Did You Realize … 2013 Fantasy Sleepers Edition (Pitchers)

In this week’s “Did Your Realize,” we take a look at a group of under-appreciated and/or relatively unknown pitchers who are poised for breakout years in 2013.

Keep these guys in mind next March as some of the players who will likely be undervalued in next year’s fantasy drafts.

Since I’m an unapologetic Oriole fan who has spent the better part of the last decade standing by a team that lost to “Yankees” more often then a British platoon in a Revolutionary war reenactment, we’re going to start off with an Oriole.

Zach Britton

What THEY See (Year-to-date statistics):

  • 52 IP (9 starts)
  • 5-1
  • 4.15 ERA
  • 1.44 WHIP
  • 46 K’s

What I See (Britton’s last 4 starts):

  • 28.2 IP
  • 4-0
  • 0.94 ERA
  • 1.01 WHIP
  • 29 Ks

I covered Britton in great detail last Wednesday, which you can access here, so I’ll cut to the chase: I think Britton is the real deal.

No, he’s not going to post a sub-1.00 ERA for the rest of his career, but an ERA in the low-to-mid 3s is very realistic.

The reason I think Britton has a chance to be elite is because in addition to inducing tons of ground balls, Britton has been striking batters out at an uncharacteristically high clip (over 1 per inning over his last 4 starts).

And as I discussed in my article on Britton on Wednesday, the increased strikeouts do not appear to be a fluke. Rather, I believe they are the product of Britton having perfected his slider, which now gives him four pitches that he can throw with confidence (Sinker, 2-seamer, Slider, Change).

I legitimately expect Britton to have 15+ wins next year to go along with a sub 3.5 ERA and over 150 Ks. And I also legitimately expect Britton to be available in fantasy drafts much later than a guy who has the potential to put up those kind of numbers.

Jeff Samardzija

What THEY See (Year-to-date statistics):

  • 8-13
  • 3.91 ERA
  • 1.26 WHIP
  • 171 Ks (in 165.2 innings)

What I See (Year-to-date statistics minus the month of June)

  • 8-9
  • 2.85 ERA
  • 1.16 WHIP
  • 151 K’s in 142.1 innings


I remember watching Jeff Samardzija at Notre Dame and seeing this stallion of a man:

jeff-samarzija-fantasy-baseball-sleeper-2013

Now, he looks like this:

jeff-samardzija-hair

 

He looks sort of like a cross between Kenny Powers and Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride.

Honestly, I’m not even sure where to begin. I would love to know what was going through Samardzija’s head when he woke up and decided that getting a soul-patch would be a good idea. I thought the only people who had those were registered sex offenders and celebrities with the name “Billy” (i.e. Billy-Bob Thorton, Billy-Ray Cyrus…).

And then there’s the 80s porn stasche. Well actually, that’s a bad analogy because 80s porn stars actually combed their mustaches–whereas Jeff Samardzija probably doesn’t even own a mustache comb (which frankly, is sacrilege).

But even if Samardzija were secretly moonlighting as a porn actor, and while browsing the web I “happened” across one of his films, I’m guessing that I wouldn’t be giving the video more than a 1-star rating–even if his female counterpart were Minka Kelly.

So to recap, not a fan of Samardzija’s look.

I am, however, a big fan of his pitching.

If you throw out Samardzija’s horrific 5-start stretch in June, he has a 2.85 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and 151 K’s in 142.1 innings with an almost 4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those are elite numbers–CY young caliber numbers in fact. Fantasy ace numbers for sure.

It’s also important to remember that Samardzija is still relatively young (27) and is currently spending his very first year as a full-time starting pitcher in the major league.

Furthermore, Samardzija’s control has rapidly improved this year (he’s walked roughly the same amount of batters as he did in 2011 but in almost twice as many innings).

Put this all together and what you get is a 2013 dark horse NL Cy Young candidate.

Brandon Morrow

Year-To-Date Statistics:

  • 8-5 (through 16 starts)
  • 2.94 ERA
  • 1.05 WHIP
  • 85 Ks
  • 3/1 Strikeout-to-walk ratio.

What THEY See: Too small of a sample size.

What I See: A former top prospect who has finally made the jump to top-of-the-rotation MLB starter.

The Mariners thought they were getting an ace in 2006 when they drafted Morrow with the 5th overall pick of the MLB amateur draft. Three years later, they had all but given up on him–trading him away for an above average relief pitcher (Brandon League) and a prospect who is currently hitting .230 in AA-ball.

I haven’t seen such a bad return on a pricey investment since my grandmother used most of her retirement fund on Facebook stock.

The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have used more patience with Morrow, and in just three years time they have been rewarded more handsomely than Bernie Madoff’s clients in the mid-90s.

I realize Morrow has missed a bunch of the season due to injury, but my god, how has he flown THIS FAR under the radar? We’re talking about a guy who has a 9.97 K/9 ratio since he became a full time starter for the Blue Jays in 2010.

How good is a 9.97 K/9 ratio for a starting pitcher? Consider this: since 2010, of all the starting pitchers who have pitched at least 180 innings, there is only 1 player with a higher K/9 ratio than Morrow’s–Stephen Strasburg. That’s pretty good company to be in.

Another encouraging trend is that Morrow’s WHIP has been steadily declining since 2009 (when he was first used as a starting pitcher). Over this time period, his yearly WHIP has dropped from 1.58 (in 2009) to 1.38 (in 2010) to 1.29 (in 2011) to 1.05 (this year). This is especially important for Morrow given that the biggest knock on him has been his apparent “control issues.”

So to go back to Morrow’s current sub-3 ERA and almost 1 WHIP, these aren’t anomalies. They are the logical consequences of a pitcher–with some of the nastiest stuff in all of baseball–improving his control.

My suggestion is to buy in on Morrow and buy in hard. When he is one of fantasy’s top 5 starters in 2013, feel free to write me a thank you email.

Vinnie Pestano

Year-to-date-statistics:

  • 59.2 IP
  • 1.96 ERA
  • 1.02 WHIP
  • 34 holds

What They See:  The set-up man on a bad team behind an All Star, who won’t become a free agent until 2015.

What I See: Next year’s closer for the Cleveland Indians and one of fantasy’s top 5 relief pitchers.

While he may not be very well known outside Cleveland, and while he sounds more like a local Pizzeria owner than a baseball player, Vinnie Pestano has been one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball for two years running.

But just being an awesome middle-reliever doesn’t make Pestano very valuable to fantasy owners. When it comes to middle-relievers having potential fantasy value, there are 3 factors to consider:

  1. The pitcher’s actual statistics
  2. The pitcher’s ability to maintain a high-level of performance in more “high leverage” situations
  3. Opportunity for saves (i.e. becoming the team’s closer)

Pestano’s actual statistics are mind-bogglingly good. His career statistics (dating back to 2010) include a 2.20 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and 158 Ks (in only 126.2 innings). His statistics this year are even better.

But when it matters the most, Pestano has been even better.

In 38 of his 53 appearances, Pestano has entered the game in “save situations” and he has held the lead in 36 of those 38 appearances (34 holds and 2 saves). Furthermore, his statistics over those 38 appearances are unreal: 1.42 ERA, .82 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, an almost 4/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a miniscule .214 batting average against.

So based on his stats and his performance in high-pressure situations, Pestano appears ready for the big time.

The bad news is that the guy in front of him, Chris Perez is a 2-time All Star who is currently the face (or at least the “beard”) of the organization and is under team control until 2015.

The good news is that Perez is much more expensive than Pestano and simply isn’t as good (3.00+ ERA in 2011 and 2012). That and the fact that over the past month, Perez has been throwing Indians management under the bus and cursing out fans more often then he has been saving ballgames.

Mark my words, Vinnie Pestano is the Indians closer next year and a damn good one at that.

*****

Next week we’ll do part 2 of this segment where we discuss the hitters flying under the radar that are poised for a big 2013.



About Andrew Schwartz

Andrew Schwartz is a Maryland native, who has also lived in Rochester (NY), New Orleans, and San Diego. Schwartz has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester, a Law degree from Tulane University, and probably used Degree deodorant this morning. Despite playing in numerous fantasy football leagues for over a decade, Schwartz believes the television show "The League," would be much better if it excluded all fantasy sports references. While Schwartz's favorite sports movies are "Warrior," and "The Natural," he suggests that you watch the 1991 college football comedy "Necessary Roughness" at your earliest convenience. You can email Schwartz at drewcando1@gmail.com

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