Coming off a shortened 60-game season in 2020, many of us expected 2021 to be a bit more hectic than previous seasons. And boy, were we right, and then some. We’ve had so many pitchers struggle that we expected to perform well and vice versa, rankings have become a hectic place. That’s especially true in dynasty leagues. But there’s a silver lining to all this madness. With so many talented pitchers struggling, it’s created some appealing buying opportunities in dynasty leagues. And for me, the two I’m targeting the most right now are Jesus Luzardo and Sixto Sanchez.
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Buy Low on Jesus Luzardo & Sixto Sanchez
Based on what I’ve seen on social media over the last several days, most people are pretty down on Jesús Luzardo right now. Honestly, I can see why with the stats he’s accrued this season. In 38.0 innings, Luzardo has an unsightly 6.87 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, which I’m sure made the stomachs turn of the people that drafted him within the top-150 back in the spring. But despite these numbers, I’m still as in on Luzardo now as I was 18-24 months ago.Luzardo has all the makings of a #2 fantasy starter long-term. Or at least a high-end #3.
One of the main issues for Luzardo this season has been his command. Especially with his 4-seam fastball and changeup. In 2020, Luzardo recorded a .232 xBA, .323 xSLG, .277 xwOBA, and a 44.1% whiff rate on his changeup. In 2021, those numbers have declined to a .271 xBA, .476 xSLG, .370 xwOBA, and 30.4% whiff rate.
Luzardo’s changeup has been left up in the zone more this year than last and also has less velocity, less horizontal movement, and less vertical movement. Luckily for him, he’s now in an organization that specializes in changeups. Just look at Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez for two examples. Sixto Sánchez has a good changeup as well, but we’ll get to him in a moment.
Oh hey, another gorgeous changeup strikeout from Jesus Luzardo pic.twitter.com/pdblyDbn67
— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) August 5, 2020
Luzardo’s 4-seamer has been a problem this season as well. He’s been leaving it over the heart of the plate more instead of elevating as he did in 2020. Despite his plus velocity, Luzardo has never had an elite fastball, but his fastball is certainly better than the version we’ve seen here in 2021. Luzardo’s 4-seamer currently has a .333 BAA, .784 SLG, and .473 wOBA with expected stats nearly as bad. Both of these pitches being more over the heart of the plate has allowed hitters to barrel up Luzardo more frequently, as evident by his 11.1% barrel rate.
Jesús Luzardo's Filthy 85mph Slider makes Odor take off his sunglasses…
Spoiler Alert: It didn't help. 😂 pic.twitter.com/iKk8yEuGkX
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 15, 2019
Now, let’s get to the positives. To start, Luzardo still has shown an outstanding curveball, even through his struggles this season. In fact, his curveball has gotten better this season. The above tweet does say slider, but savant classifies Luzardo’s breaker as a curveball.
When setting the minimum PA threshold to 25, Luzardo’s 55.3% whiff rate on his curveball ranks 4th best in baseball. The only three ahead of him are Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Glasnow, and Lucas Luetge. Definitely a silver lining during a tough season.
On top of that, Luzardo hasn’t been quite as bad as his surface numbers might let on. Luzardo’s xERA is 4.77 and xFIP 4.67, both more than two runs lower than his 6.87 ERA. Many of his swing and contact rates are in line with 2020 as well with his whiff rate still well above league average. He’s also seen his BABIP rise 24 points and strand rate drop 13.6%.
So, are you ready to throw in the towel on a 23-year-old left-hander with a great curveball and plus fastball velocity that has shown the makings of a good changeup as well? All after just 38 bad innings? Not to mention, his prospect pedigree and the fact that he actually hasn’t been as bad as his surface stats would indicate. Maybe he’s not going to be a fantasy ace like we had hoped, but I’m banking on Miami to right the ship here. There’s just too much talent here. In dynasty leagues, I’d be trying my darndest to acquire Luzardo while the asking price is likely quite reasonable.
Sixto Sánchez, Miami Marlins
Another Miami arm that I’m targeting in dynasty leagues right now due to his price tag dropping is Sixto Sánchez. His is dropping for a whole different reason though. On the performance side of things, Sixto has excelled basically since he was signed back in February of 2015 outside of his 25.2 rookie ball innings later that same year. Since then, Sixto’s worst ERA in any season was his 3.46 mark last season as a 21-year-old making his Major League debut.
Unfortunately, durability has plagued Sánchez for most of his professional career, and a shoulder injury will cause him to miss the entire 2021 season. As someone that drafted Sixto in several leagues, I fully understand the frustration. He wasn’t pitching and reports were vague on the severity and timetable for his return. Every now and then you’d hear something like “he’s throwing from 90 feet” but then nothing for weeks.
On top of that, since Miami started him at extended spring training when the season began and not on the active roster, they didn’t need to put him on the IL, which in turn meant those of us that rostered him couldn’t put him on the IL in our fantasy leagues either. That was incredibly frustrating to use a roster spot and have no clear indication of when Sixto would actually return to the mound.
While the risk is high due to the injuries he’s endured over the years, we must remember just how talented of an arm Sixto Sánchez is. Pitchers with three plus offerings and above-average to plus command and control just don’t grow on trees ya know. Before we get into why Sixto is too damn good not to buy low on, I checked in with our injury writer at FantraxHQ, Dr. Nic Civale, and got his thoughts on Sixto.
“The fact that the Marlins gave it a try for a bit before declaring surgery is a bit optimistic in regards to how minor the tear is. Surgery is delicate. The capsule is a thinner, more fragile tissue than muscle or tendon. But protocols should allow for a slow progression to return to game shape. I would be comfortable buying into Sixto in any dynasty leagues and will likely take whatever discount comes next year.” — Dr. Nic Civale
I’ve known Nic Civale for over a year now and he’s never steered me wrong when it comes to injuries. He was driving the “Don’t worry about Yordan’s knees” train with me last year and that turned out just fine.
Now, back to Sixto’s immense talent and upside. As mentioned, Sánchez is part of the rare breed of pitcher that has three plus offerings with above-average or better command and control as well. But surprisingly, his slider command was an issue last season and one of the reasons why his whiff rate and strikeout rate (both around league average) didn’t quite correlate to his 35% chase rate which ranked in the 96th percentile of pitchers last season. When Sixto was manipulating his slider and changeup outside the zone, he was consistently getting hitters to chase. But the problem is that he wasn’t throwing them outside the zone enough.
Sixto Sanchez's Stuff. 🤯
100mph Fastball, 89mph Changeup and 88mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/EzYopjfhpY
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 2, 2020
There’s no denying the filth of Sixto’s arsenal. You can’t watch the above overlay and not be highly impressed. The amount of movement Sixto gets on all of his offerings makes him incredibly difficult to square up.
Sánchez generates above-average horizontal movement on all five of his pitches and above-average vertical movement on his changeup, slider, and 96.6 mph sinker.
Sixto was able to record a sub .200 BAA and sub .160 wOBA on both his slider and changeup while not allowing an extra-base hit off either. However, where he was generally locating both offerings kept the whiff rates in check. This is something that can be worked on over time, especially with him in a great pitching organization. This isn’t another Dustin May or Casey Mize situation where it was a pitch mix issue. Sixto has the arsenal to strike out many more batters than he does. I’m fully expecting his K% to tick up over time.
The only real concern here with Sixto is the durability. He has the arsenal to be an elite pitcher in this game and a fantasy ace as well. That type of upside is worth rolling the dice on, especially when you can likely get him for a discount right now in dynasty leagues.
Media Credit: Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire, Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire, Baseball Savant, Rob Friedman, Nick Pollack,
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Solid article. Thanks for the insight. Solidifies my move to acquire Luzardo at our deadline.