The 2020 season is just around the corner. In a shortened season of 60 regular-season games, it’s worth digging deep on the pitching side to find good value. It’s hard for those playing in Quality Starts leagues to predict exactly what will unfold this year, with likely six-man rotations and deep use of bullpens upcoming. I’ve identified five under the radar pitchers that can help you in your leagues in the 2020 landscape. These pitchers may be available in most formats carrying Fantrax ADP’s north of 500, and come at very reasonable prices in trades and on draft day.
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5 Under the Radar Pitchers
Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2019 (STL): 48.2 IP, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 36 H, 26 BB, 52 K.
Fantrax ADP: 526
To date, the 28-year-old Daniel Ponce de Leon has exactly half (12/24 G) of his big-league appearances as a starter. Ponce de Leon has an intriguing combination of being able to miss bats (83 K in 81.2 IP in his career) and generate weak contact (96th percentile hard-hit %). Ponce de Leon’s arsenal is built on the backbone of an effective fastball, which he throws 70.8% of the time. The fastball for Ponce de Leon averages 93 MPH and can touch 97 MPH, and the arm side run he gets nearly doubles league average horizontal movement. All of his offerings have spin rates above league average.
There’s a lot to like from Ponce de Leon as an under the radar pitcher. With a multi-inning role for 2019 between the rotation and bullpen, he has a chance to produce effective innings for your fantasy pitching staff. This kind of swing-role could vulture extra wins in this unique campaign. If he’s able to lower his 12.8% BB rate and secure a rotation spot with a strong 2019, he could be a true pitching breakout candidate moving forward.
Patrick Sandoval, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
2019 (LAA): 39.1 IP, 5.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 35 H, 19 BB, 42 K.
Fantrax ADP: 599
Patrick Sandoval is still among our under the radar pitchers, even as a rookie-eligible starter. Sandoval had a brief but solid MLB cameo last summer for the Angels. He came over from the Astros organization in a 2018 deadline deal for veteran catcher Martin Maldonado. Sandoval is an athletic lefty who features a fastball averaging 93 MPH and can touch 96 MPH. His best offering is a nasty changeup. It was so nasty, as the SP Streamer’s Michael Simione tweet says here, it generated the 5th highest swinging strike rate of any pitch by a SP in the 2nd half of 2019.
Sandoval is generally a ground ball artist, producing 52.3% GB. But he also surrendered 6 HR in his 39.1 IP. The Angels announced a six man rotation for 2019, which should give Sandoval an opportunity to contribute without overexposing him. Given health questions with others in the Angels rotation, Sandoval may make the most of his 2019. If he hones in on a consistent release point, his athleticism and stuff should carry him to mid-rotation production.
Tyler Mahle, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2019 (CIN): 129.2 IP, 5.14 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 136 H, 34 BB, 129 K.
Fantrax ADP: 655
It’s clear that Mahle has the BB and K numbers to be a viable starter in the big leagues. Mahle has tinkered with his arsenal pretty significantly over the last two seasons. He has evolved from using a slider and changeup, to curve/cutter and splitter. The splitter has an above-average spin rate and a 28% whiff rate, making it a formidable weapon in his development. Mahle is among elite company by CSW rate (Called Strikes + Whiffs / Total Pitches). According to Pete B of Pitcher List, for pitchers 25 and under, Mahle ranks 5th in CSW right behind fantasy aces Walker Buehler and Jack Flaherty. 2020 provides a newfound opportunity for Mahle to get some looks in the rotation, where during March he was finding himself on the outside looking in. Of these five under the radar pitchers, Mahle has the type of skills that mean he won’t be on this list next year.
Austin Adams, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2019 (WAS, SEA): 32.0 IP, 3.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 20 H, 14 BB, 51 K.
Fantrax ADP: 792
The lone pure reliever on the list, Adams is the type of high K reliever that can positively impact your pitching staff in the shortened 2020 season. With the ability to limit contact and keep walks at a reasonable rate, Adams has potential high leverage bullpen impact. The fastball has 98th percentile spin rates and averages just above 95 MPH. Adams’ premier weapon is his hard slider, a pitch that hitters could only produce a .133 AVG and .229 SLG against. He threw the offering 63.6% of the time in 2019. Adams is a relative under the radar gem, and he’s in a Seattle pen that is going to mix and match on any given night. Adams comps on Baseball Savant to elite relievers such as Ken Giles and Aroldis Chapman and has the talent to set himself apart in 2020 and beyond.
Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2019 (LAD): 44.2 IP, 4.84 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 39 H, 27 BB, 54 K.
Fantrax ADP: 997
The Dodgers pitching depth up and down their organization is the envy of just about any franchise. In Ferguson, the Dodgers have an under the radar potential starter still getting his feet wet in the MLB bullpen. Ferguson’s 2019 blemishes were the lack of a consistent third pitch and a relatively high BB rate (13.2%). Before Spring play was suspended due to COVID, Ferguson may have shown that he’s addressed both of these questions due to the implementation of a slider highlighted by EccentricLaddie of ProspectsLive. The pitch plays off of his 98th percentile curveball spin rate and shows good late bite. Ferguson didn’t walk a batter in his 5.1 IP this Spring. It’s not a huge sample but may show that Ferguson has unlocked something. At only 24 years old and some meaningful big league innings under his belt, Ferguson could be a deep cut breakout candidate.
Who are the under the radar pitchers you are targeting in drafts? Let us know in the comments below.
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