2022 so you could argue about the efficacy of all those pitch mix changes. From a stuff perspective, he’s emphasizing his most effective pitches in his pitch mix while giving himself a wide repertoire with multiple movement profiles to keep batters off balance. As Esteban Rivera put it last summer:

Gray has has done almost everything possible to assure he maintains deception. His release points are consistent. He has multiple layers of movement both vertically and horizontally. He can vary velocity and movement within a given pitch. If you were to build a pitcher who doesn’t have great velocity but can spin the heck out of the ball, this is a darn good blueprint.

Keep or cut?
I’d be happy to keep Gray up to $18 or even $20 depending on your league and roster context. I like his landing spot in St. Louis and the changes he made to his pitch mix seem promising.

Zack Littell
Salary: $4
Average Salary: $3.9
2023 P/G: 4.05
Projected 2024 P/G: 3.34

Zack Littell seems like one of those starters who is always available on the waiver wire during the season, never good enough to hold a roster spot but a nice plug-and-play option if you need it. He made the switch from relieving to starting in the middle of the season and actually fared better in longer outings than he did out of the bullpen. From July 30 through September 23, he made 11 starts and posted a 3.38 ERA and a 4.04 FIP — and for our purposes, a 4.28 points per inning pitched. That’s … not bad.

The biggest differentiator for him was adding a sinker and sweeper to his pitch mix. That gave him five weapons to call on and an excellent breaking ball to use against right-handed batters. His gyro slider had been effective in the past, but with the addition of the horizontally moving sweeper, he changed that pitch into more of a hard cutter. With an overhauled repertoire, he took to the transition quickly and was a key member of the Rays rotation down the stretch.

It would be easy to write off someone like Littell with his history and lack of consistent success in the majors, but he was a completely different pitcher as a starter. And with so many injuries in the Rays rotation, Littell will have a guaranteed spot in the rotation to start this year. Tampa Bay has given no indication that they think his success last year was a flash in the pan and their development group has a track record of taking pitchers like Littell and turning them into effective contributors.

Keep or cut?
I think I’ve convinced myself to keep Littell in both leagues where I’m rostering him for $4. I don’t think there’s much ceiling that would push his value over that salary, and I think a lot of fantasy players would be happy to churn Littell. I’m happy to keep the player I know rather than try and find a like-for-like replacement in the draft, even if the potential reward isn’t as high.

Ottoneu: Jake’s Keep or Cut Decisions at OF

Before the holidays, Lucas Kelly ran through his keep or cut decisions in the outfield, part of our ongoing series heading into the keeper deadline on January 31. To catch up with him, Chad Young and I are finally getting around to our entries in the series before we move onto pitchers next week. I’ll run through three players on my bubble and where I think the keep line could be for each of them. All P/G projections are from the 2024 Steamer projections.

Cedric Mullins OF
Salary: $15
Average Salary: $17.1
2023 P/G: 4.37
Projected 2024 P/G: 4.80

We’re now two years removed from Cedric Mullins’ huge breakout in 2021 and it really seems like that was his high water mark. In the two years since posting a 136 wRC+, that metric has fallen year-over-year to just a point below league average last year. He did struggle through a recurring groin injury that cut into his playing time and definitely affected his ability to use his speed to his advantage. Now we’re left with plenty of questions about how valuable he’ll be moving forward.

There are a few encouraging signs under the hood though each of them is tempered by a red flag. After seeing his ISO drop from .228 during his breakout season to .145 in 2022, he was able to punish the ball more often last year, pushing his ISO back up to .183. That improvement was backed by an improved barrel rate and a batted ball profile that leaned even more heavily into pulled contact in the air. Elevating his batted balls was one of the keys to his success back in ‘21, though he might have gone a little too far last year. His groundball rate was the lowest of his career and nearly half of his batted balls were categorized as fly balls, but the expected wOBA on that elevated contact was nowhere near where it was two years ago.

Cedric Mullins, Batted Ball Peripherals
Year Pull% Sweet Spot% Hard Hit% Barrel% FB+LD wOBAcon FB+LD xwOBAcon
2021 41.7% 35.7% 39.4% 8.1% 0.583 0.541
2022 41.8% 29.3% 37.3% 3.6% 0.503 0.443
2023 44.5% 28.1% 37.1% 4.4% 0.535 0.437

His sweet spot rate — the rate at which he makes contact at ideal launch angles — was at a three-year low last year. Despite elevating his batted balls on the regular, he was hitting far too many at uncompetitive launch angles or without much power behind them, leading to a ton of weak fly balls.

On the plate discipline side of things, Mullins cut his chase rate to the lowest it’s been since a brief cup of coffee back in 2018 in his first exposure to big league pitching. That helped him post a career-high 9.5% walk rate. Unfortunately, his contact rate also fell three points and the corresponding increase in whiffs drove his strikeout rate up to 22.2%.

The other complicating factor is that the Orioles started to platoon Mullins pretty heavily last year even though his platoon split was pretty even. It’s hard to take that split seriously since he only accumulated 119 plate appearances against left-handed pitching last year but it’s something to monitor, especially with a crowded outfield in Baltimore.

Keep or Cut?
As much as I’d like to dream about Mullins reaching his 2021 heights again, I don’t think he’ll be worth $15 this year. Steamer has him bouncing back in 2024 with a .317 wOBA which would be higher than what he posted each of the last two years. Still, that’s more like a $8-$10 outfielder, not the $20 outfielder he was in 2021. I’m gonna cut and see where he goes in the draft because I think a lot of people will be overlooking him due to his struggles.

Seiya Suzuki OF
Salary: $18 and $24
Average Salary: $21.8
2023 P/G: 5.76
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.53

In his second season stateside, Seiya Suzuki improved across nearly every significant offensive category. But simply looking at his full season stats hides some of the ups-and-downs he experienced during the season and I think some of that narrative is affecting how he’s valued heading into this upcoming season. Here’s his rolling 20-game wOBA from last year:

He had an early slump, dealt with a few minor injuries, and really slumped in June and July and was finally benched for a short time in early August. But from August 9th onwards — the day he returned to the lineup full-time — he was the second best hitter in baseball, a hot streak that salvaged his full season stat line. So which version of Suzuki is the real one?

As Ben Clemens laid out in the article linked above, the adjustments Suzuki made in August were specific to his approach and directly addressed the reasons why he was struggling in the first place. He was specifically hunting breaking balls located in the zone while continuing to wallop the fastballs he saw up the middle and to the opposite field. It was a change to his approach that got him out of the middle ground between trying to adjust to hard and soft stuff. As Clemens put it, “This isn’t some fluke of soft line drives falling in all over the place or grounders finding holes in the infield. He’s just pummeling the ball, and doing it in a way that suits his game.”

It’s possible some of the hesitation around drafting Suzuki is related to his bearish Steamer projection. It sees him taking a slight step back in 2024, with a .345 wOBA that sits right in between what he’s accomplished over the last two years. But remember, his .358 wOBA from last year included those two significant slumps during the first half of the season. With another season of exposure to major league pitching under his belt and the assurance that he was able to make significant adjustments to his approach on the fly, I’m thinking he’s got a good shot at beating that projection this year.

Keep or Cut?
I’m extremely happy to keep at $18 and I’m trying to find room in my budget to keep him at $24. I’d think I’d be comfortable keeping him at up to $26 or even $28 depending on the league context and cap situation.

Masataka Yoshida OF
Salary: $20
Average Salary: $23.4
2023 P/G: 5.16
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.63

When Masataka Yoshida made the leap from NPB to the majors, the biggest question was whether or not his low-strikeout, high-walk approach would translate against big league pitching. It’s a little complicated but I’d say his rookie year was a modest success; he posted a 109 wRC+ though his overall value was seriously hurt by his lead glove in left field. His defense isn’t a concern for fantasy baseball, but even his offensive production had some curious red flags.

Through the end of June, he was posting a 129 wRC+ with a good 8.7% walk rate and a great 11.3% strikeout rate. More importantly, he was hitting for power and generally looked like he had made the transition without much fuss. From July 1 through the end of the season, he took just seven walks total, his strikeout rate spiked to 17.0%, and his power output dried up a bit. The contours of his season look pretty ugly once you pull up his 20-game rolling averages.

Even though his plate discipline fell apart in July, he was still producing at the plate. Once the calendar flipped to August, that production dried up and he slumped all the way through the end of the season. Looking under the hood, it really seems like he started pressing as soon as he started to struggle. His patient approach went right out the window and he started aggressively swinging at everything.

Masataka Yoshida, Plate Discipline
Timeperiod Swing% O-Swing% Contact% Z-Contact%
Before July 1 40.4% 23.9% 84.0% 87.1%
After July 1 46.8% 28.4% 82.2% 87.8%

His overall swing and chase rates spiked during the second half as he tried to swing his way out of his troubles. That led to a collapse of his walk rate and a corresponding spike in strikeout rate. The good thing is that his contact rate stayed relatively unchanged. He wasn’t generating as much power with his swing during his slump, but he was still putting the ball in play regularly.

Keep or Cut?
Were his second half struggles indicative of what to expect moving forward or was it just a particularly bad slump compounded by an aggressive turn to try and break out of it? Steamer seems to think it was just a blip and is projecting a pretty significant improvement in 2024. I’m leaning towards believing in the projection but there’s still some risk involved here. $20 feels right without leaning too heavily into that risk. I’m not excited to keep him at that salary but I don’t think I’d be able to get him any cheaper in the draft.

Ottoneu: Jake’s Keep or Cut Decisions at CI

A few weeks ago, the Ottoneu+RotoGraphs team — Chad Young, Lucas Kelly, and myself — ran through some tough keep or cut decisions at middle infield for our Ottoneu teams. This week, we’ve moved on to corner infielders. I’ll run through three players on my bubble and where I think the keep line could be for each of them. All P/G projections are from the 2024 Steamer projections.

Ryan Mountcastle 1B
Salary: $9
Average Salary: $11.3
2023 P/G: 4.99
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.09

Ryan Mountcastle had a really weird year in 2023. He started off producing one of the most unlucky batting lines in the league; through May 13, his wOBA-xwOBA was -.067, the fifth lowest in the majors among qualified batters. On that date, he was placed on the IL with a wrist injury and had another stint on the shelf with a bout of vertigo a month later. Upon his return, his results finally caught up with his expected stats and he wound up posting an overall line right in line with his .335 wOBA from his first full season in the majors in 2021.

Under the hood, his plate discipline improved ever so slightly; his strikeout rate dropped by 2.5 points and his walk rate was up slightly to 7.9%. With a selectively aggressive approach that produces plenty of hard contact, he won’t have the solid floor of a player with better on-base skills, but his approach moved in the right direction last year. And despite the weird batted ball luck that plagued him early in the season, his contact peripherals all fell within his established career norms.

So what’s the problem? It’s his home park. Mountcastle struggled last year when the Orioles expanded the depth of the wall in left field to its current cavernous dimensions. During his first full season and the last season Camden Yards had its old dimensions in 2021, Mountcastle pulled a little under 40% of his batted balls. That pull rate has dropped significantly the past two seasons and it’s a big reason why his actual results lag behind his expected stats.

Ryan Mountcastle, Pulled Batted Balls
Year Pull% Hard Hit% Barrel% wOBA xwOBA
2021 38.70% 40.10% 9.50% 0.549 0.425
2022 32.10% 48.90% 14.50% 0.483 0.505
2023 31.30% 46.50% 10.90% 0.409 0.435

In 2023, Mountcastle’s wOBA on pulled batted balls dropped dramatically despite producing similar contact quality. Some of that is related to his elevated groundball rate — that metric jumped up five points over where it was in 2021 and 2022 — but those deep dimensions in left field certainly affected his results. Rather than trying to pull the ball in the air like he did so successfully a few years ago, he adjusted his approach to try and hit up-the-middle more often. Of course, a batter like Mountcastle is going to do the most damage on pulled and elevated contact so seeing him diverge from that type of contact is a little worrying.

Keep or Cut?
The good news is that Mountcastle was able to post a wOBA within a couple of points of his .335 mark from 2021 this season. He has the raw power to overcome the deep dimensions of his home park but they’re certainly a hindrance to him reaching his full potential. Without a high ceiling to reach for, his value is capped around $7–10 I think. That kind of production could be an option to use at UTIL, but it’s not good enough to be your full-time 1B. And because he doesn’t have any positional flexibility whatsoever, he’s actually not that great an option at UTIL anyway. I’m probably cutting.

Andrew Vaughn 1B
Salary: $9
Average Salary: $13.1
2023 P/G: 4.53
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.38

With José Abreu out of the picture, Andrew Vaughn finally had a full-time role at his natural position at first base in 2023. Getting him off the outfield grass helped his defensive value tremendously, but it didn’t have any positive benefit for his production at the plate. His wOBA dropped six points though he was able to post the best power output of his young career. All of his batted ball peripherals look good and he was even able to put the ball into the air more often this year.

Vaughn’s Steamer projection is particularly rosy. The computer sees another pretty significant step forward in power output for him next year plus a slightly higher walk rate which results in a projected wOBA higher than what he’s produced in any of his three seasons in the big leagues. If he hits that projection, he’ll easily be worth his average salary. The projection plus the batted ball quality point to a player who will likely be on a number of “breakout” lists this offseason.

I’m not totally convinced, however. The White Sox really screwed with Vaughn’s development, first by calling him up before he had even accumulated 250 minor league plate appearances and then by sticking him in the outfield for two years. He’s had solid batted ball peripherals all three seasons in the majors but his results have been rather lackluster nonetheless. And now that he’s lost outfield eligibility, the onus to produce at the plate will be even higher.

Keep or Cut?
That Steamer projection is really enticing; the Auction Calculator believes that projection will be worth somewhere between $13 and $15. It’s probably worth the risk to keep him at $9 to see if he can really take that big step forward, but I’d want to have a backup plan in place just in case he sticks around the production level he’s already established.

Wilmer Flores 1B/3B
Salary: $7
Average Salary: $4.5
2023 P/G: 5.21
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.33

There are a bunch of competing factors that make Wilmer Flores somewhat overlooked by fantasy players. He’s old-ish and has been around forever — he’s entering his age-32 season and his 12th season in the big leagues — he’s more of a part-time player than someone you can count on everyday, and he’s a right-handed batter who mashes left-handed pitching. All of that contributes to glossing over the fact that he produced a career-best .368 wOBA this year.

Those factors also make this keep or cut decision a little tricky. Flores only played in 126 games in 2023 and only missed 10 days to an IL stint for a foot contusion in June. When you isolate the games he started and ignore the games he entered as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement, his points per game jumps from 5.21 up to 6.19. That’s a tremendous improvement in production, even if it’s a little intermittent. Rostering him means you absolutely need to have a second option to rotate into your lineup when Flores is on the bench which makes roster and lineup management a little more intensive.

The other complicating factor is that Flores lost 2B eligibility which really hurts his flexibility and potential value as an option at MI. He certainly can have some value as a part-time 3B in your lineup since that position is a lot shallower these days. And if you’re only using him when he starts, there’s a possibility that he’d even be an option at 1B provided you have another option to pair with him there.

Keep or Cut?
I don’t mind the headache of keeping tabs on when Flores is starting and the deep rosters in Ottoneu make platooning a viable fantasy strategy. $7 is probably the upper limit I’d want to invest in a part-time player, but Flores’s production definitely makes it worth it.

Ottoneu: Jake’s Keep or Cut Decisions at MI

Earlier this week, Lucas Kelly and Chad Young ran though their tough keep or cut decisions at middle infield for their Ottoneu teams. Now I’ll join in on the party and run through three players on my bubble and where I think the keep line could be for each of them. All P/G projections are from the 2024 Steamer projections.

Ryan McMahon 2B/3B
Salary: $6 and $10
Average Salary: $11.4
2023 P/G: 4.71
Projected 2024 P/G: 4.95

Ryan McMahon’s career trajectory has been anything but a straight line. A breakout season in 2019 was followed by an extremely disappointing pandemic-shortened season. A second breakout in 2021 made it seem like he had gotten things back on track but he took some significant steps back the next year and followed that up with another step back this year.

It all comes down to his strikeout rate. In 2021, he struck out a career-low 24.7% of the time while continuing to hit for power and draw a decent amount of walks. The strikeout rate stayed low last year but his power dried up a bit despite similar looking underlying batted ball peripherals. His quality of contact stayed mostly the same in 2023 — a good thing — but his strikeout rate suddenly shot back up above 30%. It’s pretty easy to see why.

His ability to make contact on pitches in the zone absolutely cratered last year. His walk rate was actually a career-high 10.8% which indicates he still had a decent idea of which pitches to swing at. Unfortunately, his ability to consistently make contact with those right pitches eluded him. For a player with his offensive profile, making the most of every single ball he puts in play is paramount, but when those below-average bat-to-ball skills take a turn for the worse, the whole house of cards collapses.

Keep or Cut?
The good news is that his quality of contact is still present. He posted career bests in barrel rate and expected wOBA this year and will continue to play in the most hitter friendly environment in baseball. His profile will always be a little risky thanks to his below average contact skills even if his power and discipline give him a solid floor in this format. Steamer projects a bit of a bounce back in his strikeout rate at the cost of some power leading to an overall wOBA right in line with what he’s done the last two years. That puts his value somewhere between $8 and $11 based on the Auction Calculator. I’m rostering him in two leagues and I’m definitely keeping him at $6. In the other league, he’s still on my bubble since that team desperately needs cap space and I’m not sure keeping McMahon at essentially market value is the best use of resources there.

Jeff McNeil 2B/OF
Salary: $8 and $13
Average Salary: $10.9
2023 P/G: 4.35
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.14

A year ago, Jeff McNeil was coming off a phenomenal season in which he won the NL batting crown, was an All-Star, and received down-ballot MVP votes. Fast forward a year and McNeil’s star looks a lot less bright. It’s not hard to figure out the issue that sank his season this year: it’s all about the BABIP. In many ways, his offensive struggles this year look a lot like the mediocre season he put together in 2021. Unfortunately, there are a lot more red flags this year than there were two years ago.

It’s important to note that McNeil’s full season stats hide the ebbs and flows of his season. He actually started off fairly strong, posting a 139 wRC+ through the first month of the season, but a prolonged summer slump dragged his production into a crater that even a late season surge couldn’t salvage.

For the most part, his wOBA followed his BABIP, which makes sense for a player so dependent on his high-contact approach. The weird thing was the gigantic spike in strikeout rate that occurred in the middle of the season. It’s almost as if he tried to swing his way out of his slump which only exacerbated his issues. Despite that huge mountain of strikeouts during the summer, his overall strikeout rate ended up at nearly a career-low by the end of the season. His ability to make contact isn’t in question.

I am a little more worried about his quality of contact. McNeil has never really hit the ball all that hard, relying instead on an ability to spray his contact from line to line while never really producing all that much weak contact. Unfortunately, his hard hit rate fell three points to 27% and his sweet spot rate dropped seven points to 32.1%. It all culminated in a ghastly .281 expected wOBA on contact, easily a career-worst for him and one of the worst marks in baseball among qualified batters. For a batter who relies so heavily on putting the ball in play, to have such a dramatic drop in contact quality is a serious red flag.

Keep or Cut?
McNeil now has almost 2700 career plate appearances with a .346 wOBA and Steamer projected a nice bounce back from him in 2024. Still, the drop in contact quality is a big concern which clouds his future a bit. During his down year in 2021, his hard hit and sweet spot rates were right in line with his career norms indicating that much of his struggles were simply rooted in bad batted ball luck; that’s not the case this year. Despite his up-and-down year, he was still worth $8 according to the Auction Calculator in 2023. Like McMahon, I’m rostering McNeil in two leagues and one is priced as an easy keep ($8) and the other puts him on the bubble ($13). There is certainly a universe where McNeil returns that higher value or even more but it now feels a little more risky than it did a year ago.

Carlos Correa SS
Salary: $27
Average Salary: $27.4
2023 P/G: 4.45
Projected 2024 P/G: 5.40

A year ago, if you told me I had the option of keeping a $27 Carlos Correa, it would have been a no-brainer decision. One season long bout with Plantar Fasciitis has completely changed his fortunes. Health has always been an issue with Correa; he’s topped 150 games played in a season just once back in 2016 and has had major IL stints for a variety of ailments in nearly every other season. The production is obviously elite when he’s on the field, but you have to bake in some risk that he’ll miss significant time each season into your evaluation calculus.

While his foot injury sapped a lot of his power, he also underperformed many of his underlying metrics based on his batted ball quality. His hard hit and barrel rates were right in line with his career norms, but all of his expected stats outpaced what he actually produced at the plate this year and his BABIP fell from .339 to .272. That one-two punch of bad luck combined with bad health meant that he was a shell of his normal self in 2023.

The amount you value Correa in 2024 seems entirely dependent on how much you think he’ll play. If you believe he’ll be healthy and ready to play a full season, a $27 salary could be close to market value with the potential of becoming a steal if Correa is truly firing on all cylinders. As it is, $27 feels like too much of a risk for a player who had yet to prove he can stay on the field for an entire season.

Keep or Cut?
The team that has to make a decision about Correa also has Gunnar Henderson to cover shortstop if I end up cutting the former. Steamer projects a pretty significant bounce back campaign for Correa next year and the projection even accounts for around 20 games missed next year. Because I have Henderson to step into the full-time shortstop role and they’re priced around the same, I’ll be cutting Correa in favor of the younger option.

The Anatomy of a Ottoneu Dynasty Rebuild: Part 8, The Season in Review

We made it through the whole regular season and hopefully you brought home some hardware in your leagues. For Ottoneu teams, the job isn’t finished at the end of the season; there’s arbitration, the keeper deadline, offseason trades, and next year’s draft to look forward to. For rebuilding teams, this is the time to evaluate your progress and to start making a plan for next season; will you be continuing to build toward the future or is your roster ready to compete? If you haven’t been following along with this series, I’ve covered my process of rebuilding this team, from the initial decision to rebuild, to the draft, to preparing to sell.

This season was a wild roller coaster for my team in Ottoneu League 32 – Fantasy Field of Dreams. I made some blockbuster trades this summer and churned through a ton of players on the waiver wire. In the end, I wound up in seventh place with 17,046.4 total points, just a hair under 2,000 points behind the winning team. Despite the mediocre finish, I was actually pretty happy with how I finished the season; during the second half of the season, my team was the fifth highest scoring team in the league and during the final month of the year, I out scored every other team.

Points by Month
Month Points Rank
April 3003.9 5th
May 2659.8 9th
June 2983.7 5th
July 2106.0 10th
August 2727.7 5th
September 3125.8 1st

My rate stats (P/G and P/IP) weren’t the best during September, even though they were comfortably above average, so that big point total seems to be a bit of a mirage thanks to hitting my games and innings caps. Still, I’m happy with the progress of my roster and I think I’ve taken a big step towards competing sooner rather than later. I’m still a bit unsure if that window is opening next year or not, but I’m closer to moving out of this rebuilding cycle than I thought I’d be at the start of the season.

The biggest challenge I had on my roster during the season was rostering — and subsequently cutting — Wander Franco. He was one of the core pieces I was planning on building around but his legal trouble has sabotaged the bright future he had in baseball. I won’t wade into that situation except to say that fantasy baseball is a game and you should do what helps you enjoy it as much as possible. I wound up cutting Franco and didn’t look back.

Losing Franco obviously changes the complexion of my roster a bit. Instead of building around a pair of superstars in Aaron Judge and Franco, I’m now left with a pretty significant hole at shortstop that I’ll need to address in the offseason. Despite that gap, I’m actually pretty happy with where my roster stands. Here are the 20 players I’ve identified as clear keepers with an early look at their potential production in 2024 using the in-season updated Steamer 600 projections:

Player Position Salary Avg. Salary Projected P/G or P/IP How Acquired
Aaron Judge OF $55 $52.9 7.17 Trade
Ian Happ OF $14 $12.9 5.25 Keeper
Jazz Chisholm Jr. OF $11 $13.0 5.34 Trade
Spencer Torkelson 1B $11 $10.6 4.89 Draft
Jorge Polanco 2B/3B $10 $11.5 4.97 Keeper
Spencer Steer 1B/2B/3B/OF $10 $7.1 4.92 Draft
Alec Bohm 1B/3B $8 $9.0 4.95 Trade
Jeff McNeil 2B/OF $8 $11.0 4.94 Free Agent
Royce Lewis 3B $6 $6.9 5.34 Trade
Taylor Ward OF $5 $8.2 5.30 Trade
Ezequiel Tovar SS $5 $6.6 4.22 Keeper
Josh Lowe OF $4 $5.5 4.83 Trade
Jonah Heim C $3 $4.4 3.53 Free Agent
George Kirby SP $12 $10.2 4.66 Keeper
Jesús Luzardo SP $11 $12.4 4.47 Keeper
Nick Lodolo SP $7 $8.4 4.56 Free Agent
Grayson Rodriguez SP $5 $7.9 4.72 Keeper
Tarik Skubal SP $3 $8.3 5.18 Trade
Cristopher Sánchez SP $3 $4.6 4.37 Free Agent
Bryce Miller SP $3 $9.0 3.75 Keeper

I’ve got a solid core of position players with a few key high priced veterans and a young, cheap pitching staff. Of these 20 keepers, I acquired seven of them via trades, four of them through in-season auctions, and two through the preseason draft. Spencers Torkelson and Steer were the last two draftees on my roster by the end of the season; of my ten drafted players at the beginning of the season, four were traded away and four were cut during the season. Obviously every team’s mileage will vary, but that’s a pretty clear illustration of how difficult it is to rebuild through the draft.

I’m really happy with how my outfield is shaping up. Judge is the obvious headliner but Jazz Chisholm Jr. provides an exciting ceiling if he can stay healthy next year while Ian Happ and Taylor Ward should be consistent contributors. I’ve got Steer, Josh Lowe, and Jeff Mcneil to plug and play as needed. Because five outfield spots have been increasingly more difficult to fill with solid options over the last few seasons, I’m pleased to head into next year with these players locked in.

Third base is another strength as long as Royce Lewis can stay healthy. His second-half breakout was exciting to watch and he’s finally fulfilling the lofty prospect ceiling he’s had since being drafted first overall back in 2017. More importantly, I’ve got some nice backup options on my roster if Lewis continues to be injury plagued; Steer, Alec Bohm, and Jorge Polanco can all fill in at third base if needed, though that might have some knock-on effects on my middle infield situation.

I quite like where my pitching staff ended up by the end of the season too. Tarik Skubal’s breakout after returning from his own elbow injury gives me a high-ceiling starter to anchor my rotation alongside George Kirby, Jesús Luzardo, and Grayson Rodriguez. Pending the status of his injured leg, Nick Lodolo could ascend into that group as well. This group of pitchers is young and filled with potential.

With just seven obvious cuts on my roster, that leaves 18 players on my keep/cut bubble. I have $194 in cap space devoted to my 20 keepers above which gives me a ton of room to play with. Ideally, I’d probably keep half of these bubble players while adding another $60-$80 in salary to my cap.

Bubble Players
Player Position Salary Avg. Salary Projected P/G or P/IP How Acquired
Sean Murphy C $14 $9.8 4.96 Keeper
Jarren Duran OF $10 $5.9 4.72 Trade
Sal Frelick OF $9 $5.1 4.42 Free Agent
Jarred Kelenic OF $9 $11.5 4.37 Keeper
Jake Cronenworth 1B/2B $8 $11.8 4.58 Free Agent
Brendan Donovan 1B/2B/OF $7 $7.2 4.95 Free Agent
Matt Mervis 1B $4 $4.7 4.81 Trade
Pete Crow-Armstrong OF $3 $4.7 4.06 Keeper
Shane Bieber SP $22 $28.6 4.40 Free Agent
Drew Rasmussen SP $7 $8.0 4.72 Trade
Ranger Suárez SP $7 $6.9 3.88 Keeper
Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진 SP $5 $4.2 4.63 Free Agent
Paul Blackburn SP $4 $4.0 3.65 Free Agent
Zack Littell SP $4 $4.2 3.60 Free Agent
Luis Medina SP $4 $4.1 3.41 Free Agent
Bryce Elder SP $4 $5.5 3.37 Free Agent
Jack Leiter SP $3 $4.5 3.36 Free Agent
Jake Eder SP $2 $2.5 2.78 Free Agent

There’s definitely a world where I’d keep both Sean Murphy and Shane Bieber, the highest priced players on my bubble, but I’m not sure I need either on my roster next year. Murphy started the year really strong but really struggled in the second half of the season and the emergence of Jonah Heim at a fraction of the salary means I can head into the draft looking for a cheap catcher to add. Bieber’s return from his elbow injury before the season ended gives me a lot more confidence about his ability to be a solid contributor next year; I’m just not sure his ceiling is as high as it’s been in the recent past when he was producing over 5 P/IP.

There’s that group of young outfielders priced around $9-$10 that feel like they’re just a touch too expensive but still have some promise to outproduce their projections. I also have to make a decision about Jake Cronenworth or Brendan Donovan as a utility knife for my roster; the projection for the latter surprised me and I’m leaning towards him even though I thought he would have been a cut before this exercise.

Then there’s this group of cheap-ish pitchers who should provide some nice bulk innings for my roster even if there isn’t much ceiling for much more than their projections. Drew Rasmussen’s injury is a wild card and Jack Leiter made some promising steps forward during the second-half of the season. I’m not sure it really matters which of these pitchers I keep, but I think it’s important to keep three or four of them to give me plenty of opportunities to play matchups and still hit my innings cap.

Let’s say I keep nine of those bubble guys giving me 29 players on my roster heading into the draft — disregarding any offseason wheeling and dealing. Accounting for the $30-ish in salary added to my roster via arbitration, I’m expecting to have around $285 in salary committed to these 29 keepers. That leaves me around $115 to fill 11 spots in the draft which is a great spot to be in. I’ll need a shortstop, one more big bat, a frontline starter or two, and a full bullpen. That feels doable with the amount of cap space that I’ll have.

Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner: September 25–October 1

Welcome back to the Ottoneu Starting Pitching Planner. Based on the Roster Resource Probables Grid, I’ve organized every starter slated to start next week into four categories: start, maybe, risky, and sit. The first and last category are pretty self-explanatory. Starters who fall into the “maybe” category are guys you could start if you need to keep up with the innings pitched pace in points leagues or need to hit your games started cap in head-to-head leagues; they’re good bets to turn in a decent start, but you shouldn’t automatically insert them into your lineup. If you’ve fallen behind on the innings pitched pace or you’re really starving for starts in a head-to-head matchup, you could turn to a “risky” starter or two.

I’ve also calculated a “Matchup Score” for each series using a straight combination of opponent’s home/away wOBA, opponent wOBA over the last 14 days, and the park factor for the ballpark the teams are playing in. It’s indexed so that 100 is average and anything above that is a favorable matchup and anything below is unfavorable. That matchup rating informs some of the sit/start recommendations I’m making, though the quality of the pitcher definitely takes precedence.

September 25–October 1
Team Series 1 Matchup Series 2 Matchup Start Maybe Risky Sit
ARI @CHW (129) HOU (75) Zac Gallen (x2), Merrill Kelly 켈리 Brandon Pfaadt Zach Davies, Ryne Nelson
ATL CHC (86) WSN (143) Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Spencer Strider Bryce Elder (x2), Kyle Wright
BAL WSN (152) BOS (136) Kyle Bradish (x2), Grayson Rodriguez Dean Kremer, Kyle Gibson John Means
BOS TBR (68) @BAL (100) Brayan Bello, Chris Sale Tanner Houck (x2), Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford
CHC @ATL (48) @MIL (61) Justin Steele (x2), Jordan Wicks Kyle Hendricks, Javier Assad Jameson Taillon
CHW ARI (77) SDP (27) Dylan Cease Mike Clevinger José Ureña (x2), Jesse Scholtens, Touki Toussaint
CIN @CLE (109) @STL (136) Hunter Greene, Andrew Abbott Connor Phillips, Brandon Williamson, Ben Lively 라이블리
CLE CIN (100) @DET (167) Shane Bieber Logan Allen, Lucas Giolito Triston McKenzie (?), Cal Quantrill
COL LAD (11) MIN (52) Chase Anderson (x2), Ryan Feltner, Noah Davis, Chris Flexen 플렉센, Ty Blach
DET KCR (156) CLE (129) Reese Olson (x2), Tarik Skubal, Sawyer Gipson-Long, Eduardo Rodriguez Joey Wentz
HOU @SEA (134) @ARI (111) Justin Verlander (x2), Framber Valdez Cristian Javier, J.P. France, Hunter Brown
KCR @DET (167) NYY (174) Cole Ragans Zack Greinke Alec Marsh (x2), Jordan Lyles
LAA TEX (27) OAK (111) Reid Detmers Patrick Sandoval, Griffin Canning, Kenny Rosenberg, Tyler Anderson
LAD @COL (52) @SFG (127) Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn, Ryan Pepiot (@SFG) Ryan Pepiot (@COL), Bobby Miller Gavin Stone, Emmet Sheehan
MIA @NYM (106) @PIT (138) Braxton Garrett, Eury Pérez, Jesús Luzardo Sandy Alcantara (?), Edward Cabrera Johnny Cueto
MIL STL (102) CHC (66) Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta Adrian Houser (x2), Wade Miley
MIN OAK (145) @COL (52) Kenta Maeda (vOAK), Bailey Ober, Pablo López Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Kenta Maeda (@COL)
NYM MIA (136) PHI (91) Kodai Senga, José Quintana Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, José Butto Tylor Megill
NYY @TOR (118) @KCR (127) Michael King (x2), Gerrit Cole Clarke Schmidt Carlos Rodón Randy Vásquez
OAK @MIN (70) @LAA (115) Paul Blackburn (x2), Luis Medina, JP Sears Ken Waldichuk, Joe Boyle
PHI PIT (93) @NYM (106) Aaron Nola (x2), Zack Wheeler Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker, Cristopher Sánchez
PIT @PHI (48) MIA (143) Mitch Keller (vMIA) Mitch Keller (@PHI), Johan Oviedo, Andre Jackson Luis L. Ortiz, Bailey Falter
SDP @SFG (127) @CHW (129) Blake Snell (x2) Seth Lugo, Michael Wacha Pedro Avila Matt Waldron
SEA HOU (52) TEX (50) Luis Castillo (x2), George Kirby (x2), Logan Gilbert Bryce Miller, Bryan Woo
SFG SDP (88) LAD (75) Logan Webb (x2) Kyle Harrison, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood
STL @MIL (61) CIN (127) Zack Thompson (x2) Miles Mikolas Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright, Drew Rom
TBR @BOS (81) @TOR (118) Zach Eflin, Tyler Glasnow Aaron Civale Zack Littell, Taj Bradley
TEX @LAA (115) @SEA (134) Jordan Montgomery Dan Dunning, Nathan Eovaldi Jon Gray (x2), Martín Pérez (x2)
TOR NYY (127) TBR (52) Kevin Gausman (x2), José Berríos Chris Bassitt, Hyun Jin Ryu 류현진 Yusei Kikuchi
WSN @BAL (100) @ATL (48) Josiah Gray Trevor Williams, Jake Irvin, Patrick Corbin, Joan Adon

A few general schedule notes first:

  • We’ve made it to the final week of the season. Ottoneu head-to-head leagues should be all wrapped up leaving teams in points leagues to battle it out for the top three spots in their leagues. A reminder that the innings pitched cap is a soft cap, so make sure you plan out when your starters are going next week and try to stack as many of them as you can on the day you think you’ll go over the cap.
  • Be on the lookout for teams that re-slot their rotations in preparation for the playoffs or teams who try to line up their starters for a final push into the postseason. Double-check your probables and be ready to switch to a backup plan if things go sideways.
  • The Orioles, Royals, and Tigers all have easier matchups to close out the season. Those teams don’t normally have a ton of “must start” pitchers but the schedule aligns perfectly to give them some nice and easy opponents next week.
  • The Cubs and Mariners are both fighting for a playoff spot in their respective Wild Card races and they’ll be going up against some tough offenses. You’ve got to start the three aces on Seattle’s pitching staff but I’d be weary of calling on their two young rookies. It’s even tougher for Chicago since they’ll spend all of next week on the road against two very good teams. Justin Steele is fighting for the NL Cy Young and he even has a two-start week next week, but I think I’d only be comfortable starting him against the Brewers.

Notable two-start pitchers:

  • Blake Snell
  • Kevin Gausman
  • Logan Webb
  • Luis Castillo
  • Zac Gallen
  • Aaron Nola
  • Justin Verlander
  • George Kirby
  • Michael King
  • Kyle Bradish
  • Reese Olson