The Secret to Rebuilding Your Fantasy Team (Part 2)

On Wednesday I lamented about how my year-long infatuation with prospect Nick Williams blinded me from seeing offensive value in other places that would likely have put my team in a better position during a rebuild.  Today I’ll take the same approach, focusing on the pitching side, and will use Jose Berrios as my prospect scapegoat.  Like Williams, I’ve owned Berrios since well before the 2016 season began, and invested fully into the scouting reports of a potential #2 starting pitcher. Better yet, I was convinced Berrios was more “polished” than most prospect pitchers, and that his strong command would quickly smooth out the inevitably bumpy transition through MLB lineups. Fast forward now to mid-September and Berrios has a 9.27 ERA in 44 IP, which includes 28 BB’s and 2.0 HR/9.  And yet, I still own him…

Using Ottoneu ownership and average salary data as of September, I limited my filter to all players currently owned for $3 or less, and then hand-selected a few pitchers who (using FIP and P/IP as quick standards for YTD value) appear to have enough future value to be at least as interesting as Jose Berrios once was to me so long (not really) ago.

2016 Waiver Gold – Pitchers
Boone Logan RP $1.40 28.57% 384 2.56 42 9.10
Brad Brach RP $1.73 91.13% 518 2.84 70 7.38
Dario Alvarez RP $1.75 5.91% 109 3.72 24 4.54
David Phelps RP/SP $2.07 89.16% 562 2.86 78 7.19
Tyler Anderson SP $2.07 64.04% 427 3.69 96 4.44
Kyle Barraclough RP $2.12 90.15% 546 2.25 66 8.26
Seung-hwan Oh RP $2.28 95.07% 637 2.01 72 8.83
Will Harris RP $2.33 89.16% 490 2.33 55 8.89
J.A. Happ SP $2.45 94.09% 746 3.96 170 4.39
Seth Lugo RP/SP $2.53 31.53% 252 3.41 48 5.23
Hector Neris RP $2.71 94.09% 521 3.18 72 7.23
Robbie Ray SP $2.74 94.58% 682 3.50 155 4.40
Carl Edwards Jr. RP $2.76 58.62% 254 1.94 30 8.47
Matt Strahm RP/SP $2.89 60.59% 141 1.58 16 8.70
Edwin Diaz RP/SP $2.94 95.07% 403 2.07 43 9.37

A few highlights:

Boone Logan: It’s probably not surprising that you’ll end up with several relievers in a list that is limited to salaries of $3 or less, but it might be surprising to find a Rockies pitcher with the value that Logan has brought in limited looks this year.  With a K/9 approaching 11.0 and GB rate just above 50%, Logan has amassed 25 holds for the Rockies this season, primarily by suppressing the HR.  Reliever value can ebb and flow every season, so it’s tough to say if Logan should be counted on as a guy who will keep this kind of value in 2017 (his .216 BABIP suggests he will not), but he’s clearly been more valuable to savvy owners this year than to those like me who held onto Berrios.

Brad Brach: Like Logan, Brach has found a successful home in a difficult pitchers environment (Camden Yards), but his larger sample size offers a bit more confidence in that success carrying forward.  Brach is throwing harder this year than at any time in his career, and he’s matched that with the best K-BB% of his career (21.9%), too, which is an excellent combination.  With a 1.75 ERA, 23 Holds, and a 10.25 K/9, Brach has been a waiver wire gem for those in Roto leagues.

Dario Alvarez: The Rangers landed 27 year old potential relief ace Alvarez from the Braves at the deadline, and he’s done nothing but impress in his short stint with both clubs this year.  It’s a small sample but his K% has approached Aroldis Chapman levels, and when his BABIP settles (currently .396), you could be looking at a sneaky good bullpen arm on the cheap (owned in less than 6% of Ottoneu leagues).  Scoop him up now.

David Phelps: If I’m building a list of “2017 sleepers”, Phelps is near the top of that list.  He’s split his time this season between bullpen and rotation, but surprisingly he’s hasn’t seen much of a drop in skills when starting games (11.84 K/9, 2.98 xFIP).  He pitches in a great park and in a relatively weak division, so there’s a lot to like from Phelps going forward.  He’s just now returning from a stint on the DL (oblique), so there’s a chance he’s still available for next to nothing on your waiver wire while the rest of your league coasts through the end of the regular season.

Tyler Anderson: Anderson is a good example why it’s important to churn your roster heavily while rebuilding – you never really know if a guy will work out and turn into real value, so you might as well be aggressive and take a chance.  Since Anderson pitches in Coors a lot of owners were skeptical in June when he pitched 23 IP with a 9.13 K/9 and 2.30 FIP, but the young lefty now has 101 IP on the season and resembles a solid #3 SP (21.8% K%, 3.59 FIP), which is especially good considering he’s actually found a way to succeed at home, too.  His WHIP may always been a bit inflated with the Coors effect, but Anderson now looks more promising than many of the top pitching prospects that have debuted this year.

Kyle Barraclough:  Speaking of Miami sleepers for 2017, Barraclough has managed a 36% K% with his 95+ average fastball this year.  You can read a great post about him here.

Seung hwan Oh: Oh has been one of the better off-season FA signings of the season, essentially saving the Cardinals’ bullpen after a rough season by Trevor Rosenthal.  He mixes at least four quality pitches, has excellent control, and has rewarded numerous fantasy owners who jumped in early with 31 Saves + Holds YTD.  It would have been crazy at the start of the season, but think how much better your team might be now with a $2 Oh instead of holding Lucas Giolito or Tyler Glasnow all season instead.

J.A. Happ: No one really believed that Happ’s success in PIT last season would transfer effectively to TOR, but here he is in September with 19 wins and a 3.27 ERA, which is a stud in Roto leagues. Other than a slight bump in his HR/FB rate (12.4%), he’s been almost the exact same pitcher he was in the NL, which speaks to his talent and Toronto’s shrewd signing.

Robbie Ray: Expect Ray to gain more value this winter in “sleeper” posts than any other pitcher in baseball.  His 11.34 K/9 is tantalizing, and the fact that he’s increased that rate (12.43) while also reducing his BB rate (from 3.70 to 3.0) in the second half bodes well for massive fantasy hype this off-season.  Owned for just $3 on average he’s a gem, and will probably find himself owned by a lot of league champions this year.  He’d be tough to trade at such a little cost, but his hype might get so out of control by next spring that you should probably consider listening to offers.

Carl Edwards, Jr.: Edwards is no longer leading the in-zone contact rate competition, but he’s very, very close.

Edwin Diaz: Hindsight makes it a bit easier to cherry pick this list, but clearly Edwin Diaz is the winner for waiver wire gold among 2016 pitchers.  With the exception of maybe Alex Reyes, I can’t think of another pre-season Top 100 starting pitching prospect I’d rather have in 2017 over the value that Diaz will bring to your team.  That includes, Giolito, Urias, Glasnow, Snell, Matz, and yes, Berrios. It might be an interesting debate against Michael Fulmer, but with a 41.9% K% and 18.7% swinging strike rate, the 22 year old Diaz has quickly put himself in the Jansen/Betances/Chapman category of dominating relievers, and odds are that if you scooped him early, he’s set to anchor your bullpen on the cheap for years.  A waiver find as superior as Diaz doesn’t come around every season, but the point here is that if you’re carrying a load of prospects and just waiting for the future to arrive, you’ll miss your opportunity to maximize value in the present.

A lot of fantasy owners believe the secret to successful rebuilding is patience, and nothing requires more patience than a top prospect still learning on the job.  I still like Berrios, even if it’s an irrational commitment at this point, but the real secret to rebuilding is exactly the opposite: success takes an active, dedicated mindset of constant tinkering, churning, and sifting through all avenues of value, including the adding and dropping of prospects, fishing the waiver wire, and making shrewd trades, even when think you might be buying high on a no-name player by selling “low” on a previously stud prospect.  Prospects (even the less shiny ones) can pay off, but it’s only when we recognize that value comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, and names that we’ll be able to effectively speed up the rebuilding process.

Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here:

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Justin Vibber

A guy like Pomeranz also jumps out as Waiver Wire Gold ($3.01 average salary in FGPTS, so he was just over your threshold)