Articles by Paul Sporer

Sporer covers pitching for RotoWire. He also writes for Baseball Prospectus and publishes an annual guide on starting pitchers. In his spare time, he roots for the Tigers.

Three Deep-League Keepers

The 2015 season is winding down and for some teams, it’s already time to look toward 2016. Hopefully many of you are still hanging on every pitch in the midst of your pennant chase, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you have to start planning a little sooner than you wanted. Or maybe you get to start planning sooner. It totally stinks to have a losing in a fantasy keeper league, but it does allow you to get a jump on your 2016 keepers.

There are many different league types so not all keepers are created equally. Some leagues are just straight up keepers, you pick your three best players with no restrictions and go. Others cost a draft round creating different values and of course auction leagues have the dollar values and contract situations. Today I’m focusing on some deeper league keepers. Even if your 10-team mixed league uses draft round values, these guys likely wouldn’t make the cut because you are likely to have several better options.

These guys are definitely great Only-league keeper options and they deserve consideration in deeper mixed leagues, especially if round or dollar values are in play because they are almost certain to be inexpensive:

Jonathan Schoop [2B, BAL] – Schoop showed some power in his 2014 rookie campaign with 16 HR in 481 PA, but that was the extent of his production as it was paired with a .209/.244/.354 line as the primary second baseman with the Orioles. Schoop hit the ground running in April showing the power from last year with a lot less swing-and-miss yielding a .259/.310/.630 with 3 HRs in 29 PA. It was a tiny sample, but it started to build some excitement around the 23-year old before a takeout slide ripped his PCL and cost him two-plus months of the season.

Evan Gattis Isn’t Ruining Your Season

Ask almost anyone what they think of Evan Gattis’ season – especially someone who was high on him coming into the season – and you’ll hear about how much of a disappointment he has been in 2015. Gattis has a .243 AVG, 22 HRs, and 69 RBIs through Wednesday. He ranks third among catchers and is basically having the same season as Brian McCann, who sits second to Buster Posey. Both Gattis and McCann have 22 HRs, Gattis has a .243 AVG with 69 RBIs and 53 R while McCann has a .245 AVG with 75 RBIs and 49 R.

Gattis has matched or tied his career-highs in the pertinent categories (save AVG where his best was last year’s .263) and even though he has needed more time to do that (his 478 PA are 71 more than his previous high), he still has over a month to pad these numbers. And he pissed away a whole month with his wretched April (.164 AVG, 2 HRs). For him to be heading into September on pace for a 28/87 season at catcher can’t be considered a disappointment.

Using Statcast to Identify Underrated Players

The emergence of Statcast has been one of the best parts of the 2015 season. MLB Network has done a great job utilizing the new tool to break down plays all season long, whether it’s pitching, hitting, running, or defense. The tool has brought a lot of great new data to all facets of the game. One of my favorite stats that we’ve seen is the Exit Velocity for hitters. Velocity for pitchers is one of the most telling stats available and while pitchers can succeed without it, having it definitely increases the margin for error and bumps up the ceiling.

Exit Velocity isn’t a perfect parallel for hitters, but it is still very useful. If you’re regularly crushing the ball, good things are going to happen. Rarely is a guy excelling in Exit Velocity and having nothing to show for it in his results. Just as with pitcher’s velocity, a high EV doesn’t guarantee stardom, but it’s hard to be a total dud when ranking amongst the leaders of either category. Exit Velocity can substantiate a breakout or help identify some undervalued assets. The wonderful BaseballSavant.com has EV Statcast data available for our viewing pleasure so let’s start with the Top 20:

Call to Arms – Wednesday

Picking pitchers in DFS is the most important part of the game as they routinely generate the most points. I’m going to try and aid in that picking process with some arms I like. I won’t have a set number because it will vary day-to-day and it won’t be a guaranteed everyday thing because sometimes the slate just isn’t appealing enough to give firm recommendations. That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily pass on playing, just that I don’t want to offer some tepid endorsements that I’m not even all that comfortable with using myself.

Generally, I’ll try to include at least one lower level pick, too. I’ll be using DraftKings pricing so this will usually be someone who checks in at $8,000 or less.

Corey Kluber, CLE at BOS ($11,200) – Another tough day with the ace-level arms. Dallas Keuchel is at home, but TB is tough on lefties (2nd in wRC+), Jaime Garcia has a Giants team that sits eighth against lefties (though they did just lose Hunter Pence), and Noah Syndergaard has had a distinct home/road split and he’s in Baltimore against a strong O’s offense, so I’m jumping back on the Kluber Train.

Call to Arms – Friday

Picking pitchers in DFS is the most important part of the game as they routinely generate the most points. I’m going to try and aid in that picking process with some arms I like. I won’t have a set number because it will vary day-to-day and it won’t be a guaranteed everyday thing because sometimes the slate just isn’t appealing enough to give firm recommendations. That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily pass on playing, just that I don’t want to offer some tepid endorsements that I’m not even all that comfortable with using myself.

Generally, I’ll try to include at least one lower level pick, too. I’ll be using DraftKings pricing so this will usually be someone who checks in at $8,000 or less.

I didn’t play Wednesday because I had softball and then I made my lineup very late Thursday so no CTA for either day. Here are my Friday picks, though:

Corey Kluber, CLE at MIN ($10,600) – Kluber has had a remarkably frustrating season for both DFSers and season-long fantasy players alike. He has a 3.46 ERA and just a 7-12 record despite K and BB rates nearly identical to his Cy Young campaign at 27% and 5%, respectively, after a 28%/5% combo in 2014. The 3.46 ERA isn’t killing anyone’s season-long team, nor is lower-than-expected wins total (this is why we constantly say that W-L records aren’t useful analogs to determine a pitcher’s value), but the inconsistency has been maddening.

Call to Arms – Tuesday

Picking pitchers in DFS is the most important part of the game as they routinely generate the most points. I’m going to try and aid in that picking process with some arms I like. I won’t have a set number because it will vary day-to-day and it won’t be a guaranteed everyday thing because sometimes the slate just isn’t appealing enough to give firm recommendations. That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily pass on playing, just that I don’t want to offer some tepid endorsements that I’m not even all that comfortable with using myself.

Generally, I’ll try to include at least one lower level pick, too. I’ll be using DraftKings pricing so this will usually be someone who checks in at $8,000 or less.

Sorry for the late posting today.

Scott Kazmir HOU at SF ($10,200) – Kaz is dominating for him new club with 0.44 ERA in 20.3 IP. The strikeouts are down at 13, but that’s more of a small sample size thing than anything else. I still think he’s the eight-ish strikeouts per nine guy we’ve seen the last three years since his return (8.3 K/9 in 478.3 IP). The Giants aren’t hitting lefties too well since the break with a .288 wOBA – good for just 23rd in the league.

Call to Arms – Monday

Picking pitchers in DFS is the most important part of the game as they routinely generate the most points. I’m going to try and aid in that picking process with some arms I like. I won’t have a set number because it will vary day-to-day and it won’t be a guaranteed everyday thing because sometimes the slate just isn’t appealing enough to give firm recommendations. That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily pass on playing, just that I don’t want to offer some tepid endorsements that I’m not even all that comfortable with using myself.

Generally, I’ll try to include at least one lower level pick, too. I’ll be using DraftKings pricing so this will usually be someone who checks in at $8,000 or less.

Chris Sale ($12,000) CWS v. LAA – The light slate (7 games) basically makes Sale a cash game auto-play. Only he and Johnny Cueto check in north of $10K and while Sale hasn’t been at his sharpest of late, there are no real reasons to be worried. His velo was down in the most recent outing, but fine in the other hiccups (he has struggled in three of four). Despite just 12.3 points in his last two starts combined, he’s still averaging 24.3 PPG over his last 10. The Angels have been poor against lefties this year sitting 22nd in wOBA and even worse lately (25th over the last month).