Few pitchers entered October with as much momentum as Kevin Gausman. In each month this season, the lanky right-hander’s strikeouts increased while walks decreased. On the second half WAR leaderboard, Gausman was sandwiched by Stephen Strasburg and Felix Hernandez. After going fourth overall in 2012, the Orioles’ top prospect entering the season has advanced to Baltimore’s big-league rotation ahead of schedule and will be a mainstay for the AL East champions. But while the O’s have a young starter for years to come, fantasy owners need to determine whether or not Gausman will continue to develop into an elite starting pitcher.
Entering the season, question marks surrounded Royals rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura. At 5-foot-11, could the diminutive righty channel Pedro Martinez and sustain the workload of a Major League starter? Would added innings affect the velocity of Ventura’s prodigious fastball? He answered by logging over 175 innings and maintaining the highest fastball velocity amongst all qualified starters. Now in the wild card round against the Los Angeles Angels, is the Royals’ prized rookie destined for greatness? Or should fantasy owners cash in on a fine debut campaign?
Sonny Gray: Buy or Sell?The Athletics shored up their staff for a 2014 playoff run by acquiring aces Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija. Both pitchers aren’t long for the Bay Area (Lester’s a free agent after this season, though Shark is under team control through 2015), but Oakland had its future ace already: Sonny Gray. On fantasy owners’ radars since starring at Vanderbilt, Gray was a popular breakout pick for 2014. The right-hander is cruising through first full season with 2.6 WAR, 7.84 K/9, and 3.33 FIP. Should owners cash in on Gray’s pedigree, or is the best still to come?
Garrett Richards is breaking out in a big way. Richards’ career numbers before 2014 are largely uninspiring, but with 3.6 WAR already (good for 10th best in the game), the Oklahoma product is performing like one of the best pitchers in baseball. Richards is rewarding shrewd owners for their likely minimal investment, but is there more going on under the hood to suggest selling high on the Angels’ ace?
In spring 2013, a trip to the Arizona Backfields to scout top pitching prospects for the Seattle Mariners afforded a look at a group of Indians pitchers including Scott Kazmir (later signed as a free agent with the Athletics) and Corey Kluber. Kluber was an older pitcher who’d achieved mixed results across a dozen 2012 starts. Moving behind the plate for a closer look, his command of a 90 mph fastball was impressive. However, it took a few sliders for the scouts in the stands to perk up and pay attention. And while the sum of the parts was impressive (not best pitcher in the American League impressive, WOW!), watching Kluber come off the field and walk directly to his wife and young child waiting by the locker room was a highlight of the trip from a fellow father’s perspective.
For two months, a rival owner has coveted Astros Dexter Fowler in the TDGX Experts League and offered fantasy baseball trades for the outfielder. Between struggles and injuries to my top four picks (Jose Fernandez, Eric Hosmer, Gerrit Cole and Pedro Alvarez), Team ROTOscouting has been out of contention since May. But while other bottom teams have pawned off veteran talent for prospects, my 40-man roster includes few, if any players above 30. So when the inquiring team repeatedly asked for Fowler, the outfielder didn’t fit the profile of a player typically sold off at this time of year.
As the MLB trade deadline looms, a similar zero hour awaits most fantasy owners as the last big chance to improve their team’s fortunes is about to slip away. What is the key to making a move to push one’s team over the top? A former MLB executive explains how fantasy should mirror reality.
In the TDGX Experts League, Johnny Cueto is my top trade chip. In this dynasty/keeper league format, the right-handed pitcher can be kept through the rest of his career. Performing like an ace and sitting in the bottom half of the standings, it is time to shop the Reds’ 28-year old star. In fact, he’s the second ranked player in CBS as of today. So why then have offers for his services been so underwhelming? Has the statement, “never spend on pitching” been taken too far?
Martin Perez has been one of baseball’s best starters over the first month of the 2014 season. Combining a plus change-up with a low-90s sinker, Perez cruised to a 26-consecutive scoreless innings streak- including back-to-back complete game shutouts. Despite Tuesday’s outing against Oakland (he gave up eight earned runs in 4.2 innings), Perez has the stuff and makeup to be a mainstay in the Rangers rotation for the next decade. For the Rangers, the answer is obvious- they signed him to an extension during the off-season, locking him up through 2020. For fantasy owners, the answer is much less straightforward.
Since his 2005 debut, Felix Hernandez has been an elite Major League pitcher. From 2008 through 2013, “King Felix” has been top five in innings pitched, ERA, FIP, HR/9 and WAR. We throw the word ‘ace’ around too often, but Hernandez is one due to his combination of skills and consistency.
1-On-1 ROTO Strategy Session
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