Ottoneu Drip: Finding Under-rostered Pitchers: July 9, 2024

The All-Star break is quickly approaching and the search for useful pitching is never ending. Here are a handful of pitchers who are rostered in under 60% of all Ottoneu leagues who could be nice pickups if you’re looking for an option to fill in for an injured starter or looking for another bullpen piece. I’ve also included two entirely speculative adds in case you really feel like rolling the dice.

Under-rostered Starters, Last 14 Days
Player Team IP FIP K-BB% Stuff+ Pts/IP Roster%
Andrew Heaney TEX 17.1 2.53 23.6% 82 5.96 42.3%
Yariel Rodriguez TOR 13.2 3.46 14.9% 96 6.56 36.1%
Luis L. Ortiz PIT 14 0.88 31.4% 105 7.64 6.9%

If you throw out Andrew Heaney’s first five starts in April, he’s accumulated 321.9 points across 12 starts since the beginning of May at a 4.80 points/IP clip. His overall line is being dragged down pretty significantly by that poor first month and he’s been particularly effective recently. This is nothing new from Heaney; he’s been pretty streaky throughout his career, especially since a lot of his value is derived from keeping the ball inside the park. The most encouraging aspect of this hot streak is the 19.4% K-BB% he’s running across these last 12 outings. It doesn’t come close to his career year with the Dodgers back in 2022, but it’s on par with what he was posting with the Angels before that. He’s probably worth an add during this hot streak if he’s available in your league.

Yariel Rodríguez missed about a month of the season with a back injury but he’s looked particularly strong since returning a few weeks ago. The Blue Jays used him as an opener in front of a bulk reliever a couple of times but have handed him a full starter’s workload in his last two starts. He’s responded by allowing just a single run in 12.2 innings against the Astros and Mariners. Encouragingly, he’s only allowed four walks while striking out 12 during those two outings, alleviating some of the concerns about his ability to command his repertoire. He was also working as a reliever in Japan’s NBP before coming over to the States this year presenting some risk that his workload is being monitored or limited by the Blue Jays to keep him healthy.

The Pirates had been using Luis L. Ortiz as a long reliever or bulk reliever for most of the season but they’ve allowed him to make full starts in two of his last three outings and things have gone swimmingly. Against the Reds and Mets, he tossed 12 innings of one-run ball with 12 strikeouts and no walks. Not that long ago, he was a highly regarded prospect in Pittsburgh’s organization, peaking at number four on their 2023 prospect list. A pretty disappointing rookie campaign soured his outlook but he’s making good on those high expectations a year later. There are plenty of reasons why he’s taken such a big step forward this season: he’s throwing a much more spin efficient four-seam fastball that’s now generating plenty of whiffs; he’s throwing his cutter much more often at the expense of his changeup; but the biggest difference maker is an ability to command his entire repertoire. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has gone from 1.23 to 2.89 leading to better results across the board. The only limiting factor is his future role; the Pirates could continue to let him start for now but he could be pushed back to the bullpen once Jared Jones or Bailey Falter are activated off the IL.

Under-rostered Relievers, Last 14 Days
Player Team IP FIP K-BB% gmLI Stuff+ Pts/IP Roster%
A.J. Puk MIA 6.2 0.92 34.8% 2.09 107 11.56 49.5%
Andrew Nardi MIA 5.2 2.46 18.2% 1.79 107 9.21 37.6%
Porter Hodge CHC 6.1 1.91 18.2% 1.97 107 9.56 19.4%
Hunter Bigge CHC 0.3%
Kris Bubic KCR 1 -0.83 66.7% 0.01 90 11.40 11.0%

After a failed experiment as a starter, A.J. Puk is back in the Marlins bullpen and posting fantastic results as one of their top setup men ahead of Tanner Scott. Since returning from a shoulder injury in mid-May, he’s posted a 2.63 ERA and a 2.92 FIP across 24 innings. Over the last two weeks, he’s really stepped into a high leverage role, collecting four holds and nine strikeouts across 6.2 innings. I’ve also listed Andrew Nardi above since he’s been a solid setup man in Miami’s bullpen for nearly the entire year. It’s no secret that the Marlins will be looking to sell at the trade deadline which could open up even more high leverage opportunities for Puk or Nardi if Scott is traded away. And it’s even possible one of Puk or Nardi are moved to a contender as well.

I recommended Porter Hodge about a month ago in this column and all he’s done since then is post a 1.59 ERA and a 2.99 FIP across 11.1 innings. He’s finally seeing some high leverage opportunities in a Cubs bullpen that’s been an absolute mess this year. Héctor Neris is currently the ninth inning guy, but every role behind him is pretty much up for grabs. If you wanted to really speculate, Chicago just called up Hunter Bigge a few days ago. He’s posted outstanding strikeout rates at every minor league stop, and if things go well upon his debut, he could quickly force his way into the high leverage conversation too.

If you really wanted to go out on a limb and speculate, Kris Bubic could be your guy. He recently returned from his Tommy John rehab but the Royals have decided to move him to the bullpen because their starting rotation is currently filled with solid options. A year ago, he looked like he was in the middle of an exciting breakout and the velocity jump that helped fuel that success looks like it has stuck around after his injury. The Royals bullpen hasn’t been great with their current closer, James McArthur, looking pretty shaky at times. It’s possible Kansas City will want to try and keep Bubic stretched out in case they need him for the rotation, but they could also push him into higher leverage opportunities as a fireman to alleviate some of the pressure on their relievers.

Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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