2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Pitchers

by Tyler Thompson
2020 fantasy baseball undervalued pitchers

I've been ranking for this website since the 2017 season and it's allowed me to be able to directly compare players I rank relative to the field in real-time. It used to be this anxiety-building thing for me because I know that my name is going to be front-and-center when you click on a player's name on the FantasyPros website and I'm the highest ranker on them. My name is attached to that player's performance and the debaters hop onto their keyboards.

Last year's offseason helped me realize that my crazy rankings actually help the composite ranking more than hurt. Each ranker's unique method applies another ranking sample to create the monster that it becomes in draft season. For every player, there are rankers on both ends of the ranking scale that have to answer to the haters. This self-affirmation helped me get to my current method, which has been very successful for me.

Pitching is a prime example of the art of having many rankings compiled into one. It's so important to get as many different perspectives as possible from different fantasy analysts. Who likes the guys that are workhorses/innings-eaters that give you value over time? Who likes the upside pitchers with injury histories but electric stuff and juicy K/BB ratios?

Last year, I was finding myself attacking the latter of those two. There was a slew of high upside starters in the middle rounds that I couldn't shy away from. However, this year, it appears to be a mix of the two options. In the early to middle rounds, I've been taking veteran guys who have seemingly lost their namesake while I take my chances on pure upside late and pass on guys like Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, and other veterans that I may discuss in my overvalued pitchers article next week. Tease complete.

In any event, let's check out these undervalued pitchers! For an article very similar to this about outfielders, check out my colleague Jonathan's post!

2020 Fantasy Baseball Undervalued Pitchers

The Early Rounds

Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs (FantasyPros ADP: SP23, Overall - 75)

While the difference between my rank (SP17) versus ADP is not that large, that's a big difference considering the point of the draft where you consider drafting Darvish. To clarify, the community is drafting him as a backend SP2 in the 7th round of a 12-team league. I would have no problem drafting Darvish as the ace of my staff in a league where my first five picks were stud hitters.

The key factor in my high rating of Darvish lies in his monthly splits in 2019. His numbers improved every month throughout the season from a 5.02/5.05 ERA/xFIP in April to a 2.39/1.38 ERA/xFIP in September. In fact, he was arguably the best pitcher over the second half of the season with a 37.8% strikeout rate and a 2.2% walk rate to go along with his 2.76 ERA and 0.81 WHIP.

Also, despite yielding a four-year low in average launch angle according to Statcast, he allowed the most homers in his career last season. While the league mindset towards homers is changing and he did allow a career-high hard-hit rate, I can't imagine this continues into 2020.

I don't want to drown on too long here - I believe in Yu Darvish as a front-end SP2 and a viable SP1 when the draft calls for it. Also, for those that like to bet on NL Cy Young dark horses, I like him at +3000, which is behind 12 other starters in the league.

Carlos Carrasco, Chicago Cubs (FantasyPros ADP: SP32, Overall - 111)

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Another starter with surprisingly high odds to win his league's Cy Young, Carrasco is slipping in drafts outside of the top 110 picks. Recency bias is a cruel mistress and Carrasco is a perfect example of that.

Carrasco was drafted as an SP1 and returned SP1 value in both 2017 and 2018 before his down 2019. Those two elite seasons were almost identical in K/9, BB/9, ERA, FIP, and every other category. Last year, of course, he had the leukemia diagnosis in July and actually returned to the mound as a reliever in September after treatment. For me, given that reason, I'm willing to throw away his entire season's worth of stats and give him a fresh slate. Who knows how much the sickness affected him before the diagnosis and just for him to return at all in 2019 was a win.

He was at the bottom of the league in many Statcast-related data included average exit velocity and barrel percentage allowed. That's just not to be expected out of Carrasco at all, especially if you look at his previous seasons. A barrel rate of 12.8% is reserved for the worst pitchers in the league and is actually twice his career percentage in the Statcast era.

The only thing I can think of that is holding the community back on drafting Carrasco is his health. The draft community has a funny way of making that point, considering guys like Luis Severino, Corey Kluber, and Brandon Woodruff are going comfortably ahead of him. I love Carrasco as a back-end SP2 or top-end SP3 with SP1 upside.

Middle of the Draft

David Price, Los Angeles Dodgers (FantasyPros ADP: SP50, Overall - 172)

Price's price is sure to go up after the trade to the Dodgers because that's how recency bias and "living in the moment" works in the fantasy baseball world. We react and/or overreact to things as they happen in real-time. "Price to the Dodgers? Oh, he's going to win 20 games there."

While I'm kinda making fun of all of us in the community, I'm not here to rebuke that it's a positive move for Price. Not only are you talking about a switch to the NL and a division with four teams not likely to make the playoffs (sans Arizona), the fit in Los Angeles could be perfect. The Dodgers' philosophy regarding giving their starters phantom injuries for scheduled rest on the IL is perfect for Price, who has had some midseason injuries in two of the past three years. While this isn't perfect, it's better than losing him for an extended time and then getting subpar results upon return.

The price hasn't gone up yet. Even then, it would take quite a jump for him to surpass where I have him ranked at SP40. That would be about a three- or four-round jump for those wondering. If we get a 3.50 ERA and great K/BB ratios in 28-ish starts, Price will provide excellent value as an SP4 in any fantasy rotation.

Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels (FantasyPros ADP: SP58, Overall - 194)

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Heaney is the first player I've listed here that I feel I must do more convincing. While the K/BB numbers were awesome last year, he gave up a ton of homers (1.9 HR/9) and ended with an ERA just shy of 5.00. That's not going to help your roto ratios and left a bad taste in your mouth. I get it!

However, 2020 is a new season!

There are a few factors that lead me to believe in Heaney as an SP4 despite his back-end SP5 ADP. His FIP and xFIP from 2019 point to a much lower ERA as does his 2020 Steamer projections. If we are getting an ERA in the 4.00 to 4.20 range along with his K-rate, that's money in the bank at SP58.

Next, let's look at his nemesis - third time through the order. He's got a silky smooth curveball, his best pitch, along with a good-to-great slider. However, the changeup got destroyed last year and there's no surprise that this led to major difficulties in the third time through the order. This is strange because the changeup was an effective weapon for him in 2018. Heaney's changeup had a 0.276 wOBA against in 2018 versus a 0.352 wOBA against in 2019. That's insane! Looking further, it looks like he may have lost a feel for it given the lack of vertical drop it had in 2019 relative to previous seasons. That's something you have to believe he focused on in the offseason to stabilize his full pitch mix.

Add in the eventual return to a pseudo-six-man rotation with Shohei Ohtani's return to the mound. That should help Heaney with his health and rest between starts. There's an opportunity for Heaney to really shine here and be the new James Paxton.

Late Round Finds

Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros (FantasyPros ADP: SP70, Overall - 227)

If Grammarly makes me confirm the spelling of 'Urquidy' one more time...

So, here's the part of the draft where you don't care if these players are still on your roster by May. Take risks - live a little! Insert all the corny phrases.

Let's start with Jose Urquidy, who has a very clear path to the starting rotation in Houston. With the loss of Gerrit Cole and the trading of multiple pitching prospects to get Zack Greinke, there are two spots open. Urquidy seems to have one locked up while a couple of relievers fight over the last one. Urquidy was a breath of life for the pitching staff in the second half and postseason in 2019. He should be able to parlay that into a starting role.

With three great offspeed offerings and a fastball that runs in the mid-90's, the potential is big here. You could have a guy that turns into an SP5 for your fantasy rotation. Or you could have a total flop that you can drop for the next big thing on the waiver wire. Either way, the potential for value here far outweighs the risk in the 19th or 20th round.

Brendan McKay, Tampa Bay Rays (FantasyPros ADP: SP86, Overall - 313)

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I'm honestly surprised that McKay hasn't gotten the uncontrollable hype. I know he doesn't have a rotation spot, but it's so early in the draft season that I'm willing to give him a shot.

Let's play the 'what-if' game. What if Tyler Glasnow's recovery from wrist surgery takes longer than expected? What if Yonny Chirinos and/o Ryan Yarbrough disappoint in Spring Training, leading to a return to the bullpen? Neither of those guys has the pedigree or pure stuff that McKay has. The Rays would definitely be inclined to make that move. The point of these questions is to say it's early February and talent finds a way to break the lineup over time.

(Additionally, his bat could be another weird quirk that the Rays would want to incorporate in some new theory similar to their opener bit. Maybe have two pitchers on the field and DH for one while switching McKay and the pitcher based on the hitter? I don't know - the Rays are weird, friends.)

I don't think it's unreasonable to say that McKay has SP3/SP4 potential should he get a full season in the Rays rotation. If you're getting that potential with a 25th round pick or later, that's a fantasy season-changer. If he gets sent down to AAA after Spring Training, you can still pivot. Probably to the player on the waiver wire that you would've drafted with that pick anyway. It's a win-win scenario!

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1 comment

2020 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued Pitchers - Fantasy Six Pack February 28, 2020 - 7:01 am

[…] had fun writing up some undervalued pitchers a couple of weeks ago. Now comes the not-so-fun […]


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