As we continue to navigate through spring training, some pitching numbers have demanded we examine them and decide what is for real and what is not. Here’s a look at some mound artists who have commanded our attention with their performance so far. Let’s make sense of what we have seen from notable pitchers on the Grapefruit and Cactus circuits.
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Spring Training Pitching Performances and Reactions
Jack Flaherty: He leads all pitchers in the spring with 19 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched and has a 1.00 WHIP. Some fantasy analysts point to his September crash last year and believe he is overhyped. So far this spring, he is looking like the same guy he was before he hit a wall late in the season. I wouldn’t be comfortable taking him as the 19th starting pitcher off the board (according to FanTrax ADPs) ahead of Zack Greinke and Zack Wheeler, who I like even better over a full season this year, but I am good with Flaherty just towards the end of the Top 25 range.
Jesus Luzardo: He has struck out 15 batters in 9.2 innings pitched with a 0.93 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Luzardo will likely open the season in Triple-A but may not be down for long. He was quite sharp at Double-A last year and may not need much more seasoning. He is a nifty pick as the 70th starting pitcher off the board in FanTrax drafts.
Sandy Alcantara: The Marlin has struck out 14 batters in 12 spring innings so far. He has allowed only six hits with a 1.50 ERA. But he has also walked 10 batters. He had a 1.26 WHIP in Triple-A last year and a 1.41 WHIP with Miami. He has a blazing fastball, but control may continue to be an issue and there could be a lot of ups and downs for Alcantara this year. He is still a work in progress at 23 years old. His ADP is fair as the 107th starting pitcher off the board.
Madison Bumgarner: He has an 8.25 ERA and a .357 BAA in 12 innings pitched, but he also has 12 strikeouts against just one walk. Those 20 hits have been a killer, though. Much of the damage came in his first spring start, when he allowed six runs in one inning of work. In his last outing, he allowed two runs in seven innings. He is no longer a fantasy ace, and being the 22nd starting pitcher selected in FanTrax drafts is a little rich for me. I’d wait until about seven or eight more pitchers are taken.
Reynaldo Lopez: The early ERA is 6.75 and the WHIP is at 1.71. But he does have 12 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched. In his last outing, he allowed one run and struck out seven in four innings, so he has started to turn his spring around after a bumpy start. He allowed seven earned runs in his final seven starts of 2018. Lopez has a lot of upside as the 68th starting pitcher being drafted, but I worry that his control may desert him at times and there will be bouts of streakiness.
Forrest Whitley: After eight innings of spring work, he has a 2.25 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Whitley has struck out 11 batters and walked just two. Whitley dealt with injuries and a suspension last year in the minors, but he looked good during Arizona Fall League action and has been very impressive in the Grapefruit League. He’s a large, intimidating presence with a fine mix of pitches and it may be hard to keep him in the minors this season. He should be up to stay at some point and may pay off immediately in fantasy. He is the 61st starting pitcher being drafted right now, and I would take him at least six spots earlier.
Shane Bieber: The Cleveland starter looks very good so far this spring, with a 1.00 ERA and a 0.33 WHIP. Bieber has allowed only three baserunners this spring and has averaged a strikeout per inning. Bieber was unlucky last year, with a strand rate of just under 70 percent and his xFIP was just 3.30. He is the 42nd starting pitcher off the board right now and there is a lot of promise for an SP pick at that point.
J.A. Happ: Happ has allowed four home runs this spring and has a 7.56 ERA and ,344 BAA in three outings. But he has also struck out 10 and has not walked a batter. In his last outing, he struck out six and allowed three runs in four innings. He also did allow two homers. I am not worried about Happ carrying negative numbers into the regular season. Last year he elevated his K rate to a new height of 26 percent and I very much like taking him as the 36th SP off the board. He’ll remain safe when games begin for real.
Dylan Bundy: Bundy owns a 13.50 ERA this spring with a .469 BAA and a 2.40 WHIP. Some fantasy analysts point to his strikeout rate last year and bad luck on batted ball stats, but the overall ugliness has continued this spring. Bundy is only the 84th starting pitcher being selected right now, and even then you have to consider him cautiously.
Mychal Givens: He has allowed nine runs in nine innings pitched with just two strikeouts. He appeared to be the favorite to close games for the Orioles entering the spring, but Brandon Hyde said he may not have one dedicated fireman this season. Who may step forward over Givens appears to be unclear right now, as the Baltimore bullpen does not have anyone else of note to consider yet. We may have to keep a close watch on what could become a fluid closer situation.
Scott Engel is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association’s Hall of Fame and a four-time award winner. He was one of the driving content forces in the rise of RotoExperts.com and was the lead host on the RotoExperts in the Morning for six years on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. He was also instrumental in the launch of the FNTSY Sports Network. Scott was the first-ever Senior Writer and Managing Editor at CBS SportsLine and won a company Hall of Fame Award. He was also an Associate Editor and Fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He has been the featured Fantasy Writer on Seahawks.com since 2012 and his work has been syndicated to the Associated Press, NFL.com, New York Daily News, New York Post, Yahoo Sports, Bloomberg Sports, Sports Illustrated and many others. He is a credentialed media member who won an FSWA award in 2016 for his Insider Fantasy Reporting. Known as “The King”, Scott is on Twitter @scottTheKing
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