When it comes to fantasy, it’s an arms race, both figuratively and, well, often literally, as pitching depth remains a precious commodity in deep leagues. This week, let’s take a look at two hurlers, one a newcomer to fantasy circles, the other back from the fantasy dead, who can assist pitching-hungry owners in NL-only leagues.
As usual, the players listed in this space are best suited for mono leagues, and the ownership percentages are by way of CBS.
Taylor Jungmann / SP / Milwaukee Brewers / 17%
Jungmann’s ownership suggests that his secret is already spilling out, as he’s been rock solid in six starts since joining the Brewers’ rotation a month ago. Although he’s not quite as good as his 2.43 ERA advertises, he still has a 3.79 SIERA and has proven his ability to keep the ball down on the ground, a must if he’s going to thrive in Miller Park. He’s also picked the right time to join the Brewers: after a horrendous start to 2015, the team played .500 ball in June and, entering Monday, had won eight straight largely on the strength of its lineup, which has been on fire the past few weeks.
Jungmann, 25, was first drafted in 2008 by the Angels, but elected to go to the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a consensus All-American and won the Dick Howser Trophy in 2011 as the best collegiate player. When he entered the June amateur draft that year, the Brewers scooped him up with the 12th overall pick, and he rose steadily in the Brewers’ minor league system, though he graduated with a decidedly uninspiring 1.83 K/BB ratio. That trend has continued now that he’s become a major leaguer, with a below average 6.6 K/9, though his 2.4 BB/9 and a low line drive rate have been enough to limit his hits per game and give him a 1.11 WHIP.
Jungmann primarily offers a fastball/sinker that sits in the low-90s, though he balances that with a curveball and an occasional changeup, with his hammer so far earning an above-average whiff rate of 14.8%. It’s a formula that explains his excellent 54.6% ground ball clip, though his home ballpark and a low HR/FB% suggest he’s been getting lucky on the long balls, and, coupled with a high strand rate, should be regarded as ERA warning flags for potential investors.
But even if he isn’t flashy, he’s so far proven himself consistent, and in the wake of Wily Peralta’s oblique injury — and a recovery process that remains weeks away from completion — the Brewers have little incentive to yank Jungmann from their starting five. He’s a safe add in all NL-only formats and is deserving of more ownership in deeper mixed leagues as well.
Clayton Richard / SP / Chicago Cubs / 2%
You remember Richard from his days with the Padres, when he was a serviceable pitcher who went 14-9 and earned 2.3 WAR in 2010. But multiple surgeries on his left shoulder have torpedoed the last season and a half of his career, and after floating between the Diamondbacks and Pirates organizations, the 31-year-old was signed and immediately given a start in the Cubs rotation. We only have one outing to go by, but the results were encouraging: two earned runs in 6.1 innings against the Marlins on Saturday night, with four strikeouts and just one walk.
Even at his best, Richard’s fantasy value was somewhat limited, as he pitches to contact rather than relying on strikeouts; in 2012, his last full season, his 4.4 K/9 was last among qualified National League starters. The flip side is a heavy ground ball rate: he owns a very respectable 50.1% mark, though he’s hardly immune to the home run ball, having once led the National League with 31 of them back in 2012.
But the Cubs, in need of a fifth starter as Tsuyoshi Wada rehabs from a shoulder injury of his own, might as well give Richard an opportunity for the next couple of weeks to see if he’s still capable of getting major league hitters out. For fantasy purposes, the Cubs are eight games over .500 and had won five out of their last six entering Monday night’s action, so if he can keep his team in the game, he might have a chance to pick up a win or two in the right matchup. There’s nothing exceptional about him at this point in his career, but he’s a veteran who knows what he’s doing, and in a deep NL-only league, there’s certainly worse out there on the discard pile.
Karl, a journalist living in Washington, D.C., learned about life's disappointments by following the Mets beginning at a young age. His work has appeared in numerous publications, and he has contributed to the 2014 and 2015 editions of The Hardball Times Annual. Follow/harass him on Twitter @Karl_de_Vries.