5 Struggling Pitchers You Shouldn't Give Up On
We're only a few weeks into the fantasy baseball season, but sometimes it's hard not to overreact to your player(s) performing poorly. With starting pitchers only taking the mound once or twice a week, their sub-par outings are even more amplified than regular position players, thus exacerbating our frustrations.
But don't fret -- some pitchers who've performed poorly to start the year should be just fine. Let's take a look at a handful of them.
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays
This might be an obvious choice because of his pedigree, but Archer has had three suspect starts to the young season, with his most recent being two earned-run outing in 5.1 innings against the highly mediocre Cleveland Indians. While that isn't a terrible start by any means, it really falls short of an ace's expectations against below-average team.
Archer's 5.87 ERA through three games might scare some people off, but his poor start has more to do with a ridiculously high and unsustainable .436 BABIP against. His 3.26 SIERA and elite strikeout per nine (K/9) rate are the underlying stats you should be paying attention to, which are a much better indication of his talent.
Michael Pineda, New York Yankees
Pineda has had a tough start to the season, and some of it has to do with tough assignments against Toronto and Houston in his first two starts. He's been somewhat of a polarizing player in his career as a once highly-touted prospect coming up in the Mariners organization, to now being given the injury prone label. Pineda holds a 6.55 ERA so far this season, but he should be able to right the ship -- his home run per fly ball percentage sits at an astronomical 37.5% which, in a small sample size, can happen when you face potent offenses like the Astros and Blue Jays. But that'll eventually regress to the league average as the season moves on.
Last season was a tale of two halves for Pineda. His K/9 dropped from 9.39 to 7.45, his xFIP jumped from 2.75 to 3.36, and he allowed a 33.3% Hard Hit Percentage the final two months of the season. Injuries may have played a part in the second half, which has me a little gun-shy to make a move on Pineda in season-long leagues, but you should give him some real consideration as a DFS option any time he takes the hill, as he often comes at a discount compared to the uber-elite pitchers, yet still possesses similar upside.
Nathan Eovaldi, New York Yankees
Sticking with the Yankees, Pineda's rotation mate in Eovaldi is also experiencing some struggles in the early goings of the 2016 MLB season. With a 6.94 ERA through his first two starts, it might seem as though the young flamethrower is never going to truly right the ship. While I don't ever expect Eovaldi to become an ace, his underlying stats give you some real hope that a bounce back is on the horizon. Like his teammate above, Eovaldi has had two terrible matchups with Houston and Toronto -- teams who can make even the most elite of pitchers look like Jerome Williams on any given day -- to start the season.
While his ERA is sitting among the worst in the league, his 2.75 SIERA (good for 12th best among qualified pitchers), a Kershaw-esque 30% strikeout rate and a 4% walk rate shows that he's been pitching much better than you would expect looking at surface stats. And, again, don't expect Eovaldi to be an ace-caliber pitcher, but he should be able to bounce back nicely, especially when you consider his 2016 home run per fly ball rate sits at an absurd 25% compared to his 7.5% career average.
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
This one kind of feels like cheating because he's such a elite talent, but nevertheless, Fernandez warrants mentioning here.
Through two starts, Fernandez holds an ugly 5.06 ERA, and while that is a microscopic sample size and his injury history might give people some pause, don't let that devalue your outlook on the young Marlins phenom. His SIERA sits at a third-best 2.14, his K/9 is at a ridiculously high 15.9 (this will regress some, but it's nice to see him getting the punchouts), and his WHIP is still an elite 1.13.
While this isn't a high-percentage strategy by any means due to the variance in daily fantasy baseball, one of the things I love doing is fading the top pitcher of the day in big tournaments. As the ace of the Marlins, Fernandez is often on the same slate as other top options like Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta, but because the points you get for a pitcher's win in DFS is so crucial, people tend to gravitate elsewhere for their starting pitcher fearing Jose won't receive enough run support from the Marlins' offense. This allows you to roster Jose Fernandez, a pitcher with just as much strikeout potential as any pitcher in baseball, at a fraction of the ownership percentage as other aces with better offenses behind them.
This could help tonight.
Wade Miley, Seattle Mariners
I didn't want to pick another struggling ace for this last selection, so I did some deeper digging on this one.
Wade Miley was once looking like a solid up-and-coming pitcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks several years ago and then wound up pitching for the Red Sox in the offensively-potent AL East last season and was entirely underwhelming. The Red Sox shipped Miley to Seattle in the offseason, and after two starts, he's the (un)proud owner of an atrocious 8.25 ERA.
Again, this far in the season we're dealing with extremely small sample sizes, so it's tough to really bank two or three games worth of stats. However, there are a few things that give me hope that Miley can palatable pitching option once again, with the most obvious being a move from the Fenway and AL East to a pitcher-friendly ballpark in Safeco Field.
In addition to the park shift, Miley has accrued a 13% swinging strike rate thus far, ranking him 11th among qualified pitchers. We shouldn't expect him to stay at that percentage all season, but we did see him touch as high as 9.7% back when he was on the Diamondbacks in 2014 when he averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings.
Miley is by no means a sure-fire bounce-back candidate because of his career inconsistencies, but he is worth a look as a back-end option in season-long fantasy leagues, and a potential cap-saving pitching option in daily fantasy (provided his matchup isn't a nightmare) if you play on a site that uses two starting pitchers.