Photo courtesy of Bryan Green
My absolute, unquestioned least favorite thing in dynasty leagues is acquiring pitching. The prices are always too high, the risk is too great, and I’m just not one to dump potential offense for the most volatile of positions. “Pfffft, Ralph, pitching is half the game bro!” True, kind of. While it might be half the categories, it’s much more of a collective effort. Your pitching is rarely bolstered by 4-5 aces. It just doesn’t happen frequently and consistently over a sustained period. You need to build a staff that can compete in all categories without laying out the capital to acquire pricey (and often injury prone) aces. So let’s talk some arms that the market is undervaluing in one way or another. Based on the skills, pitch mix, efficiency, or all of the above, these players are worth following, watch listing, and targeting for 2019 dynasty baseball leagues.
Corbin Martin, RHP | Houston Astros | 2018 Levels: A+/AA | Draft: 2017 Draft round 2 pick 20 (56th overall)
Pitch Arsenal: Four-seam Fastball (92-95 t96), Slider (83-87), Curveball (77-80), Changeup (84-86)
2018 Statistics: 122.0 IP, 2.51 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 9 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, .199 BAA
One of my favorite arms coming out of the Top 30 season here at P-Live, tasked with the Astros system, I grew a new found appreciation for the former Texas A&M swingman. The righthander epitomizes the ‘Stros archetype with a plus fastball in the mid-90s, two above-average or better breaking balls, and feel for a changeup. Martin has the makings of a potential mid-rotation starter without the price tag many of his counterparts carry. With a good stretch of ball at the Double-A level already under his belt it’s possible he sees the majors early in 2020. Take a look at the below graphs and you can see just how consistent Martin was throughout his time in AA. His strikeout rate dropped, but he refined his control, while also keeping his FIP below 4.00 outside of a single 10 day stretch.
Tony Gonsolin, RHP | Los Angeles Dodgers | 2018 Levels: A+/AA | Draft: 2016 Draft Round 9 Pick 25 (281st Overall)
Pitch Arsenal: Four-seam Fastball (94-96), Slider (88-91), Curveball (77-79), Split-Changeup (85-86)
2018 Statistics: 128 IP, 2.60 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 29 K%, 8 BB%, .213 BAA (17 GS in A+, 9 GS in AA)
The Dodgers have a knack for identifying talented players that slip through the cracks for one reason or another. Tony Gonsolin is one such player. A breakout 2018 put the former two-way player at St. Mary’s on the map, but I think many didn’t truly appreciate Gonsolin’s skill set until this off-season. His pitch-mix features a high spin four-seamer in the mid-90s, a splitter, and two breaking balls that flash above average. It’s a really nice skill set with great feel for his pitches. There’s some thought amongst the industry that he breaks in as a multi-inning reliever. Given the Dodgers options it makes sense, but make no mistake Gonsolin has the stuff to start in the bigs as soon as this year. An underrated talent you can acquire for little cost in dynasty.
Luis Oviedo, RHP | Cleveland Indians | 2018 Levels: SS/A | International: Signed 2015 International for $375,000
Arsenal: Fastball (94-98), Curveball (77-78), Slider (73-78), Changeup (81-84)
2018 Statistics: 57 IP, 2.05 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 10.58 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, .189 AVG
Despite missing our Top 100 list, the native of Venezuela has plenty of fans around Prospects Live HQ. Armed with a fastball that sits 94-98 with movement, two breaking balls that flash above-average, and feel for a changeup, Oviedo has a great foundation of skills. The clean mechanics lead to consistent strike-throwing, and his athletic 6’4 build looks ready to handle a starter’s workload. He’s streamlined his delivery since his first few professional campaigns, cutting down on wasted motion and getting the most from his strong lower half. Which makes his jump in velocity over the last 12 months likely more than just a player getting their ‘man muscles’. Both of his breaking pitches generate swings and misses, with his big curveball being the better of the two. The jump in velocity from high-80s to sitting mid-90s with his four-seamer has transformed Oviedo’s profile. His combination of projection, stuff, and pitch mix makes him a great arm to gamble on in dynasty leagues.
Dean Kremer, RHP | Baltimore Orioles | 2018 Levels: A+/AA | Draft: Round 14, Pick 25 (LAD) (431st Overall)
Arsenal: Fastball (91-94), Curveball (74-76), Slider (80-82), Circle-Changeup (83-85)
2018 Statistics: 131.1 IP, 2.88 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 12.2 K/9, 3.87 BB/9, .223 BAA
While less exciting from a stiff perspective, the Orioles’ Kremer combines good feel for a trio of pitches and a deceptive delivery honed by the Dodgers player development factory. The first Israeli player ever drafted, Kremer came over in the Manny Machado deal with little fanfare. Following the trade, the right-hander made eight starts racking up a 3.04 FIP and 19.3% K-BB. His ability to miss bats with his fastball despite sub-standard velocity is due to a release point that baffles righties and combination of two swing-and-miss secondaries in his curveball and changeup. His slider is a clear fourth offering, but its current fringe form could improve with focus.
There’s some risk he ends up a multi-inning type, but the Orioles lack of depth in the pitching ranks should afford him an opportunity to prove otherwise. The numbers jump off the page and if you dig into his game logs you might find some of his most impressive numbers. Kremer had double-digit swinging strikes in 18 of his 25 appearances, and his 14 SwStr% was seventh amongst pitchers with 130 or more innings. He’s adept at stealing strikes too, with double-digit looking strikes in an equal amount of games, with a few 20+ looking strike performances. The only downside of that is Kremer works around the zone a ton, which might not necessarily be the best recipe for success in Camden Yards or versus the AL East in general. Future park and division aside, Kremer shows the ability to miss bats, keep hitter off balance and keep the ball in the ball park. Kremer only allowed three homers all of last season, all of which came after the trade. I’m not reading into that much. With swinging strikes, four pitches, and an innate ability to avoid the longball, Kremer is a buy.
Cristian Javier, RHP | Houston Astros | 2018 Levels: A+/A | International: Signed 2015 International For $10,000
Arsenal: Fastball (89-93), Curveball (75-77), Slider (79-81)
2018 Statistics: 110.0 IP, 2.70 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 11.95 K/9, 4.09 BB/9, .184 BAA
A short right-hander with middling velocity, an elongated arm action, and a big follow through. On paper or even a quick look would likely lead you to draw the conclusion that Javier is a reliever, and he very well might be. However after viewing a few Javier starts two things start to stick out to you. First is his ability to attack hitters up in the zone with his fastball for swinging strikes, and second is his sequencing despite mixing just a trio of offerings (though a rarely used changeup is a work in progress). Javier’s long wind up and three-quarters arm slot make it hard to pick the ball up out of his hand. His two breaking balls show good shape and spin, particularly his slider that darts downward with fade to the arm side, making it a tough pitch for lefties and righties alike. His 17 SwStr% was the highest in the minor leagues among pitchers that threw 100 or more innings, a testament to his deception.
If you scout the statline you might come to the conclusion that Javier was just transitioned to starting during his 2017 run through short season and two levels of A Ball, but the truth is the Astros piggyback starters in the lower minors. Javier has been on the path to starting for a few years, and came into his own in 2018. The increased workload did seem to wear on Javier, as he faded down the stretch. Look for that to be a place for improvement in 2019.
Ralph’s Note: You’ll notice that I feature three Astros in this space. (Part II will feature Bryan Abreu, Brandon Bailey, and Heitor Tokar) Part of that is my bias following the Astros system for the site, but that’s rooted in my appreciation for their approach. A willingness to embrace an archetype pitching prospect, advanced analytics, and programs like Driveline. The Astros are on the precipice of the next wave of player development evolution, and players like Javier, Martin, Ivey, Abreu, and Tokar will reap the benefits.
Tyler Ivey RHP | Houston Astros | 2018 Levels: A+/A | Draft: 2017 Round 3, Pick 16 (91st Overall)
Arsenal: Fastball (90-94), Curveball (77-80), Changeup (82-84), Slider (87-89)
2018 Statistics: 112 IP, 2.97 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 10.85 K/9, 2.33 BB/9, .203 BAA
I promise I’ll stop writing about Astros pitchers at one point…just probably not anytime soon. Ivey is another potential rotation arm in the Astros system. Entering 2018 Ivey was heavily overlooked among arms in the Astros system. Over the course of last season he flashed improved stuff, particularly his pair of breaking balls that prior to the season received almost unanimously average to fringe grades. He added spin and movement to both, and his four-seam fastball (always considered a 55/60 offering) added more spin.
The combination of two distinct breaking balls and a plus fastball that works well up in the zone allowed Ivey to dominate two levels of A ball, posting a combined K% just under 30%. The mechanics are wonky as hell, complete with head knock and some spin tilt, but he finds a way to repeat them well and consistently pound the zone. An arm I’m heavily monitoring this season, he’ll likely kick off the season in Fayetteville before seeing promotion to Corpus Christi. After a standout season that slipped under the radar, Ivey might be on verge of a breakout if he pushes in 2019. A perfect model of the Astros archetype with four pitches, a raising fastball, and deception.
Spencer Howard, RHP | Philadelphia Philles | 2018 Levels: A | Draft: 2017 Round 3, Pick 16 (45th Overall)
Arsenal: Fastball (94-98), Changeup (79-80), Slider (84-85), Curveball (75-79)
2018 Statistics: 112 IP, 3.78 ERA, 2.98 xFIP, 11.81 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, .238 AVG
Likely one of the biggest omissions of our Top 100 only sneaking into Eddy’s fantasy list, Howard has played the part of underdog dating back to his days as a walk-on redshirt at Cal-Poly. He threw under 40 innings as a redshirt freshman, before working his way into the rotation his draft year. He debuted in the Sally League in 2018 spending the whole year in Low-A. His stuff ticked up as the season wore on, starting at 92-95 on his fastball, working up to 94-98 in his later starts. His season culminated in a no-hitter in the Sally League playoffs versus Kannapolis, where he allowed just a single baserunner dominating with his fastball-changeup combo, working in his slider and curveball. The latter of those is an offering added to his repertoire entering the 2018 campaign. As Howard’s stuff ticked up his command waned a little. He should be another player where a strong 2019 performance at Clearwater and possibly Reading could shoot Howard into the top 50. The least “sleepy” player on this list.
Parker Dunshee, RHP | Oakland Athletics | 2018 Levels: AA/A+ | Draft: 2017 Round 7, Pick 6 (201st Overall)
Arsenal: Fastball (88-91), Slider (84-85), Changeup (79-80), Cutter (87-89)
2018 Statistics: 150.2 IP, 2.33 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 9.74 K/9, 1.85 BB/9, .218 AVG- A+/AA
A pitchability right-hander with a combination of plus command, advanced sequencing, and deception, Dunshee burst onto the scene last year following a four-year career at Wake Forest. Despite merely above average strikeout numbers in college, Dunshee has missed bats at an elite rate in pro ball. In fact his 13.3 SwStr% was 13th highest among pitchers with 130 or more innings. Continued focus on throwing his changeup has helped Dunshee develop a deeper pitch mix, one of his strengths. He works quick, throwing loads of strikes, and going after hitters. His success in driving weak contact is something to watch as he moves into Triple-A and possibly the majors by season’s end. Dunshee got an invite to major league camp along with Jesus Luzardo, and could factor into the Athletics rotation mix at some point this summer.
Brock Burke, LHP | Texas Rangers | 2018 Levels: AA/A+ | Draft: 2014 Round 3, Pick 22 (TB) (96th Overall)
Arsenal: Fastball (92-96), Slider (84-85), Changeup (82-85), Curveball (79-80)
2018 Statistics: 137.1 IP, 3.08 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 27.2 K%, 7.6% BB%, .233 BAA
Acquired by the Rangers in the Jurickson Profar trade, Burke had a breakout first half in 2017 with Low-A Bowling Green, before carrying over his success for the first month and a half in the Florida State League. He struggled down the stretch as he missed less bats, found more barrels, and generally failed to execute his pitches. If the breakout was 2017, then 2018 was the statement, as Burke dominated in High-A despite negative luck (.342 BABIP, 66.7% LOB), before producing even better numbers in Double-A over nine starts.
Burke’s pitch mix developed further in 2018, as his changeup took a step forward. He’s still mostly reliant on his fastball - slider combination, and it does drive most of his success. Early in his career he’s had some trouble getting out of the 5th, but that started to trend in the right direction this year as finished the sixth inning in 11 of his final 17 starts. There’s some bullpen risk due to a crossfire delivery and a nasty head-tilt, leading to some questions regarding the mechanics. That said, I believe Burke is starter long term, even if his early success might come in the pen.
Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP | Boston Red Sox | 2018 Levels: AA/A+ | International: Signed 2013 for $7,500
Arsenal: Fastball (92-96), Slider (84-85), Changeup (82-85), Curveball (79-80)
2018 Statistics: 107 IP, 3.53 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 11.27 K/9, 5.55 Bb/9, .220 BAA
Over the course of his Arizona Fall League, the big bodied lefty put himself on the prospect radar with strong performances in relief, and with eye-popping spin rates. Not only was Hernandez’s 2950 RPM spin rate the highest recorded on breaking balls in the circuit, his 2500 RPM fastball registered in the top three as well. With somewhat high effort delivery, Hernandez delivers the ball from a three quarters arm slot and his stuff seems to explode out of his hand. This effort and focus on a primarily two pitch mix gives Darwinzon the makings of high leverage reliever in the very near future, one that could factor in the Boston closing situation over the next two seasons.