Lucas Harrell & Chris Volstad: Deep League Waiver Wire

Welcome back to a new season of deep league waiver wire gold. Come dive into the vast ocean of free agency with me and let’s see if we can spot some hidden treasure. I believe last year I used 10% as the ownership maximum in CBS leagues, but that sometimes hamstrung me into recommending really crappy players. So this year I am giving myself a bit more leeway and expanding that ceiling to 15%. We open our first edition with a pair of starting pitchers.

Lucas Harrell | HOU SP | 9% Owned

Harrell was a surprise winner of a rotation spot in the Houston rotation, and in fact I had no clue until he actually pitched. The 26 year old was never a prospect, but his skill set is the type that is typically undervalued. His control in the minors has only been mediocre and his strikeout rates have been rather weak, but he induces gobs of ground balls. In a very small sample of 49.0 Major League innings, his ground ball rate sits at around 55%, which is fantastic. In the minors, he also consistently induced ground balls at an above 50% clip. It’s actually a bit surprising his strikeout rate has been so poor, as his fastball averaged nearly 93.0 miles per hour during his first start. He will likely struggle to win games given the Astros weak offense and he obviously won’t help much in strikeouts. But with his ground ball profile, he could surprise with a sub-4.00 ERA if he receives good defensive support.

Chris Volstad | CHC SP | 7% Owned

In short, Volstad is almost like a slightly richer man’s Harrell. His best attribute is also a strong ground ball tendency, though not as much so as Harrell. To make up for this, his control has generally been better, as has his strikeout ability. Last year, Volstad was a disappointment, posting a 4.89 ERA. However, his SIERA was easily a career best at 3.84, as his strikeout rate jumped, backed by a career best SwStk%, and walk rate dropped below 3.0. A perfect storm of an inflated BABIP and HR/FB ratio, which concurrently pushed his LOB% below 70%, ensured his season would look a lot worse than it should have. The move to Chicago isn’t likely to help him, all else equal, but he is due for some better luck. He has a better chance of surprising than Harrell.

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.

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10 years ago

Harrell is legit. I was at his first start and counted each and every one of his dozen groundball outs through 7 shutout innings. You are correct that GB pitchers tend to be undervalued. I wouldn’t discount the Houston offense entirely – they seem to be capable of producing 3-4 runs on average and that could be enough for 10-12 wins from Harrell (if he stays in the rotation all year). The book is still out on the defense (Lowrie isn’t back from the DL yet), however.