Subprime Day 1: The Birchwood Brothers’ Ten Bold Second-Half Predictions (Pitchers)

Where would those of us who are passionate about full-season Fantasy Baseball be without the counsel of America’s Leading Fantasy Sports Aggregator to guide us? Our hearts accordingly leapt up when we beheld in our In Box last week ALFSA’s “Ten Bold Second Half Predictions.” And about whom were these predictions predicted? Here’s the full list: Matt Olson, Christian Yelich, Justin Smoak, Pete Alonso, Kenta Maeda, J.D. Martinez, Brandon Woodruff, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Eloy Jimenez.

Thanks, podnuh; we’ll rush right out and grab all those guys. Look—as we see it, a Bold Prediction must also be a Useful Prediction, and for anyone in a redraft league, a Useful Prediction is one involving a player who might actually be available. With this in mind, we present our own Bold Second Half Predictions, confident that most if not all these guys will be available for cheap in most if not all leagues. Five pitchers today, then five hitters tomorrow:

Jaime Barria. What the hell other unimaginable calamity has to befall the Angels before they just plug this guy into the rotation and leave him there? They’re legitimate contenders for a Wild Card slot. They’ve got the best player in baseball, a solid top-to-bottom lineup with good power, an effective and reasonably deep bullpen—and the worst starting pitching in the AL, except for Baltimore, which also has the worst everything else in the AL. At the moment, their rotation contains two guys with ERAs over 5. Two more of those guys have been exiled to the bullpen. Another one (Jose Suarez) just got sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake after getting massacred a couple of times. No one who’s started as many as five games for Salt Lake has an ERA below 7. And now…you know what else happened. Meanwhile, here’s Barria, languishing in Utah. Yes, he’s been awful at Salt Lake, too. We don’t care. Between last year and this, he’s started 29 games for the Angels. He’s pitched well enough to keep them in nearly every one of them and produced an ERA of 3.49 and WHIP of 1.25. And now he’s striking out a batter an inning, which hasn’t happened before. Sure he’s homer-prone. Such is the fate of right-handed pitchers in Anaheim. You say he’s a five-inning pitcher? So is everyone else now, and that’s what bullpens are for. Grab him now and beat the rush.

Tyler Beede. He may well be gone in your league, but we’d guess not, since it looks to us that even in TGFBI leagues he’s virtually unattached. We are here to tell you, though, that we think he’s the real deal. Let’s focus on Beede’s last five starts rather than his first four. It’s not as if his schedule was especially soft. Yet he beat the Dodgers and the Brewers, as well as the Padres, on the road, giving up a total of 5 earned runs, 14 hits, and 5 walks in 19 2/3 innings. His control has improved markedly (no walks in his past two starts). True, he’s been hit kind of hard, which means there’s some luck involved, and he’s not a reliable source of strikeouts. But he will pitch half his games in the best pitcher’s park in baseball, and you know what—the Giants aren’t as bad as everyone expected, so Beede should get a few wins, since they’re not going to conduct a fire sale in Bruce Bochy’s last season. In short, we think the possibility that his first-round, top-100-prospect DNA has taken over is strong enough to make him a decent selection.

Sam Dyson. And while we’re on the Giants—we wrote about Dyson last month, and it looks to us that what we thought might happen might indeed happen, viz., that the Giants trade Will Smith and give the closer job to Dyson. The fact that the Giants are unexpectedly in contention for a Wild Card slot may affect whom they trade Smith for, but we expect that they will say something like: we can sell high now on Smith because we’ve got four other guys who would be or have been credible closers. If you or I ran the zoo, we might give the job to Tony Watson, but that’s not how Bruce Bochy uses Watson. Mark Melancon makes $15 million a year because he got 98 saves over two seasons, but his ERA since the start of June exceeds 6. Reyes Moronta could well be a good closer someday, but he’s erratic, he gives up a lot of walks, and Bochy generally brings him in early. Meanwhile, Dyson is often used in high-leverage situations, and (as we pointed out last month) pitched well as the Giants’ closer when given the job at mid-season 2017. If you’re desperate for saves, why not?

Mike Montgomery. We’ve been hoping for a while that Montgomery would be a full-time starter—a role in which he’s been quite effective–and now that dream’s come true. Of course, we dreamed of him in a Cubs rather than a Royals uniform, but bear with us. First of all, Montgomery’s been pretty bad this season, but he’s been used exclusively in relief, and he’s historically been much better as a starter. His arsenal—tepid four-seamer, potent sinker, less-than-impeccable command—makes for weak contact but some walks and not many strikeouts. He’s accordingly dangerous as a high-leverage reliever, but can be a very good starter. His slash line third time through the order is an extraordinary .217/.281/.348. He’s one of the most groundball-prone pitchers in baseball. And now he’s been given a starting job in KC, where he’s got a great middle infield (with Arteaga now and Mondesi when he’s back) and a third baseman who’s…well, not nearly as bad as everyone expected. As a left-handed starter facing right-handed hitters in Wrigley, he gave up only 6 home runs in 61 innings, so he sure won’t give up many to righties in Kauffmann Stadium. As indicated, he won’t get strikeouts, and with the Royals, he won’t get many wins—though we persist in thinking that the team is substantially better than its record suggests. But we envision low enough rate stats to make Montgomery usable as, say, your SP 6.

Damon Jones. We’ve had our eye on him for a little while, but the ever-perspicacious Shelly Verougstraete beat us to the punch blogwise, just as she is beating us statwise in TGFBI. We can’t tell you anything about Jones that’s not in her piece. She says his ETA is 2020, however, and we think he’ll be up not only this year but pretty soon. The Phillies’ starting pitching has been terrible, and they are running out of viable options. Nick Pivetta pretty plainly isn’t one. Jake Arrieta has been awful at least as often as he’s been effective. Something seems to be seriously wrong with the current edition of Zach Eflin. Vince Velasquez can’t be trusted against good-hitting teams. Cole Irvin has done nothing to suggest that he’s a major league pitcher yet. Likewise Enyel de los Santos, and he’s nonetheless probably next in line. Ranger Suarez, whom we liked going into the season, is now strictly a reliever. Drew Anderson, the other guy we liked going into the season, has an ERA approaching 6, and that’s in Triple-A. Meanwhile, Jones was unhittable in high-A and Double A, and just got promoted to Triple A, where his first start was rocky but creditable and encouraging. Sure, maybe the Phillies swing a deadline trade for an established starter or two, in which case Jones will probably be part of the ransom and in any event stay in the minors. Otherwise—do you see anyone else? Who?

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The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.

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