In today’s Fantasy market, a Fantasy owner needs to build a foundation of his pitching staff with a couple of elite aces plus find an upside arm or two to finish off the back end of the pitching staff. Over January and February, I did the research all 30 teams, which can be found on team outlook pages (Baltimore Orioles free preview) at Scout.com.
Here is a list of the top five sleeper pitchers in 2017:
Joe is a striking throwing machine (1.1 walks per nine in minor league career) with a winning minor league resume (28-11 with 320 Ks over 337.1 innings). Over 11 games and ten starts in the majors in 2016, Musgrove finished with a 4.04 ERA and 55 Ks in 62 innings. Overall in 2016, he threw 147.1 innings at three different levels of baseball. His command will offer an edge, but the Astros may not give him a starting job out of spring training. I love his ability to throw strikes, and I expect him to be a Fantasy asset in 2017. Borderline bench option in deep leagues if he doesn’t have a starting job, but a Fantasy owner should be ready to pounce when Joe earns a starting gig.
2016 was a tough year for young pitchers with upside in major league baseball. Jose was a complete train wreck in the majors (3-7 with an 8.02 ERA). He struggled to throw strikes (5.4 walks per nine) while serving up 12 HRs over 58.1 innings. His stuff held value at AAA (10-5 with a 2.51 ERA and 125 Ks over 111.1 innings). In his career at AAA, Berrios went 16-8 with a 2.79 ERA and 211 Ks over 190 innings. His resume is elite in the minors (36-25 with a 2.89 ERA and 589 Ks over 551.2 innings), so he should come quickly when Jose gains his confidence in the majors.
Just like Berrios, Severino fell on his face in 2017. In is 11 starts, he went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA and 1.783 WHIP. Luis did pitch better at AAA (3.49 ERA with 78 Ks over 7.1 innings) while falling to pitch up to his minor-league resume (31-12 with a 2.51 ERA and 403 Ks over 401 innings). Severino looked major league ready over 11 starts in the majors in 2016 (2.89 ERA) plus he threw the ball well in relief with New York late last season (3-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 25 Ks in 23.1 innings). He needs to issue fewer walks in the majors (3.2 per nine in his career – 2.2 in the minors). Live arm that has a chance to be a SP4 in 15 team leagues this season.
Looking back at 2016, Cotton showed risk at AAA for the Dodgers (4.90 ERA) while showcasing plus K ability (119 over 97.1 innings). After a trade to the A’s, he pitched great at AAA (2.82 ERA with 36 Ks over 38.1 innings) with growth in his walk rate (1.6 – 3.0 with LA). Jharel continued his success over five starts in the majors (3.07 ERA with 23 Ks over 29.1 innings). Overall, his minor-league resume isn’t elite (3.68 ERA), but he did strike out 10.0 batters per nine innings with a low walk rate (2.6). His fastball is about league average while offering a plus changeup. Oakland tends to get a lot of young pitchers that look major league ready. Cotton offers upside for sure plus he could pitch 200 innings (155 in 2016).
With Alex Reyes out for the season with TJ surgery, Weaver will battle Michael Wacha for the fifth starting job for the Cardinals. Over three seasons in the minors, Luke went 15-9 with a 1.78 ERA and 192 Ks over 197.2 innings. His major-league stats (1-4 with a 5.70 ERA while allowing seven HRs over 36.1 innings) won’t look attractive on draft day, but he did flash upside with St. Louis over his first six starts (3.48 ERA and 39 Ks over 33 innings). His stuff should gain value when he adds more bulk (6’2” and 170 Lbs.). Intriguing buy and hold candidate.