Dynasty Dugout: Buy Low Pitcher Targets
There are three words that are synonymous with buy-low pitcher targets: Tommy John surgery. What used to be a curse for pitchers, now isn’t so terrifying to think about. Sure, the pitcher will miss anywhere from 12 to 18 months, but pitchers are coming back just as strong, if not stronger than they were pre-surgery. Two of the four pitchers discussed below are the latest big name pitching prospects to tussle with that pest, Tommy John. But even with them missing the 2018 season, and likely a little of 2019, their upside remains incredible high. What this time off might do is open up the opportunity to acquire them for a slight discount, which with their fantasy potential, is highly recommended.
Miss the buy-low dynasty hitters last week? They can be found here.
Top Buy Low Pitcher Targets
Luis Castillo (SP – CIN)
The second half of the 2017 season was Luis Castillo’s coming out party. In 15 starts, Castillo had a sparkling 3.12 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with 9.9 K/9. A big reason for that success was his devastating fastball/change-up mix. Castillo’s average fastball velocity was 97.5 mph with his change-up nearly 10 mph lower than that at 87.7 mph. It wasn’t just the difference in velocity that made his change-up special either. Castillo was getting strong two-plane fade with the pitch, making it a true strikeout inducing weapon.
Another filthy changeup from Luis Castillo, this time in slow motion.
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) May 9, 2018
That strong rookie campaign had Castillo skyrocketing up draft boards this spring. He was being taken as the 22nd starting pitcher off the board around pick 84 overall. Everyone wanted a piece of the Red’s young right-hander. Now, nine starts into 2018, people are pulling out their hair wondering what to do with Castillo and his 6.02 ERA.
No pun intended but a big change for Castillo has been with his change-up. He’s still capable of slinging some good ones in there, as evident above, but he’s had less command of the pitch this season, The same can be said about his fastball. Due to the lesser command, both pitches have been much more hittable and less valuable for Castillo this season. Hence the near double ERA.
If you’re looking to buy-low on Castillo, which is recommended, your window of opportunity is small and getting smaller with each passing start. Castillo has started the month of May with three straight starts of two earned runs or less and seven or more strikeouts. Now that’s more like it Luis! The upside here is still very high, so if you want to grab a potential fantasy ace without that ace price tag, the time is now.
Yu Darvish (SP – CHC)
Let me start by saying that Yu Darvish is not this bad. I repeat, Yu is not this bad. Coming into the season, many fantasy owners, myself included, had Darvish as a borderline ace. It made perfect sense, too. In 17 career starts against National League teams, he had a 3.14 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 11.4 K/9 including a strong end to the 2017 season following a trade deadline deal from the Rangers to the Dodgers.
Staying in the National League seemed like a great move for his fantasy value, especially in a division with two rebuilding teams in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Well, it hasn’t gone as smoothly as planned so far. Darvish is winless through six starts with a 6.00 ERA and 1.57 WHIP. The strikeouts are still there, and even a little better, but Darvish’s walk rate has ballooned to 4.8 BB/9. For perspective, he has a 2.8 BB/9 in both 2016 and 2017.
When you take a deeper look at Darvish’s peripheral stats, nothing really stands out as being worrisome. His velocity and pitch selection are on par with last season, with one minor exception. Darvish’s lethal slider has been much less effective this season. After being a strong asset for him throughout his career, the value of his slider is actually negative through his first six starts. Darvish is throwing it at 84.9 mph which is up from 82.6 and 81.8 mph the last two seasons. Let this be a valuable lesson for you kids. Added velocity isn’t always a good thing.
The poor start to the season, coupled with the fact that he’s currently on the DL with the flu, is enough to open a slight buy-low window on the Japanese all-star. This is exactly the time of year when fantasy owners start looking to making moves and a perfect time to send an offer to the Darvish owner in your league.
A.J. Puk (SP – OAK)
Losing a top pitcher or pitching prospect to Tommy John surgery always sucks, but this one especially Puk’n sucks. Puk was dominating at every level and ascending the ranks towards being one of the very best pitching prospects in the game. The tall, lanky southpaw has registered an astounding 12.8 K/9 over his first 157.2 innings in the minors to go along with a 3.82 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
When Puk was drafted, one of the few concerns surrounding him was his control. His BB/9 for his collegiate career was 4.2 and 4.5 during his final season for the Gators. Those control woes are what caused him to slip a little in the 2016 amateur draft. But, wait, he went 6th overall, didn’t he? Yes, he did, but entering that final season in Florida, Puk was looking like a near lock to be drafted with one of the first three picks. Two years later and it’s looking like that control won’t hold him back. Puk has a 3.4 BB/9 in his minor league career and has improved his command over his devastating arsenal.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 9, 2018
Okay, when I say devastating arsenal, I really mean his fastball and slider. Both pitches are plus to plus-plus and are almost unhittable when he’s commanding them well. Puk’s changeup lags behind but flashes above-average at time and should be at least an average change of pace offering for him.
It’s hard to judge how a player will come back from Tommy John surgery, but recent track record is on Puk’s side. Tommy John surgery is no longer a death sentence for starting pitchers like it used to be. The upside here is still massive, especially if he can develop his change-up and keep his control in check.
Brent Honeywell (SP – TB)
While Brent Honeywell is about as different as you can be as a pitcher when compared to Puk, he’s in exactly the same situation recovering from Tommy John surgery. Honeywell entered the 2018 season as a top-25 prospect firmly knocking on the door to Tampa Bay’s rotation. It’s very likely that we’d be seeing him pitch every fifth day with Tampa right now if he hadn’t needed to go under the knife.
You’ve heard the old expression “Everything but the kitchen sink,” right? Well, Honeywell throws the kitchen sink at you, too. When facing him, you’ll have to deal with his low-90’s fastball, plus change-up, and three breaking balls, headlined by his signature screwball. Maybe throwing that screwball of his screwed up his elbow. Who knows. Regardless of the reason, we won’t be seeing Honeywell make his Major League debut until sometime in the 2019 season. Such a shame, too. Another top pitching prospect bites the dust. Great, now I have Queen stuck in my head. Eh, this isn’t a bad song to be stuck in your head.
Honeywell often doesn’t get quite the recognition he deserves. Sure, he plays down in Tampa and doesn’t light up the radar gun like a Michael Kopech or Walker Buehler, but Honeywell has great command of his entire arsenal and has the poise of a veteran out there on the mound. There’s ace upside here, no doubt about it. His minor league stats back that up, too. In 416 innings, Honeywell has a 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and 9.9 K/9. His upside is a top-20 fantasy starting pitcher with a fairly high floor to go along with it.
Thank you for reading another edition of Dynasty Dugout here on Fantrax. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Ask below or follow me on Twitter and ask there.