Flexibility is always important in Fantasy sports, and it’s actually a good way to find hidden value. If you know you can rely on a player in multiple spots, it makes that player even more valuable in-season.
That usually applies to hitters — witness the industry-wide hand-wringing about whether Kyle Schwarber should get catcher eligibility — but you can find hidden value at pitcher with pitchers who are going to start every fifth day but can still be used as a reliever in formats that differentiate between the two. This class of pitcher is known as a SPARP — starting pitcher at RP — and they can make a big difference in your points leagues.
There aren’t a ton of high-upside options among the SPARP crop this year, but there are a few names you need to know, who can push you over the top.
Danny Duffy is the jewel of the class, a rare SPARP who might actually have real ace potential. Duffy found another level in 2016, and it didn’t quite come out of nowhere, given his former top prospect pedigree.
Duffy had 80 starts in the majors before last season, and most of them weren’t very good. Despite his pedigree and a mid-90’s fastball, the lefty rarely missed bats, and struggled mightily with his control. He improved in both facets last season, and posted a 3.01 ERA in a 19-start stretch before fading down the stretch.
Duffy did have some homer issues, especially late in the 2016 season, but if he can get those under control, he’s a strong bet to finish as the No. 1 RP.
Talk about pedigree, Dylan Bundy has it.
The former No. 1 pitching prospect in all of baseball finally overcame his history of injury issues to contribute to the Baltimore Orioles ‘ rotation in 2016. He wasn’t great, allowing 15 homers in 14 starts and put up a 4.52 ERA as a result, but there were reasons to be optimistic, starting with the fact that he struck out more than a batter per inning as a starter.
Bundy had some control issues, and the long ball could always be an issue for a flyball pitcher in Baltimore. However, all told, this was a pretty successful first real stint in the majors for a pitcher who had thrown just 65 1/3 innings in his previous three seasons.
In the early mock drafts we’ve done, I have found myself ending up with Bundy in my RP slot, because I am willing to bet on his pedigree paying off.
Mike Montgomery didn’t have the injury issues Bundy did, but he was similarly derailed on his path to stardom after ascending the ranks of the elite prospects early in his minor-league career. His issues were more related to command and control, and though he is never going to be a specialist, Montgomery did show enough in his 100 innings in the majors to make you think he can be a contributor. And, more importantly, to make the Chicago Cubs think he can, because he has a chance to open the season in the rotation right now, pending a spring training competition.
Montgomery made just seven starts last season but held his own, posting a 3.28 ERA and 1.178 WHIP, with nearly a strikeout per inning. His control problems could sink him, but a chance to start for a team as loaded as the Cubs could make him a big value in a points league.
Andrew Triggs has started just seven games in his entire professional career, and six of them came as a major-leaguer in 2016, so it’s fair to say the 27-year-old is a long shot here. However, he did go six innings in two of his final three starts, and worked his way up to the high-80’s in pitch count, without losing effectiveness, so he might be able to hack it.
Triggs isn’t a high-upside option, but Triggs did show the ability to miss bats, and will have the advantage of pitching in the cavernous O.Co Coliseum, which could help his numbers.
There was a lot of deserved hype surrounding Luis Severino during his prospect days, and that hype deservedly evaporated during his disastrous 2016 campaign. He was tagged for a 5.83 ERA in the majors, but still managed to post a 3.61 mark with strong peripherals at Triple-A once he was sent down, and pitched well upon returning to the majors, with a 2.29 ERA in 19 2/3 innings.
Severino will still be just 23 for all of the 2017 season, so it might be too early to give up on him. He might even be worth a flier in a deeper mixed league.
As is his wont, Clay Buchholz made a late run at salvaging a disastrous by posting a 3.14 ERA in his final five starts for the Red Sox last season. Knowing Buchholz’s career arc, it’s hard to say whether what he has done recently has any predictive value. It usually hasn’t.
Pitching in the bullpen is a totally different animal from pitching as a starter, so take it with a grain of salt. But Patrick Corbin looked like a totally different animal pitching out of the bullpen last season.
After sporting a 5.58 ERA in his 24 starts, Corbin allowed just seven runs in 23 1/3 innings, with a 28.6 percent strikeout rate. Like I said, pitching out of the bullpen is totally different, and that may not mean anything moving forward. On the other hand, Corbin had a mid-3.00’s ERA in 2013 and 2015, so he has the potential.
Matt Strahm doesn’t have the pedigree, but his minor league numbers are pretty stellar. He has consistently struck out more than a batter per inning throughout his career, as both a starter and a reliever. He will have a chance to earn a job, and if he can win one, would be worth drafting in the later rounds of mixed leagues.
Matt Andriesse will have plenty of competition in the spring for the fifth starter’s job, especially with the Ray’s recent acquisition of Jose De Leon , but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get the edge for service time reasons.
Andriese struggled as a starter last season, surrendering a .759 OPS against and 4.80 ERA in 19 starts, but his peripherals indicated he could have been a mid-3.00’s ERA pitcher with a bit better luck. His home park is an advantage, and the Tampa Bay Rays have historically been pretty good defensively, so it’s not a bad spot to be, assuming you don’t have much interest in racking up wins.
The rest of the candidates
Clayton Richard , Luis Perdomo , Jesse Chavez , David Phelps , Carson Fulmer , Jeff Locke , Michael Feliz , Drew Hutchison , Chris Devenski , Chris Heston , Chris Young , Josh Collmenter , Wade LeBlanc
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / 2017 Fantasy Baseball draft strategy: Danny Duffy, Dylan Bundy the top starting pitchers with relief pitcher eligibility