Do you need starting pitching in your deep league? Of course you do! The tough decisions come when debating between a middle reliever who is going to give you solid ratios but reduce your win and strikeout potential or a bottom of the barrel starter who could potentially torpedo your ratios. This is where your place in those specific categories in key. Performing well in the ratios? Don’t blow it. Play it safe with a middle reliever. Already sitting at the bottom of the ratio categories? Might as well take the plunge, you can’t fall much further!
Erasmo Ramirez | SP TB | CBS 10% Owned
Remember him? After enjoying a strong debut in Seattle back in 2012, I patiently awaited his return to the Majors in 2013. Unfortunately, his skills fell off and he had issues keeping fly balls in the park, all of which led to an ugly 4.98 ERA. He was no better last year, as his control deteriorated and his ERA jumped above 5.00. But a spring training trade to the Rays appears to have breathed new life into this once promising young pitcher.
If you can ignore the inflated ERA, you’ll notice that there is real progress being made. His strike percentage is up marginally, though it remains down from his 2012 peak. But most exciting is that his SwStk% is sitting at an exciting 13.1%. That would tie him for 11th among all qualified Major League starters. His changeup has been fantastic as usual. But this year, both his curve and slider have generated SwStk% marks around 20% as well. So this year, he has thrown three pitches with a SwStk% of at least 19.4%! And his four-seamer has also generated a SwStk% well above the league average. Yet, with all those swings and misses, it’s pretty crazy that his strikeout rate sits at just 20.5%. That’s because both his called and foul strike rates are significantly below the league average. This isn’t such a bad thing though since there’s a better chance he could improve either or both of those marks than his swinging strike rate.
Another positive development is that he has become a ground ball pitcher. Since he’s had issues with inflated HR/FB rates the past two seasons, this is an important transition. His SIERA sits at a much more palatable 3.85, but a lowly LOB% has conspired to keep his ERA above 5.00. That’s not going to remain that low. With the Rays enduring yet another injury in their rotation, Ramirez should have quite a long leash. He could even earn some deeper mixed league value as well.
Tommy Milone | SP MIN | 6% Owned
Milone was summoned from Triple-A after Ricky Nolasco went down with an ankle injury. No word yet on what his timetable is, so Milone may only make a couple of starts or remain in the rotation for a while. In his first full season with the Athletics back in 2012, he was pretty good and likely accrued a bit of mixed league value. The following season, he didn’t get results nearly as positive, but his SIERA actually declined marginally. Last year, his strikeout rate suddenly plunged, though luckily for his fantasy owners, his ERA barely budged.
Though he opened the year as the Twins’ fifth starter, he couldn’t hold it after posting a 4.76 ERA and striking out just two more batters than he walked. He was soon sent to Triple-A where something happened. The man who holds just a 16.6% strikeout rate over 518 Major League innings struck out 33.6% of batters over 38.2 innings. Oh, and his walk rate was just 2.1%. That’s 47 strikeouts and just three walks. Sure, this is a veteran pitcher on his fourth tour of duty at Triple-A, but that doesn’t mean that any Major League starter sent down there is going to see his strikeout rate double.
What Milone did was throw a ton of strikes (70.4% to be exact vs a 64.4% MLB average) and induce significantly more swinging strikes than he ever had in the Majors. I haven’t found anything real insightful to explain his fantastic performance at Triple-A, aside from the generic “Milone said he found success in the minors by getting ahead early in the count…” quote. But in a deep league, it’s worth taking a shot on a guy who’s been respectable before to see if he really has discovered something new.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.