Fantasy Baseball: Clay Buchholz Is a Great Buy-Low Candidate in 2017

Due to a second-half resurgence led by fewer fly balls, Buchholz could find a nice home in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies traded for right-handed pitcher Clay Buchholz in exchange for minor league prospect Josh Tobias.

While the Phillies would appear to have a pretty crowded rotation situation, Buchholz's expensive 2017 salary (he is owed $13.5 million in 2017) probably means he has a role somewhere on this starting staff.

On pure numbers, it's hard to see why Buchholz would have a spot in the rotation -- he racked up an 8-10 record and a 4.61 ERA while allowing 1.36 home runs per nine innings pitched last season.

While those numbers don't suggest fantasy success next year, a closer look reveals that Buchholz may be a great buy low candidate for fantasy baseball in 2017.

Let's take a look at a few reasons why.

Second-Half Surge

In looking at Buchholz's 2016 season, there's a big problem that sticks out.

Throughout his career, Buchholz recorded a healthy ground ball rate that hovered around 50.0% while allowing maintaining a fly ball rate around 30 or 35%

Using 2015 as an example, Buchholz posted a ground ball rate of 48.3% and a fly ball rate of 30.5% (league averages in 2015 for both were 45.3% and 33.8%, respectively).

But Buchholz regressed in 2016 by trading in ground balls for fly balls, which generally is a recipe for a disaster.

His ground ball rate dropped down to 41.2%, while increasing his fly ball rate to 43.0%. And in the first half of the year, we saw a lot of this, which led to Buchholz losing his spot in the rotation.

But for all the home runs he gave up in the first half, he turned that corner quite nicely in the second half:

Splits Innings ERA Home Runs HR/9
First Half 80.66 5.91 17 1.90
Second Half 58.66 3.22 4 0.61

August is a prime example of his return to form. Sporting a 50.0% ground ball rate, Buchholz turned in his best month of the 2016 season, posting a 2.86 ERA over 22 innings pitched with a paltry .271 wOBA allowed.

Keep the ball down, Clay.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

While Buchholz enjoyed a modicum of success pitching in Boston, make no mistake that it's a very tough park to pitch in.

In 2016, Fenway Park once again ranked as one of the strongest offensive parks in the league. Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia, however, was a bit easier to pitch in.

Note that in the table below using ESPN's Park Factor ratings, a score of 1.000 is considered neutral, and anything above 1.000 favors the hitter.

Stadium Runs Rank
Coors Field 1.368 1
Chase Field 1.225 2
Progressive Field 1.207 3
Fenway Park 1.199 4
Citizen's Bank Park 0.840 26

Buchholz's move about 300 miles southwest to Philadelphia could provide another big boost to his fantasy success in 2017.

The Mad Scientist

Buchholz joins a staff led by Bob McClure, who's shown a track record of turning pitching staffs around.

McClure joined the Kansas City Royals in 2007 and turned a pitching staff that ranked 22nd in xFIP (4.61) in 2007 to 19th (4.39) in 2008 to producing Cy Young winner Zack Greinke in 2009.

While it's easy to remember how great Greinke has been, a young 22-year-old Zach Greinke recorded a 5-17 season with a 5.80 ERA in 2005 prior to McClure's arrival.

McClure then joined the Phillies for the 2014 season and has started to work similar magic.

In 2014, the Phillies ranked 22nd in xFIP (3.88), and in the first half of 2016, the staff had jumped up to 8th (3.92) before injuries to Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola led to a tough finish.

Jeremy Hellickson, who struggled through 2015 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 4.16 xFIP, saw gains as a Phillie in 2016, posting a mark of 3.99 while also increasing his strikeout rate and reducing his walk rate.


At first blush, Buchholz's 2016 numbers don't signal a prime buy-low candidate for fantasy baseball owners next year.

A deeper dive, however, reveals that a strong second half, a positive move in ballparks, and a pitching coach with a strong track record of success all lead to a great opportunity for Buchholz.

Keep his name on your lists for those late-round and $1 bid picks, and you may reap quite a few rewards in your quest for fantasy baseball glory.