Today I’ll look at a mix of recent American League starting pitcher call-ups and neglected rookies who have yet to get any real RotoGraphs write-up love. Some of these names may still be available in your AL-Only league and several are most certainly in your mixed league. Let’s see if any of them have any chance of providing value over the rest of the way.
The 24-year-old southpaw has made six starts and three relief appearances for the Astros and posted an impressive 2.79 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. With solid control displayed in the minors, he has taken that skill even further, throwing tons of first pitch strikes and limiting the free pass. Unfortunately, that’s where the positives end. Never a big strikeout guy, he has struck out just 15.5% of batters in the Majors, backed by a below average swinging strike percentage. He is also an extreme fly ball pitcher, which is a bad mix with a low strikeout rate and in a home ballpark that inflates home run totals. Oddly, he has actually had much more trouble versus left-handed batters, and even though most of it is just a difference in fortune, his xFIP is higher against them as well. With a poor strikeout rate and a 4.34 SIERA, he shouldn’t be anywhere near your roster no matter the league size and format.
Seriously, where do the Twins find these guys? Albers is just the latest creation from the pitch-to-contact assembly line. So far the strategy of ensuring nearly every single batter puts the ball in play and it gets converted into an out has been working. Albers still owns a 3.96 ERA, good for a barely better than league average mark, even though he has allowed 17 runs over his last 4 starts. The left-hander’s fastball velocity is an amazingly low 86.1 mph, so it’s a but curious that he throws it nearly 70% of the time. It’s no wonder his punch out rate is so low. Needless to say, you also don’t want him anywhere near your fantasy team.
The 25-year-old rookie has pitched in relief for most of the season, but moved into the rotation at the end of August and has made two starts with poor underlying results. Unlike the previous two lads above, Clemens possessed solid fastball velocity, though once he was moved into the rotation, that has predictable dipped. He averaged 92.2 mph during his first start, but just 90.7 in his second. His control looks to be below average, while he has never shown great strikeout rates either. To add more fuel to the fire, he’s yet another Astros starter who allows a ton of fly balls. We’re now 0-3 in finding any value in these new faces.
Over the pre-season, the left-handed Paxton was ranked as the fifth best prospect in the Mariners organization by Marc Hulet. I think the most interesting thing that Hulet said when describing Paxton was that “he throws with a high-three-quarter delivery with deception. He keeps the ball hidden well and has a distracting delivery thanks to a lot of extranious arm movement.” That’s notable because deception can help suppress BABIP, and ultimately hits allowed. Unfortunately, Paxton’s minor league BABIP marks have been sky high. We know minor league BABIPs are higher because of weaker defense, but he has only posted a mark below .322 at one stop.
Also concerning is that Paxton’s strikeout rate has dropped at every level as he has climbed the ladder. Without sterling control, it’s just another warning sign that Paxton’s might not be ready to contribute at the MLB level just yet. The Mariners are going with a six-man rotation, so he will likely only get four starts. His debut will come on Saturday versus the Rays and if the rotation stays on schedule, he will face the Cardinals and Angels away and finish with the Athletics at home. That’s not a great schedule, so I’d have to be desperate for pitching to be interested in a deep or AL-Only league. Of course, he’s the most attractive pitcher on this list simply for the upside and potential for strikeouts and dominance.
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.