© Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Fantasy Baseball: Don't Believe Me? Just Watch This Deep Round Sleeper Pitcher!

Is this Los Angeles Angels pitcher on your radar as a possible Fantasy sleeper?

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It's getting harder to find the elite pitchers that you can count on to anchor your staff. Finding pitchers in the middle to later rounds that can exceed value is critical to fantasy success. One of the guys on my radar is Los Angeles Angels SP Matt Shoemaker.

The Angels righthander had an odd 2016. He was one of the worst pitchers in baseball at the start of the season. In his first 24.2 innings, he allowed 25 runs. He was 1-4 with a 9.12 ERA and a 17:11 K:BB ratio. If you were still holding him on your fantasy team at that point, you likely hadn't checked your team in a while.

Then on May 16, he pitched five innings and allowed six hits, three earned runs, walked two and struck out five. Nothing impressive, but much better than his first several starts. On May 21, he pitched 7.1 scoreless innings, allowed three hits, walked none and struck out 12. He followed that start up with another great one, going 8.1 innings, allowing seven hits, two earned runs, no walks and struck out 11. What a stark difference.

Shoemaker began to use his split-finger way more and rely less on his four-seam fastball. It clearly worked, and it elevated him into one of the better pitchers during that span.

In June, Shoemaker pitched 42 innings and allowed 40 hits, walked five and struck out 45 with a 2.14 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Shoemaker wasn't as dominant in July with a 4.31 ERA but had a 3.15 ERA in August with a 25:6 K:BB ratio in 40 innings.

Shoemaker's season came to an end in September when he was hit in the head by a Kyle Seager line drive. He had a small skull fracture but has recovered well.

For the season, Shoemaker made 27 starts and went 9-13 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Those stats will not stand out if people do not remember the path Shoemaker took to get there. He had a 21.4 percent strikeout rate and 4.5 percent walk rate and discovered how much of a weapon his splitter is.

Shoemaker used the splitter 36.3 percent of the time compared to 22.2 percent in 2015 and 21.3 percent in 2014. Shoemaker had a career-best 13.1 percent swinging strike rate.

Shoemaker is usually going outside the top 15 rounds in early 15-team leagues. It has been a bumpy ride for Shoemaker is his career as he started out 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 in his rookie season in 2014 and struggled in 2015 with a 7-10 record and 4.46 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.

Shoemaker has good control, doesn't allow a lot of fly balls and threw more first-pitch strikes last season. He relied on his splitter, his best pitch, more in 2016 and it translated to success. Some might shy away from since he was hit in the head with a line drive last season, but he's ready to begin the season and a nice target late in drafts.


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