Mound Musings: Targeting 2017 – National League

Mound Musings: Targeting 2017 – National League

This article is part of our Mound Musings series.

So, are you in the hunt for a title, or have you moved into "wait 'til next year" mode? If your season is (or already has) slipping away, that doesn't mean your job is done. In fact, if you are playing in a keeper or dynasty league, this is a great time to do your homework for next year, and even lay the foundation for a big year in 2017. This week we'll look at players to target in the National League, and next week we'll take a spin through the American League. This year's contenders might be salivating over your expiring or exorbitant contracts. That's a good thing. Here's your chance to land that blue chip kid at a very nice price. Let's see who tops the list of pitchers who are establishing themselves as players to target:

Noah Syndergaard (Mets) – "Thor" has a fastball with hop that averages 98 mph and frequently touches triple digits. Add in a repertoire of breaking pitches and off-speed offerings, all of which he can throw for strikes, and you have a recipe for ongoing success at an exceptionally high level. His 171/30 K/BB in 140 innings this year could quite literally be the tip of the iceberg as he's still learning on the job and adjusting as hitters attempt to solve him. The key will be improved efficiency so he can routinely get deeper into games, but that's likely to come easily. Syndergaard has a scary ceiling.

Jameson Taillon (Pirates)

So, are you in the hunt for a title, or have you moved into "wait 'til next year" mode? If your season is (or already has) slipping away, that doesn't mean your job is done. In fact, if you are playing in a keeper or dynasty league, this is a great time to do your homework for next year, and even lay the foundation for a big year in 2017. This week we'll look at players to target in the National League, and next week we'll take a spin through the American League. This year's contenders might be salivating over your expiring or exorbitant contracts. That's a good thing. Here's your chance to land that blue chip kid at a very nice price. Let's see who tops the list of pitchers who are establishing themselves as players to target:

Noah Syndergaard (Mets) – "Thor" has a fastball with hop that averages 98 mph and frequently touches triple digits. Add in a repertoire of breaking pitches and off-speed offerings, all of which he can throw for strikes, and you have a recipe for ongoing success at an exceptionally high level. His 171/30 K/BB in 140 innings this year could quite literally be the tip of the iceberg as he's still learning on the job and adjusting as hitters attempt to solve him. The key will be improved efficiency so he can routinely get deeper into games, but that's likely to come easily. Syndergaard has a scary ceiling.

Jameson Taillon (Pirates) – The organization has built quite a name with quality young arms like Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow, but Taillon is making quite a case for moving his name to the top of the list. He's not quite as dominating as Syndergaard – at least not yet – but he has walked just nine in 66 innings while striking out 52. He missed all of two seasons (2014 and 2015) with injuries including Tommy John surgery, but he has come out firing; reminding people why he was the second overall draft pick in 2010. His performance is driving his 2017 price tag higher, but he's only going to get better.

Julio Urias (Dodgers) – People may look at his 51 2016 innings with a balky 1.59 WHIP and equally ho-hum 4.41 ERA, and discount him as an over-hyped kid. However, the operative word there is "kid" as he generated most of that at age 18 – he didn't turn 19 until earlier this month. Urias is arguably the best prospect in the game (with apologies to Lucas Giolito who would probably also fit well on this list). It should be noted that his numbers have been somewhat tainted by a little bad luck, and some uncharacteristic struggles with command. Those will work out and he'll gradually establish himself as yet another in the distinguished line of Dodgers' hurlers. This might be your last chance to own him at even a modest discount, so don't miss out.

Aaron Nola (Phillies) – Nola came out of LSU in 2014 with an already well-developed repertoire that propelled him into the Phillies rotation less than a year later. He's not overpowering, averaging just over 90 mph with his fastball, but he has excellent command of his breaking pitches and has shown an ability to miss bats. He's not going to become an "ace" but he offers quite a bit to a fantasy team as a reliable and productive innings eater. He experienced an elbow strain this season, which lead to less attractive peripherals, and the Phillies are being understandably cautious. All of that will just help to keep his price down on draft day next spring.

Brandon Finnegan (Reds) – The Reds have several young arms already with the big team or getting close in the high minors. Finnegan came over from Kansas City last year, and has taken a regular turn in the rotation throughout the current season. In 2017 when the other prospects arrive, he could be one of the greybeards in the rotation at age 23. His results in 2016 have been mixed, he's 7-9 with a 1.42 WHIP and a 4.54 ERA over 134 innings. Too many walks and too many home runs, especially against right-handed hitters have hurt – he's allowed 26 long ones, 25 against righties – but as his off-speed offerings become more consistent, he could take a big step forward.

Matt Moore (Giants) – This pick requires a bit of a leap of faith. Once considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game, Moore dismantled batting orders with bravado as he worked his way through the minors. Like many young southpaws, his command of the strike zone was always a work in progress, but he made up for that by being nearly unhittable. But, then the injuries set in. He made just two starts in 2014, came back too soon in 2015 only to get battered, before returning late in the year. The time off has cost him some command, and his velocity is just coming back. He has been unremarkable this season and now moves to San Francisco. He's a strong breakout candidate.

Rubby De La Rosa (Diamondbacks) – All the signs pointed to a breakout year this season. Following his start on May 15, his WHIP was an encouraging 1.09, he carried an ERA of 3.53, and he was striking out more than a batter per inning. Then the team reported that he had a minor groin pull, the rotation was altered to give him a little extra time, but he was lit up in his next start and almost immediately went on the disabled list with "elbow inflammation." He's been there ever since, and even though Dr. Andrews said he wouldn't require surgery, he had a setback with forearm tightness. Obviously there are some question marks, but if he comes back healthy, he's worth a flyer.

Mike Foltynewicz (Braves) – He has a live arm, and shows some signs of being able to handle major league hitters, but he is going to have to develop more confidence in his off-speed stuff if he wants to remain in the rotation. Foltynewicz can get it up there in the mid-upper 90's, and he can generate some movement. In watching this season, he shows flashes of improving off-speed and breaking pitches, but they are still far too inconsistent. If he can get to the point that hitters are forced to look for something other than his fastball, he could be tough. The Braves don't have much pitching depth so he should get the chance.

There you have it – a few NL arms with a lot of positive indicators. Some aren't likely to be fantasy staff aces, but they could offer exceptional value, and that wins leagues.

Some Notable Rotation Ramblings:


  • Michael Fulmer is making quite a splash with the Tigers this year. The Tigers love the idea of a young pitcher stepping in at the major league level and then contributing right away, but don't get too carried away. He's clearly a good, solid pitching prospect, but he has over-priced in 2017 written all over him.

  • The Cardinals (and me) have to be concerned that ace Adam Wainwright was thumped badly in his last couple of outings. Just after the break he was rounding into form and pitching like we have come to expect. Then, the proverbial wheels came off. I'm not ready to give up, but reserve him until he gets it together.

  • I like Chris Sale of the White Sox just about as much as I like any pitcher (and that's saying a lot). However, I'm concerned that the high mileage might catch up to him. His velocity is down almost two ticks from last year, and he pitches deep into so many games. His violent delivery makes the mileage more problematic.

  • My nominee for Most Disappointing Starting Pitcher for 2016 might be Arizona's Patrick Corbin. I invested in him in pretty much every league, and the season has been major washout. He will move his 4-12 record with a 1.65 WHIP and 5.58 ERA to the bullpen. I admit, I'll still be tempted next year.

  • Baltimore's Chris Tillman is experiencing shoulder soreness, and the team has juggled their rotation to give him some extra rest. We've covered the trials and tribulations that are shoulder woes many times, so perhaps consider resting him yourself this weekend if possible. There could be considerable risk.

  • He may not often get the ink of his more publicized teammates (Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester) but Jason Hammel is on a noteworthy run for the Cubs. He's always been an on again/off again pitcher, and right now, with a huge 22 inning scoreless streak, he is very "on," so ride him as long as it lasts.

Endgame Odyssey:

If you were wondering, it appears Edwin Diaz is ready to take the reins and run off with the closer's gig in Seattle. He has looked really good. I thought the Indians would seize the opportunity to move in Andrew Miller as their closer, and they still might, but it looks like Cody Allen still has some leash left. Miller provides value in multiple inning appearances. It happened a little sooner than I thought it might, but the Rockies have turned to Adam Ottavino and so should you. The Royals' Wade Davis has been out twice this season with a forearm strain. He's expected back soon, but the normal closer usage pattern may not be the best role for him. In Miami, with A.J. Ramos hurt, Fernando Rodney finds himself back in a closer's role. He'll still make games a bit interesting, but he'll ring up the saves. Tony Watson appears relatively comfortable in the closer's role since taking over in Pittsburgh. Being left-handed and not overpowering, he's not the stereotypical end gamer, but he has the head for closing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brad Johnson
For more than 30 years, pitching guru Brad "Bogfella" Johnson has provided insightful evaluation and analysis of pitchers to a wide variety of fantasy baseball websites, webcasts and radio broadcasts. He joined RotoWire in 2011 with his popular Bogfella's Notebook.
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