When you play in dynasty leagues, capitalizing of value changes is a major aspect of success. You have to have a solid idea of when to sell-high, buy-high, and buy-low. Some would argue that the last one of that trio is the most important. Acquiring a player when they’re value is lower than you believe it could be is crucial, and that’s what we’re going to be discussing today. These are my favorite Dynasty Buy-Low pitchers to target via trade as we enter the 2022 season.
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Dynasty Buy-Low Pitchers
Dustin May (SP – LAD)
One of my goals this offseason was to acquire as many dynasty shares of Dustin May as possible. That’s still a work in progress, but I’m not going to stop trying. As it currently stands, May is slated to miss at least the first half of the 2022 season and might not debut until August after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May. There’s never a great time to have TJS, but this was one that was especially tough to swallow after the torrid start that May had in 2021.
In his five starts, May recorded a 2.74 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 5.4% walk rate, and an elite 38% strikeout rate. Yes, it was a very small sample size at 23 innings, but it’s exactly what I thought May was capable of doing if he tweaked his pitch usage, which is what happened here. With May, his stuff has never been an issue. You don’t get onto the Pitching Ninja’s timeline as much as May has without being downright filthy. But the problem was May’s pitch mix.
His sinker looks nasty in gifs, but sinkers have never been big whiff rate pitches. May also had an issue getting hitters to chase his sinker when it darted outside the zone, which was often given May’s 18.8″ of horizontal break on the pitch, which ranked #1 in baseball among pitchers with 250+ sinkers thrown. But in 2021, he was locating his sinker much better, raising his zone rate on the pitch from 58.6% to 66%, doubling his SwStr% from 4.8% to 9.7%, and in turn, lowering his Z-Contact, O-Contact, and Contact rates across the board. The BAA and SLG were still bad, but three homers feed into that, and in general, hitters pounded the ball into the ground.
— MLB (@MLB) April 25, 2021
That was just one of many improvements and changes May made in 2021. Throwing his curveball more, which was his best whiff rate pitch in 2021, led to a much higher whiff rate in general. May’s high-spin curveball recorded a 45.2% whiff rate while not allowing a single hit in five starts. He also posted a ridiculous 51.5% whiff rate on his cutter with a .154 BAA, .231 SLG, and .234 wOBA. Overall, May saw his whiff rate increase from 19.1% to 31.6% and his SwStr rate from 8.4% to 14.1% while striking out 38% of the batters he faced. May’s zone and chase contact rates both dropped significantly as well.
All of this was in just 23 innings and a very small sample size. However, this is exactly what we wanted to see from the young, electric right-hander. With him currently recovering from TJS, his price tag in dynasty leagues is quite reasonable, especially when compared to the elite potential he possesses. We easily could be talking about May as a fantasy ace within the next few seasons.
Tyler Glasnow (SP – TBR)
Oh, look, another injured starter that made improvements and took a major step forward in 2021. Before getting injured that is. Acquiring injured stars for a slight discount is a viable strategy in dynasty leagues. Last season, those main targets were Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Noah Syndergaard, and Luis Severino. In 2022, it’s May and Tyler Glasnow. Entering 2021, I had my reservations with Glasnow due to him not having a reliable and consistent third pitch outside of his fastball and curveball. Well, Glasnow told me and other skeptics to hold his damn beer and went out and added a dynamic slider to his arsenal. Okay Tyler, I apologize. Now just stay healthy once you return to the mound!
Tyler Glasnow, Unfair Sliders. 😯 pic.twitter.com/7XOLSqfJgM
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 15, 2021
One could make a strong argument that Glasnow has one of the best curveballs in the game. In each of the last two seasons, Glasnow’s curveball recorded a BAA under .125 and a whiff rate above 52%. While trying to establish his slider, Glasnow threw his curveball only 13.7% of the time, which elevated the effectiveness of the pitch. Opposing batters now had to respect his newly-added slider and couldn’t just sit on his fastball or curveball, especially in two-strike counts. Glasnow threw his slider 32.2% of the time with a .203 BAA and 46.6% whiff rate.
The surface results finished at a 2.66 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 7.9% walk rate, and a 36.2% strikeout rate in 88 innings before his season was shut down due to needing TJS. Glasnow also ranked among the top-8% of pitchers in xERA, xBA, and xwOBA. Adding in that slider was huge. That can’t be mentioned enough. With that filthy slider with elite vertical movement in his arsenal, that made his fastball and curveball even better than they already were. Glasnow also saw improvements nearly across the board in his whiff, chase, and contact metrics.
Another noticeable improvement was how deep into games Glasnow was going. After averaging 5.1 IP/GS in 2019 and 5.2 in 2020, Glasnow averaged 6.3 IP/GS in 2021 which was the 4th highest mark among starters. Glasnow has improved in two of the three areas I was looking for: he dropped his walk rate below 10% back in 2019 and has maintained that, and he now has a reliable and effective third offering. Now, Glasnow just needs to stay healthy to establish himself as an annual fantasy ace. This might be the lowest his dynasty value will be for a long time after he returns later in 2022 or on opening day in 2023.
Tony Gonsolin (SP – LAD)
If you looked in the fantasy baseball dictionary under “post-hype sleeper”, you’d see a picture of Tony Gonsolin. Despite his success in the minors and in brief MLB stints, Gonsolin has yet to establish himself as a Major League starter. That has zero to do with his performance or skills and everything to do with the fact that the Dodgers have always had a stacked and crowded rotation. But finally, that appears to be changing in 2022 as Gonsolin is currently projected to make the rotation. Of course, there are several variables here that could ruin it, including the current lockout, but let’s try to remain positive.
Over his brief Major League career, Gonsolin has pitched to the tune of a 2.85 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.7% walk rate, and a 25.6% strikeout rate. But unfortunately, that’s come over parts of three seasons with a career-high of 55.2 innings last season. With a full-time rotation spot, Gonsolin could soar up rankings in 2022.
An important part of Gonsolin’s profile for fantasy is his ability to miss bats. That 25.6% strikeout rate, while above league-average, might not stand out, but the ability for an increase is evident when looking at his individual pitches. Gonsolin works with a four-pitch mix, with his splitter and slider leading the way. Both registered a BAA under .120 and a whiff rate above 40% last season. In fact, 2021 was the second straight season that both pitches exceeded a 40% whiff rate and barely missed in 2019.
The main issue for Gonsolin in 2021 was poor fastball command and an elevated 14.2% walk rate. Overall, Gonsolin’s fastball recorded a .298 BAA, .564 SLG, and a .426 wOBA, albeit, with expected metrics better for all three. This was the least-effective four-seamer we’ve seen from Gonsolin in his career and the worst walk rate as well. Correcting those back to previous levels along with a full-time rotation gig will be huge for Gonsolin’s value. He’s shown he’s capable of a sub-3.50 ERA and a 25+% strikeout rate with the upside for more. All he needs are the innings that could come here in 2022. The time to buy is now.
Nate Pearson (SP/RP – TOR)
The former top prospect has had a rough go of it at the Major League level, both with performance and staying on the field. Outside of his impressive debut when he went toe to toe with Max Scherzer, Pearson has struggled in his 33 innings, posting a 5.18 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, and a 16.4% walk rate. That walk rate has been surprising, given Pearson’s 7.5% walk rate in the minors. I’m not so much worried about that though. What does concern me is Pearson’s injury track record. Can he remain durable enough to be a full-time starter? Or will he be pushed to the bullpen? I’m not quite sure of the answer to that question yet, but what I am sure of is Pearson’s talent and ability to be an impact arm for fantasy regardless of the role he’s occupying.
Outside of Pearson’s 7.5% walk rate in the minors, he added a 2.63 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and a 31.8% strikeout rate over 154 innings. That was largely due to his elite four-seamer/slider combination that regularly carved up opposing lineups.
Great ST debut for Nate Pearson yesterday against the Yankees, striking out the side on 10 pitches w/ a ton of swinging strikes. After a little bit of time at AAA, Pearson should be up with the #BlueJays by the ASB. If you have deep benches, he's a great stash.#FantasyBaseball pic.twitter.com/09bnS84rxT
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) February 26, 2020
That slider registered a 43.6% whiff rate last season with better expected metrics than actual metrics, albeit, in a small sample size. As Pearson was used primarily out of the pen in 2021 when he actually was healthy, he nearly ditched the curveball and changeup altogether, both of which has projected as around MLB average offerings when he was coming up through the Toronto organization. Basically, it doesn’t matter which camp you’re in with the “Can Pearson be a starter” debate. Even if he has to move to the bullpen, that fastball/slider combination could make him an elite closer. His price tag is incredibly low right now, so it’s worthwhile to take a shot on him in dynasty leagues.
Others to Consider
Zac Gallen, ARI: That same Gallen that we drafted as an SP2 not long ago is still there. The whiff rate dipped overall, but he still has a deep arsenal of pitches that he uses to both RHB and LHB with three recording a whiff rate north of 30% in 2021. Plus, the new Arizona pitching coach, Brent Strom, should do wonders for Gallen and the rest of the DBacks pitching staff. Strom was the Houston pitching coach for the last eight seasons and did an incredible job there. I’m expecting Gallen to bounce back to SP2 levels in 2022 and beyond.
Jesus Luzardo, MIA: I’ve already discussed Luzardo in my Starting Pitcher Sleepers article earlier this offseason. He has premium LH velocity and can miss bats at a high clip with both his curveball and changeup. I’m banking on him getting into a Miami organization that has flourished in the pitching player development department to help him right the ship.
Spencer Howard, TEX: People are writing off Spencer Howard WAY too early. This is a former top pitching prospect that displayed four average to plus pitches as a prospect and never really got a chance to get his feet wet and run with a starting role in Philly. Maybe a change of scenery is just what Howard needs.
Matt Manning, DET: From when I saw him live in 2019 to his MLB debut in 2021, Manning completely transformed. Not in a positive way either. He altered his pitch mix and seemed to have regressed with his fastball command and changeup development. This is far too soon to start avoiding Manning in dynasty with the talent he showed in the minors. Maybe he’s not a future frontline arm, but I’d be willing to bet on the talent here when his price tag is dirt cheap.
Media Credit: Baseball Savant, MLB, Rob Friedman, Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire
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