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Very Early Pitching Trade Targets

Astros Collin McHugh - Flickr BeGreen90
Flickr - BeGreen90

Congratulations everyone, the MLB season is upon us! It is the time of year where hope springs eternal for our MLB and fantasy teams alike. Most people have completed their fantasy drafts, meaning they have made it past 1/3 of their fantasy checkpoints. Up next, roster management. It is time to evaluate our own rosters and determine where our weaknesses and strengths lie. This piece will be aimed at the owners who need to add some level of starting pitcher to their roster. I will examine starting pitchers that I would trade for who are undervalued, with some arguments to deploy while doing so.

I tried to pick pitchers at different tiers that I would target. I am not telling you to trade the world for each of these pitchers, but I am suggesting that you could buy them on the cheap. It is time to bring out the negotiator from inside! 

Why You Trade For: Wainwright has been a stalwart the past three seasons, ranking top 4 among starting pitcher in FIP, Wins, and IP among qualified starters. While Wainwright’s strikeout numbers fell in the second half of 2014, he still possesses an elite walk rate that will help minimize that harm. On draft day, Wainwright likely fell in your draft because of injury concerns (13th ADP among SP). Those injury concerns should have been answered. You will want to own Wainwright in the first half of 2015. If you expect some sort of second half, you should still be able to sell Wainwright extremely high.

How You Trade: As noted, Wainwright likely fell in your draft because of his injury concerns. In trade negotiations, highlight the drop in K rate in 2014 and his early injuries in Spring Training. And don’t be afraid to point out the projections from major websites like ESPN and Yahoo, which unfairly project Wainright’s numbers to be one of his worst seasons in the bigs.

Matt Harvey

Why You Trade For: Matt Harvey’s stock has shot up draft boards based on his healthy and impressive spring. However, the love affair hasn’t gone far enough! We all know the storyline. Matt Harvey had Tommy John surgery well over a year ago and owners don’t know what to expect in 2015. I am betting on the upside, expecting more of these career stats: 237 IP with a 2.39 ERA, 2.33 FIP, 9.88 K/9, and 0.98 WHIP. Those numbers are insane and this spring has shown us he has picked up where he left off. Matt Harvey will finish the year as a top 5 starting pitcher, now is the only time to get him at a discount.

How You Trade: This is a case very similar to Wainwright. In trade negotiations, highlight the arbitrary assumption that an innings cap has been decided in April. Lean on that fact, stating that Harvey may not be relevant in the second half of the season, including the fantasy playoffs. Once again, feel free to point out the unfairly poor projections offered by the major websites.

Why You Trade For: Among qualified starting pitchers in the past three season, Anibal Sanchez ranks in the top 25 in FIP, xFIP, and K/9. In 2014, Anibal fought through constant injuries, but still managed to post a respectable stat line when he played. Anibal is now healthy but only has an ADP of 37 among starting pitchers. Anibal represents value, likely drafted as an owners 3rd or 4th SP. In pure silliness, since 2010, Anibal has a five year K/rate of 7.25 (2010), 9.26 (2011), 7.68 (2012), 9.99 (2013), and 7.29 (2014); of course this means a K/rate of 9.55 in 2015!  

How You Trade: Remind owners how much of a nuisance it was to own Anibal in 2014. He had nagging injuries for the majority of the season, leading owners to likely frustration. Point out the drop in fastball velocity from 2013 to 2014, but don’t mention that his 2014 fastball was still faster than his 2012 fastball. Also point out that his 2014 HR/FB is unsustainable, knowing that will likely be offset by an improved LOB %.

Why You Trade For: Because 2014 stats matter and McHugh had a great season. Not only was it a great season, where McHugh finished top 20 in ERA, FIP, xFIP, and K/9, but it is repeatable! While a slight regression may occur in BABIP allowed, McHugh was right around league average in HR/FB and LOB %. McHugh’s current ADP of 47 among starting pitchers is too low. Just to highlight his 2014 season, compare his numbers to Tyson Ross who has a 2015 ADP of 25 among starting pitchers.

Ross:        195 IP, 2.81 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 3.11 xFIP, 8.97 K/9, 3.31 BB/9; ADP- 25
McHugh:    159 IP, 2.73 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 3.11 xFIP, 9.14 K/9, 2.39 BB/9; ADP- 47

How You Trade: Point to McHugh’s 2015 Spring Stats, citing his 4+ ERA (avoid his decent K:BB numbers). Use McHugh’s poor statistics before 2014, sandwiching together his poor 2015 Spring Stats, and bring out the pessimist in McHugh’s current owners. Point to McHugh’s below average fastball velocity and let the fear matriculate!

Why You Trade For: To be honest, you may not even need to trade for Miley, unless you are in an AL-only league. I think Miley will be a roster worthy starting pitcher in mixed leagues this year. To start, Miley has the benefit of having one of the best pitching coaches in baseball: John Farrell. Miley has been a consistent workhorse, logging 194+ IP each season for the last three years. That is a rare commodity to find in a waiver wire SP. While Miley’s BB/9 rate climbed from 2012-2014, so has his K/9. I think John Farrell will be able to work with Miley at walking less batters, even if he strikes out slightly less batters with that nasty slider. Finally, the move to the Red Sox and the AL East is not the typical sign of doom. Miley has a high groundball percentage that should play fine in the AL East parks, especially Fenway.

How You Trade: In all likelihood, you simply have to place that recently injured player onto the DL and simply add Wade Miley. If you have to trade for him, harp on the point that Miley is moving to the AL East and will suffer an even worse fate than his poor 2014. Of course, try and hide that any decline Miley would suffer while facing the DH will likely be made up for by a regression to the norms in all the “luck” stats.

Why You Trade For: Papelbon has been one of the most consistent relief pitchers of the past decade. Papelbon will save over 30 games and help all of your ratios, even as he ages and pitches on the dreadful Phillies. Don’t be afraid if he gets traded. I don’t see a team trading for Papelbon and then asking him to be a setup man, even if the Phillies eat a large amount of his salary. For those who fear his lack of FB velocity and declining K/9, remember that Papelbon is still hitting 93 this Spring and has a solid BB/9 among relief pitchers.

How You Trade: This aspect is the crucial part in trading for Papelbon. He has become undervalued as people mistake actual MLB player worth with fantasy value. Point out to Papelbon’s owner that he isn’t worth his MLB contract and the Phillies don’t want him on their team. Point out Papelbon’s drop in FB velocity from when he played for the Red Sox and let those fears sink in.

Why You Trade For: Benoit should close all season for the much improved Padres. Benoit’s BB/9 has never been above 3 and his K/9 is almost always above 9 or 10. In the past 5 seasons he has only had one season where he had an ERA or FIP above 3. I believe he will save 30 games and help in all ratio categories.

How You Trade: He pitches for the Padres. While we expect the Padres to improve, remind Benoit’s current owner of the recent history of the Padres franchise. Point to the Padre’s awful defensive outfield and Benoit’s high tendency for FB. 

Why You Trade For: 2014 was as bad as it can get for Joe Nathan. It would only have been worse if  the Tigers pulled him from the closer role. But let’s face it, Joe Nathan is still the closer and the Tigers will win a majority of their games. Nathan may end up hurting your ratios along the way, but if you need saves Nathan should come cheap. He is having a non-disaster of a spring and the injury to Rondon only helps Nathan keep his grasp on the 9th inning gig.

How You Trade For: Make a ham sandwich and show the owner Nathan’s 2014 stats. Your trade should be complete.

Other Starting Pitchers Who Are Undervalued:

Other Relief Pitchers Who Are Undervalued:

Relief Pitchers Who Will Be Closing In August That May Shock You: