The pitching landscape isn’t what it has been in recent years, as Paul Sporer noted here and here when touting some widely available starting pitchers who can help fantasy gamers. Quality pitching is in demand for fantasy gamers, so I’m going to offer some more widely available arms to turn to for help.
Robert Gsellman (NYM): CBS – 38%, ESPN – 9.2%, Yahoo! – 17%
Gsellman entered the year with the expectation of being a helpful fantasy starter after popping up out of nowhere last season. Jeff Zimmerman recently discussed pitching non-prospects who became pitching prospects recently, and Gsellman was included in that piece. It’s not uncommon for popup pitching prospects to turn into pumpkins. After Gsellman’s first seven starts in which he recorded a 7.07 ERA (4.85 FIP, 4.36 xFIP and 4.34 SIERA), 1.79 WHIP, 7.5% BB%, 15.5% K%, 28.8% O-Swing% and 6.7% SwStr%, it looked like the clock struck midnight for the surprising 2016 breakout pitcher. The Mets removed him from the rotation briefly, and the 23-year-old pitcher made a pair of relief appearances.
He’s since been re-inserted in the rotation, and he’s looking more like last year’s version than the pitcher who stumbled out of the gate. Prior to yesterday’s start (which hadn’t taken place yet at the time of writing this) the righty has made four starts spanning 25 innings spinning a 2.16 ERA (3.67 FIP, 4.25 xFIP and 4.46 SIERA), 1.04 WHIP, 6.8% BB%, 17.5% K%, 32.4% O-Swing% and 9.2% SwStr%. Three of the starts have been quality starts, and he allowed only two runs but lasted just 5.1 innings in the other turn. Gsellman has made some changes to his pitch mix. You can see his mix in his first nine appearances (seven starts) here, and here is his mix in his last four starts before yesterday’s tilt against the Nats. According to Brooks Baseball, the sophomore hurler has scaled back his sinker usage nearly 10% while bumping up his fourseam usage 14-15%. He’s also slightly reduced his slider and changeup usage while throwing his curve more.
Gsellman struggled to miss bats initially with only two of his five pitches reaching double-digit whiff percentages in his first nine appearances. In his last four, though, his slider, curve and sinker are all above a 10% whiff percentage, with his sinker’s whiff percentage blowing up from 5.52% to 13.13%. My biggest concern is Gsellman’s lack of stand-out, put-away pitch. The sinker’s whiff rate is the highest of his offerings in the last four starts with the curve checking in just behind it at 12.77% and the slider barely breaking the 10% whiff percentage threshold at 10.2%. He’s made enough improvements to extend him a bit of leash in fantasy leagues. I would suggest rostering him in 12-team mixers or larger.
Joe Biagini (TOR): CBS – 28%, ESPN – 10.9%, Yahoo! – 25.0%
Biagini also appeared in Jeff’s linked piece above, and he also touted the right-handed pitcher earlier this month. Jeff included video of Biagini’s arsenal from a May 28 start against the Rangers as well as excellent analysis. Since that start, Biagini has turned in a pair of strong seven-inning starts in which he allowed six runs (four earned) on nine hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts. The 27-year-old is now fully stretched out as a starter after opening the year in the bullpen, and the results have been quite impressive.
In seven starts spanning 37.1 innings, the Rule 5 Pick prior to last season has recorded a 3.38 ERA (2.87 FIP, 3.68 xFIP and 3.77 SIERA), 1.04 WHIP, 5.9% BB%, 20.3% K% and 9.9% SwStr%. He features a deep arsenal that should allow him to work through lineups multiple times, and it’s helped him hold lefties to a .277 wOBA and righties to a .216 wOBA as a starter this year. His pitch mix includes some reliable put-away pitches, too, with his curve inducing a 13.5% SwStr% this year and his slider and changeup boasting SwStr% north of 19% at 19.4% and 19.7%, respectively. He’s done plenty enough to warrant universal ownership, yet he falls short of a 30% ownership rate at CBS, ESPN and Yahoo!.
Homer Bailey (CIN): CBS – 6%, ESPN – 1.2%, Yahoo! – 1%
Bailey hasn’t amassed more than 20 starts since 2014, his last year before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery. Since then, he’s pitched in only eight games at the MLB level. Last year, he started a half-dozen games recording a 6.65 ERA in 23 innings. He opened the season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in February. The 31-year-old has progressed to making a pair of rehab appearances.
Bailey’s first appearance was for Double-A Pensacola, and he was sharp spinning five shutout innings. The veteran pitcher was efficient totaling only 64 pitches in his five innings of work while punching out five batters. The only velocity reports from that start come via Doug Gray of RedsMinorLeagues.com who indicated radio announcer Tommy Thrall mentioned some fastball velocities in the low 90’s. That velocity would line up with his velocity in 2015 and 2016, and Bailey did showcase the ability to be fantasy relevant with an average fastball velocity of 92.5 mph in 2012, though, he was better operating a couple ticks faster the following year.
Bailey made his second rehab start for Single-A Dayton on Wednesday, and he was once again sharp. He spun six scoreless innings allowing just one hit and one hit batsman with six strikeouts on 76 pitches (54 for strikes). According to the Gameday boxscore on MiLB.com, Bailey recorded three flyouts and seven groundouts. Minor-league hitters won’t provide Bailey the challenges hitters in The Show will, but his two rehab appearances are encouraging nonetheless. He could be back in the Reds’ rotation by the end of the month, and I believe he’s DL-stash worthy in 14-team mixed leagues or larger.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @bchad50.