Deep League Starting Pitchers (Lauer, Hernandez, Heaney, & Flexen)

Another dive into pitchers going after pick 300 in the NFBC. Here are some arms I’ve already examined.

Starting and Relievers, Part 1 & 2($$):

Deep League Starting Pitchers

Eric Lauer (306 ADP)

Lauer’s ADP must have dropped, so I will continue examining every sub-300 ADP starter. Overall, he had a fine 2021 season after spending the first month at the alternate training site. His 2021 15.5% K%-BB% is similar to Steven Matz, Triston McKenzie, Jon Gray, and Yusei Kikuchi. He seems to be going in the right spot based on last season’s results.

A repeat is fine and there might even be a little upside. While he had a near 3.00 ERA, all his ERA estimators and 2022 projections have him pegged as a 4.50 pitcher. The mid-4.00’s is where he’s been over his career (4.28 ERA).

To improve, he’ll need to keep the fastball velocity gain (~1 mph) that pushed up his strikeout rate by 0.5 K/9. The velocity did a little up and down during the season but ended up. When his fastball averages 92-mph or more, it has at least a 10% SwStr%. At 91 mph, it’s closer to a 7% SwStr%.

He does have a diverse pitch mix with four non-fastballs (cutter, change, slider, curve). The results on his non-fastballs have bounced around with his slider consistently performing the best (13% SwStr%, 43% GB% on his career).

The deal is that he didn’t throw the slider for about half the season. Before he added it in early July, he had a 4.50 ERA, 3.93 xFIP, and 1.32 WHIP. After he started throwing it, he had a 2.41 ERA, 4.46 xFIP, and 1.03 WHIP. He went with an extreme flyball approach (40% GB% to 33% GB%) and lucked out that those flyballs didn’t turn into home runs.

He’s decent limited upside, but some adjustments point to him being better than his season-long stats suggest.

Elieser Hernandez (343 ADP)

Hernandez has the talent to be a top-flight starter, he just can’t stay on the mound. Over the past three seasons, he’s barely reached 150 IP, but his 19.2 K%-BB% ranks 36th ahead of Sonny Gray, Joe Musgrove, Noah Syndergaard, and José Berríos.

He attacks hitters with a simple three pitch mix of four-seamer (7% SwStr%, 28% GB%), slider (17% SwStr%, 49% GB%) and an improved changeup (14% SwStr%, 62% GB%).

There are a couple of issues to consider. He was not able to keep his fastball velocity games gains (+0.5 mph) but lost some spin (~125 rpm) on his pitches that might be related to the velocity decline. Both declines might be related to the constant injuries.

And those arm-related injuries have limited him to just 140 IP over the last four seasons.

If anyone is looking for a sleeper, here he is. I might be a little leery adding him in draft-and-hold leagues in the likely instance he misses most of the season. In redraft… at this price… give me all the shares.

Andrew Heaney (350 ADP)

Heaney has already gotten his time in the sun since he signed early with no other moves occurring around then. His 20% K%-BB% might be one of the best available this late in the draft but it doesn’t matter if he continues to allow home runs.

When analyzing him, don’t be thrown off by some of the pitch designations having him going from a sinker to a four-seamer. The two pitches have the exact same movement. The velocity on the pitch was up 0.5 mph from 2020 but took a hit mid-season (down ~100 rpm) with the enforcement of foreign substances (1H 11.0 K/9, 2H: 9.6 K/9).

His current fantasy value 100% depends on how much the fantasy manager thinks the Dodgers will fix his home runs issues. He’s another pitcher I prefer more in redraft leagues where he can be released-and-replaced if he is struggling or moved to the bullpen.

Chris Flexen 플렉센 (355 ADP)

I’m not sure how Flexen pulled off 14 Wins with just a 6.3 K/9. His entire profile screams regression since he was lucky (3.61 ERA) with his 0.9 HR/9 and 77% LOB%. Besides the “luck”, he performed as expected.

The one chance for improvement would be throwing his changeup (13% SwStr%, 46% GB%) more than 15% of the time. He slowly moved away from the change as the season went on.

It’s not a horrible profile, but I would rather roster the other three examined in the article. Looking further down the ADP list, his profile is similar to that of Wade Miley (402 ADP) and Jake Odorizzi (411 ADP) who are going 50 picks later.

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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2 years ago

Heaney: “His current fantasy value 100% depends on how much the fantasy manager thinks the Dodgers will fix his home runs issues.”

Exactly. It would take some work, but it’d be interesting to know who the last free agent dud starting pitcher that ended up on the Dodgers and did well. Every time I think of Dodgers starters I think of homegrown talent or high-priced talented purchases. Otherwise, it’s too bad Heaney didn’t land with the miracle workers in San Francisco.

2 years ago
Reply to  LightenUpFG

Brett Anderson. Alex Wood twice. Kazmir. Rich Hill. McCarthy probably counts. Not sure there has been a Fa SP they haven’t been successful with (Hamels and Duffy were just flier trades that didn’t work out). I think the Dodgers have excelled at this exact thing, but I do think it might’ve been more Zaidi than Friedman magic at work.