Tipping Pitches: Three American Leagues Arms to Buy

David Price and James Paxton are back from DL, but Masahiro Tanaka has the 2nd-worst ERA among qualified starters (6.24), Matt Harvey aka The Dark Knight isn’t far behind at 5.43, and stable assets like Julio Teheran and Jose Quintana (the righty/lefty version of one another) have been buried in a heap of home runs. Even as we get some studs back, pitching remains a landmine-riddled hellscape. We’re on pace for the 2nd-most starts of 5+ ER since 2009 with 322 already. There were 937 all of last year.

Sitting around and complaining won’t do us any good, though. We have to remain diligent on the waiver wire and trade block to counterbalance the blowup starts that are seemingly impossible to avoid for more than a few days at a time regardless of who makes up your pitching staff. Today, I have three AL arms I’m looking as potential long-term* pickups. I tried to span shallow to deep league availability, too. I’ll have NL arms tomorrow next week.

*long-term at this point is a month to six weeks (speaking of which, there will be a new SP Update in a couple weeks)

Sean Manaea

Manaea walked five in his first start off the DL, but has been sharp ever since including a brilliant three-start run. He faced both Cleveland and New York on the road as well as hosting a red-hot Toronto offense, allowing a combined three runs against them. He has a 2.70 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with 34 strikeouts in 30 innings since returning. Over the five starts, he has a swinging strike rate below 14% just once (9% v. BOS) and a filthy 18% rate in his last two starts.

Manaea has been well above average at getting batters to fish out of the zone (33%) while also limiting contact within the zone (84%) and both marks have been even better over these last five starts. Health is a big hurdle, but he could be one of the breakout stars of the summer. His availability is limited (77% Yahoo!, 64% ESPN), but I’d advocate trading for him, too.

Brad Peacock

Peacock is one bad inning away from three fantastic starts since joining the rotation, but even with the four-run fifth inning at Minnesota factored in, he still has a 3.60 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 25 (!) strikeouts in 15 innings of work. He has walked just four batters as well (7% BB) after posting a 15% BB rate in 16.3 relief innings. A 63% first-pitch strike rate, well above his 58% career mark, suggested that he might be able to chisel into that walk rate.

He’s working the fastball low in the zone with great success against both righties and lefties. This has also helped curbed his home run issue with a minuscule 0.3 HR/9 that completely outclasses his career 1.3 mark. His groundball rate has shot up to 47% as well. Then there’s his slider, which has become an utter beast of a pitch. His 51% K rate in 43 PA off the slider is tied with Carlos Carrasco and teammate James Hoyt for third-best (min. 150 thrown). Max Scherzer (59% in 100 PA) and Andrew Miller (52% in 58 PA) are pacing the league.

Everyone assumes the Astros will trade for a starting pitcher given the underwhelming rotation after Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, but Peacock could be their answer. A return in velocity to previously established levels, a devastating out pitch with the slider, a new approach that has curbed his substantial home run issue, and workable curveball and changeup offerings to keep hitters off balance add up to potential late bloomer status for the former Top 100 prospect.

Jordan Montgomery

Montgomery’s numbers through 10 starts don’t jump off the page, but they deserve more attention. The 24-year old rookie has the 18th-best swinging strike rate (13%) fueled by the second-best O-Swing rate (36%), behind only Zack Greinke (38%). He has a legitimate four-pitch mix that covers three velocity bands, solid fastball velocity (92 from the left side), and a true out pitch (another filthy slider), yet I don’t see many getting too excited about him. By the way, I didn’t plan to pick three arms with killer sliders, but check out what they’re doing this year with the pitch:

Sliders
Pitcher PA AVG OPS K% BB%
Montgomery 48 0.159 0.436 48% 4%
Peacock 43 0.167 0.424 51% 2%
Manaea 61 0.091 0.385 49% 7%
Lg avg (min. 140) 60 0.212 0.612 32% 6%

Eno wrote an interesting piece on him a couple weeks ago and his only hiccup since then was a couple tough innings in KC that led to a 5 IP/5 ER outing. With a career-high 139.3 innings thrown last year, there could be some workload concerns, especially as the Yankees angle for a playoff berth, but I think even status quo Montgomery is worth seeking out while also carrying the upside for more as he figures things out, especially now that he has the fancy finisher in that slider.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Asher Dratel
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Member

My biggest money league has all three of them plus Stras and Kershaw. So I feel pretty good right now.

Which means they’ll all be on the DL within 2 weeks because fantasy baseball is pain.

Sleepy
Member
Sleepy

Yeah, but at least you’ll be going out guns blazing.

Cybo
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Cybo

Still feeling good? I’m not..

Asher Dratel
Member
Member

Well thankfully Gumby helped even out that Peacock meltdown. Hey, at least now I know who the new low man is on my team!