High Performing Ottoneu Free Agent Starters by Chad Young April 30, 2021 Last week we looked at a group of hitters who were under 50% rostered, with 25+ PA, and over 6 points/game in Ottoneu FanGraphs points leagues. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the mound, and look at a set of SP who are under 50% rostered, have at least 2 games started to-date, and are over 5 points/inning. High Performing Ottoneu Free Agent SP Pitcher P/IP Roster % Joey Luchesi 6.75 29.24% Kyle Gibson 5.81 49.71% Wade Miley 5.40 21.64% Michael Fulmer 5.39 28.36% Nick Pivetta 5.25 24.27% Aaron Sanchez 5.24 36.26% J.A. Happ 5.19 32.16% Jake Arrieta 5.05 39.47% Joey Lucchesi – The long-awaited Lucchesi breakout is here! Finally! Well, kinda. The Mets are using Lucchesi more as an opener than a starter – he has made two starts for three innings each, plus a two-inning relief appearance. Over those eight innings, he has a 6.75 ERA but a 1.45 FIP and 2.98 xFIP, thanks to a 26.5% K%-BB%. Also, they sent him to the alternate site. They don’t need a 5th starter until next week, so maybe this is a temporary demotion because he isn’t needed? Hard to say. For now, there is no reason to add Lucchesi, but he’s worth having on watchlist. His velocity is up a bit and those K and BB numbers are really intriguing. Let’s wait and see what the Mets do with him and how he performs before making a move. If anything, he’s a drop right now. You can’t use a roster spot on him and he’s not likely to make or break your season if you cut him now. Kyle Gibson – Gibson got absolutely lit up on Opening Day and has pitched so well in his four starts since that he made this list. You can see his overall line on his player page, but if you just ignore that first debacle, he has a 0.67 ERA, 2.12 FIP, 3.41 xFIP, and 6.44 P/IP. Gibson added a bit of velo, but more importantly, he added a cutter and is using it about 15% of the time, completely reshaping his pitch mix by using his slider and his change a bit less. It’s probably worth a deeper dive that I can give him in this paragraph, but I am intrigued. Gibson has the Red Sox Thursday and should have the Twins early next week, so I don’t blame you for waiting on him, but if Thursday goes well, the price is going to go up. Wade Miley – Wade Miley looks like the same guy he has always been, to me. But with less velocity. His pitch mix is similar to 2020, when he went to the change more and the four-seamer less. It didn’t work so well, in limited time, last year, but this year it has been great. The problem is, compared to last year, he is giving up more contact, has a lower CSW, and is giving up more hard contact. I think this hot start is noise, and I am staying away. Michael Fulmer – Fulmer started the year in the pen with three relief appearances, made three starts, and now appears to be back in the pen for the time being, so his role is hard to predict, but there is a lot to like. Thursday night was rough for Fulmer – he gave up two ER on four hits and two walks in two innings, striking out three, for just 4.40 points. But on the year, his velocity is up, he is setting a career-high strikeout pace, his walks are under control, and while HR are not a strong suit, they are back under control after an ugly 2020. He is using his four-seamer less (44% after 62% last year and 61% when we last saw him in 2018), in favor of his slider (34%, up from 24% and 23% in 2020 and 2018), and change (17%, up from 9% and 14%). Maybe a little extra velocity and a new pitch mix is enough to get Fulmer right? Because of his uncertain role, it’s hard to know what to make of him. I think he is more valuable as a starter than a reliever because I suspect he won’t get the holds or saves to drive up his RP Pts/IP, but he is worth holding. He’s probably more valuable in H2H leagues or Ottoneu Prestige League, where his limited holds won’t hurt as much and his bulk relief appearances help more. I am watching rather than buying though, for the moment. Nick Pivetta – Pivetta is putting up nice Ottoneu scores but it is hard to say he has actually pitched well this year. The 2.81 ERA looks nice but the 5.19 SIERA…does not. His BABIP is just .233, his HR/FB rate is just 4.0% and neither of those rates will continue. Meanwhile, he is walking 16.3% of batters, giving up far too many fly balls, and just generally living dangerously. His velocity is back up to where it was before 2020, but he wasn’t good with that velocity in the past. His swinging-strike rate is up, but he is posting career-worst first-strike and zone percentages, and his CSW is down (and it was already not good). I know he is a popular breakout pick (every year). And I am sure there is something I am supposed to see that I am not. But I will let someone else gamble that his skills regress towards his ERA rather than his ERA regressing towards his skills. Aaron Sanchez – It’s getting a little old pointing out increased velocity, so this is a fun one – Sanchez has seen his velocity drop nearly 4 mph from 2019 and nearly 7 mph from his peak as a rookie in 2014, so naturally his K-rate is up a bit and his walk rate is way down. Sanchez is posting the second-best CSW of his career, though it is still below average, with this newfound lack of velocity. But it is working for him. His 2.22 ERA is even better than Pivetta. SIERA and company suggest regression is coming, his SIERA is 4.12 and his xFIP is 4.14 and those will still likely produce acceptable FanGraphs Points outings, especially if he can continue to avoid HR, which should be doable with a ground-ball rate over 60%. He’s just a matchup play – use him at home when he has a friendly opponent, but he isn’t a bad streaming option right now. There is very little upside here – Fulmer or Gibson are more interesting if that is what you want – but I think he can be a useful back-of-the-rotation type who you start 30-40% of the time. J.A. Happ – Happ pitched Wednesday and “hurt” his cause by adding 32.1 points over 7 IP. That 4.59 P/IP brings his season line down to 5.19 P/IP. Which is still good. But Happ is getting by with a super low BABIP (.154 after Wednesday’s start) and his lowest HR/FB rate in more than a decade. This despite more barrels and a higher hard-hit rate than he had last year. He’s also lost a lot of velo, despite the fact that velocity is up league-wide. Plus, his lack of strikeouts drastically lowers his upside in any Ottoneu points format. He likely gets the Rangers next and the Tigers may follow, so you might be tempted to ride the hot start, but he’s no more than a matchup play. This is the right time to play those matchups, but there just isn’t enough upside and the lack of K’s means the floor is low if he makes a couple of mistakes. Jake Arrieta – I am a sucker for a good “veteran who seemed to have lost it finds a new way to get guys out” story, but I don’t think this is it. His velocity is down and he hasn’t made some significant change to his pitch mix to justify the impressive results. His strikeout rate has taken a nice jump and he has done a good job limiting hard contact, but by CSW, SIERA, and xFIP he looks more like his 2020 self than this renewed-and-improved Arrieta. Making matters worse, his ground ball rate, traditionally in the 50s or at least high 40s, is currently 35.4%, which will make him more prone to point-killing HRs. I am less scared of the regression monster for him than I am Pivetta, but when the weather warms up and Wrigley becomes a launching pad, I fear things could get ugly. I could make a case for him as a streamer, but his next starts are at Cincinnati and vs. the Dodgers. I want no part of that. If he comes throw even somewhat clean, Cleveland and Detroit follow, and those are starts I might want.