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Last week, I alluded to the imaginary concept of an All-Star Game for Fantasy Baseball columns from all corners of the internet, and how this very column, Deuces Wild, would easily qualify for a spot within the starting lineup. Now, it’s time to actually put my money where my mouth is and delve into the successes and failures of this column in its rookie campaign with a look at every starting pitcher that I’ve recommended to date.
So, hello all and welcome back to the column that could. As always, I am Matt Zylbert, and this is Deuces Wild, your weekly venture outside the box for some of the most useful under-the-radar pitchers that can be found. Since the season began, I’ve produced 11 of these columns, covering 20 pitchers in all that I precisely pinpointed as trending upwards (not to mention five sleeper hitters I was high on, but we’ll get to those at the end). Since it’s the All-Star break, allow me to take a step back and recap just how wise all of those recommendations were. We’ll go in chronological order, and then grade each pitcher as being a win, loss, or a push to get an idea of how beneficial Deuces Wild really is:
Trevor Bauer (8-5, 3.76 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) – Cleveland Indians
Fortunately, I started off my RotoExperts tenure with a ‘win,’ as you’d be foolish to consider otherwise for young Trevor Bauer, whom I’ll always remember as the first pitcher I touted in this column. Yes, he’s fallen in value a bit over the past month, but considering how he started, it was a tough pace to maintain for any hurler. At one point in mid-June, Bauer possessed a real nifty 2.94 ERA, and was probably the Indians’ best pitcher around that time. Since then, he’s allowed four runs or more in half of his six starts, but that doesn’t mean you should shy on Bauer. He’s still pitching deep into ballgames; in nine of his last 11 outings, the 24-year-old has pitched into the seventh inning or deeper! That’s very impressive for a starter no matter how old. Most notable of all, though, is his terrific 102:43 K:BB ratio over 105.1 innings, which should ensure further success as the season rolls on.
Jesse Hahn (6-6, 3.35 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) – Oakland Athletics
It was a shame to see this man recently land on the disabled list, as after an unexpected rough patch throughout the first portion of May, Jesse Hahn, who was also my top sleeper in baseball entering the season (once Marcus Stroman went down), has really been stingy. In fact, since the middle of May, Hahn has allowed three runs or less in all but one of his ten outings, even producing nine quality starts over that stretch as well, meaning he’s eating a good chunk of innings in the process. In other words, Hahn has been a sophomore sensation in his first year with Oakland after impressing last year as a rookie in San Diego, which is where he stuck out to me instantly. I’m looking forward to his return, especially since I have him on all my Fantasy teams.
Chris Heston (9-5, 3.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) – San Francisco Giants
Like the rest of the world, I knew very, very little about rookie Chris Heston entering the 2015 season, but after just a couple of starts I was hooked. Heston’s makeup led me to believe that he could become a reliable arm for the defending World Champion Giants, and here we are three months later and he’s played a big part in where they stand today. Oh, and who can forget that no-hitter at Citi Field? I watched that game in its entirety, and while I will say that he was getting some favorable calls towards the end from home-plate umpire Rob Drake (who I’ve actually specifically pointed out in the past as having a larger-than-normal strike-zone), the fact remains that Heston has already accomplished something in his rookie year that most wish they could achieve in their careers. “Steady Hesty” would be an appropriate nickname for this young right-hander.
Nick Tropeano (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
How do we score this one? I covered 24-year-old Nick Tropeano, who initially stuck out to me during his late-season four-start audition with the Astros last year, after his beautiful six-inning, no-run gem against the Oakland Athletics back in late-April… and then he was never seen again. Actually, he was sent back down to Triple-A because it was only a spot-start, but the message of that analysis was that once Tropeano was brought back to the main roster, he would continue to be just as effective. So we’ll call this one a ‘push’ for now and re-evaluate it later on.
Roenis Elias (4-6, 4.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) – Seattle Mariners
Ah, it appears I have stumbled upon my first ‘loss’ of the season, although that wasn’t even close to being the case approximately a month ago, when Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias was sporting a very shiny 2.79 ERA through his first nine starts. Simply put, he was dominating like a man with a large chip on his shoulder after failing to break camp with the team out of spring training (which was zero percent his fault and had everything to do with Taijuan Walker’s fantastic spring showing). Since then, however, Elias apparently got content with his work and has surrendered 19 runs over his past four starts. Although in his defense, 14 of those runs came in two really rough outings. Elias is back in the minor leagues at the moment but should be back soon, and he’ll be fine. I’m still a fan of Roenis Elias.
Kyle Gibson (8-6, 2.85 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) – Minnesota Twins
Without question, this particular call on Kyle Gibson ranks as not just one of my top calls on the year, but one of the top calls made by a Fantasy Baseball analyst anywhere in 2015. And even today, if you were to search Kyle Gibson’s name on this very site, it would yield only one result for the Twins right-hander — my original Deuces Wild column on him back in May. At that point in time, Gibson actually had more walks (15) than strikeouts (11), and I brilliantly advised you to jump on him anyway, as that ratio would easily change quite significantly. Now, he owns 78 strikeouts compared to 36 walks, and has been remarkably consistent, going five innings or more in all 17 of his starts following his lackluster season debut. He’s arguably the most underrated All-Star snub this year, and maybe the most underrated component of the Twins’ success. Gibson deserves much more Fantasy attention for his outstanding efforts.
Chris Young (7-5, 3.00 ERA, 1.02 WHIP) – Kansas City Royals
Every year, there’s always some veterans on both sides of the ball that most people think are done, yet end up producing renaissance years nonetheless. One perfect example would be A.J. Burnett, and understandably so after the dreadful 2014 he endured. But another that isn’t heralded at all is Royals veteran right-hander Chris Young, who has been simply phenomenal for the American League’s best team. In the passage above for Kyle Gibson, I emphasized that he was probably the most underrated component of his team’s success, and you could easily make the same case for Young as it pertains to the Royals. However, at the same time, I don’t think he can continue along with his same dynamite success throughout the second half, so his window may have closed on being an upper echelon starter like he was in the first half. Even so, this is easily a ‘win’ for Deuces Wild.
Tsuyoshi Wada (1-1, 3.73 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) – Chicago Cubs
When this 34-year-old Japanese southpaw finally made his big league debut last year, I latched on to him immediately, and thus, this is a call I take great pride in, especially since I labeled him as a sleeper coming into the year, despite not even being on the Opening Day roster (because of injury). Unfortunately, he only made seven starts before landing on the disabled list again in late-June, but Wada picked up where he left off from his successful late-season audition last year and was actually very effective. In five of his seven starts, he allowed two runs or less, and most impressive of all, he put together a solid 31:11 K:BB ratio in 31.1 innings. I’m looking forward to his return and so should you, considering he’ll be available in just about every league. Don’t sleep on Wada.
Tanner Roark (4-4, 4.43 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) – Washington Nationals
If you’ve been a regular reader of mine, you remember that Tanner Roark was one of my top three sleepers entering 2014 (along with James Paxton and David Hale), and that ended up being one of my favorite calls of all-time, considering how outstanding Roark was in his first full season — and the fact that I was literally the only person who even have him listed as a top sleeper. So, when Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister went down earlier this year, I instantly jumped back on Roark, and the results were what you’d want from a replacement pitcher, as he made six starts was good in four of them. The rest of his stats on the year consist of his relief work, which is still puzzling to me that there’s not a team trying to acquire him for their rotation, but as a spot-starter, he was solid again.
David Hale (3-4, 5.69 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) – Colorado Rockies
Speaking of sleepers of mine entering the 2014 season, here’s David Hale, who, unfortunately, is floundering in his first full-time opportunity as a starting pitcher. The story with Hale is this: He amazed in his first two career starts at the end of the ’13 campaign, then for whatever reason, Atlanta decided to stick him in the bullpen throughout last year, only using him in spot-starts, which he excelled in, actually. This past offseason, thinking they had too much starting pitching, the Braves dealt him to Colorado for a couple of minor leaguers, and hence, here we are with typical Rockies-like pitching numbers. I still haven’t given up on Hale, at least not until he gets a real chance to prove himself again outside of Coors Field, but for now, he shouldn’t be considered for Fantasy rosters.
Chris Rusin (3-3, 3.98 ERA, 1.51 WHIP) – Colorado Rockies
Yes, I know that WHIP looks disastrous, but this is registering officially as a ‘push’ for Deuces Wild, considering he’s been Colorado’s best starting pitcher this season. No matter how you get there, if you have an ERA below 4.00 with the Rockies, you’ve relatively done a very nice job (especially with how many runs they regularly put up). Obviously, he’s not the prototypical Fantasy pitcher you want on your staff, but Rusin has been just fine, and so has this projection, considering he last started a game in the Major Leagues in 2013. At the very least, keep an eye on him.
Charlie Morton (6-2, 4.15 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) – Pittsburgh Pirates
Most people would be tempted to give themselves a ‘push’ here based on that desirable win-loss record possessed by Charlie Morton, but I’m going to give myself a deserved ‘loss’ for how the right-hander has fared. First off, when comparing his numbers with any other Pirates starter, he’s last in ERA, and that’s saying something, considering how historically good Pittsburgh’s rotation has been this season. Thus, how can your numbers be that down? Shouldn’t the likes of Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano be rubbing off onto you at some point? He also has just a 30:16 K:BB ratio in 52 innings. Even so, while he’s a ‘loss’ for me right now, I’d actually say to monitor his progress. He’s a groundball specialist, and playing for a streaking team like Pittsburgh, Morton absolutely may offer you considerable value later on this season.
Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-4, 3.74 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) – Texas Rangers
Aha! Here’s someone that I was so enamored with right away that I immediately dubbed him as the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year. Of course, this was just before the call-up of Astros phenom Carlos Correa, who looks to be comfortably on track towards winning this year’s accolade, but that shouldn’t take away from the nice things young Chi Chi Gonzalez has accomplished in his first year of big-league action. The 23-year-old southpaw was doing so well, in fact, that he set a Rangers franchise record for most consecutive scoreless innings to begin a Major League career (15 innings), and while he hasn’t been as successful as of late, while also having a low number of strikeouts, Gonzalez is someone that still might be useful down the stretch if he gets in a rhythm again. Up to the midway point, though, he’s been a solid call.
Mike Montgomery (4-3, 2.29 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) – Seattle Mariners
Here’s arguably my finest call of the year, considering the fact that Mike Montgomery was a former prospect seemingly left for dead. Seriously, for whatever reason, it took this 26-year-old left-hander a long time to get his first crack at the Majors, despite his hyped pedigree (Ex. Being one of the main attractions of the controversial James Shields-Wil Myers trade a few years ago). As soon as he was finally summoned, I was instantly intrigued and covered him as a result. Montgomery has been absolutely terrific, with eight starts under his belt now, and in six of them he gave up two runs or less while going five innings or more in all of them. If for some reason he’s still out there on your waiver wire, or you have the chance to acquire him cheap, go for it. There’s still a lot to be exhibited from Mr. Montgomery in the season’s second half.
Brett Oberholtzer (2-2, 4.46 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) – Houston Astros
This, to me at least, is one of the more frustrating pitchers I’ve seen in recent years. Not because of my personal bias, as I’ve been a big fan of Brett Oberholtzer since he first came up two years ago, but from watching him pitch several times; I just know he’s capable of so much more. Oberholtzer displayed that often in his rookie campaign of 2013, when he maintained a 2.76 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 13 games (10 starts), as opponents hit only .237 off the southpaw. But flash forward two years later and Oberholtzer now finds himself back in the minor leagues. He’ll get another chance sooner than later, but for now, he clocks in as a ‘loss’ based on his performance this season.
Matt Wisler (3-1, 3.10 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) – Atlanta Braves
It was only about a month ago when former Padres farmhand Matt Wisler made his Major League debut, and he did it in style, going eight innings and out-dueling Jacob deGrom at Turner Field, en route to picking up the victory (which was actually due to the typically horrendous Mets defense). I jumped on Wisler as soon as he made this start, not just because of his skill set, but also because it’s worth trusting Atlanta personnel when it comes to starting pitchers. Considering he was the main haul from San Diego when they dealt away Craig Kimbrel. Wisler’s still going up, as evident in how he’s logged 19 strikeouts over his last three starts, after picking up just two punch-outs in his first two outings combined. This call easily goes in the ‘win’ column.
Andrew Heaney (3-0, 1.32 ERA, 0.84 WHIP) – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Arguably, he might be the No. 1 gem of the entire history of this column thus far. Have you seen what Andrew Heaney has done since being called up by the Angels? He has a dazzling 23:4 K:BB ratio in 27.1 innings, exactly why he’s the one starting pitcher I specifically said to pick up pronto, and boy is he pitching like an ace. The 24-year-old southpaw has made four starts into his Angels tenure, and in each assignment he’s gone six innings or more while allowing two runs or less and recording five-plus strikeouts. That’s consistency at its finest. Why did the Marlins deal away this prized youngster after he exhibited obvious signs last season of becoming an upper echelon arm for years to come? Even worse, why did the Dodgers hastily then trade him to the Angels?? It’s a mystery. I watched almost all of Heaney’s Major League debut in 2014, when he squared off against Zack Wheeler, and it was pretty obvious to me. Not sure what those other GMs were thinking, to be honest.
Justin Masterson (3-2, 6.00 ERA, 1.64 WHIP) – Boston Red Sox
No, I was not high on Justin Masterson coming into the year, but after impressively out-dueling Chris Archer on his own home turf at The Trop a few Sundays ago I was convinced Masterson had turned things around. Since then, however, the former All-Star has not made the progress I anticipated, so this call registers as a ‘loss.’ Does the veteran have anything left in him in the second half? I’m not sure but it’d probably be wise to watch from a distance at first.
Taylor Jungmann (4-1, 2.15 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) – Milwaukee Brewers
Is there any rookie pitcher in baseball right now that’s hotter than Taylor Jungmann? I don’t think there is, except maybe aforementioned fellow Andrew Heaney, and that sentiment was further solidified his last time out when he spun a complete game gem against the Dodgers — on the road at Chavez Ravine, no less. Jungmann has made seven starts now for the last-place Brewers, including outings against the likes of Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Francisco Liriano, and Cole Hamels, and in six of them he’s allowed two runs or less (the one time he didn’t was his start at Coors Field). Being a former early first-round pick and a winner of the Dick Howser Trophy in 2011 (National College Baseball Player of the Year), it still mystifies me that Jungmann hasn’t caught a huge allegiance of supports yet. I’ve already watched the 25-year-old Texan in a few of his outings and I’ve been impressed every single time. If you have a chance to somehow buy him low from another Fantasy team, then go for it. Hell, I’d even say to overspend for Mr. Jungmann. The guy’s simply a winner and has a very, very bright future in this league.
Carter Capps (1-0, 1.42 ERA, 0.79 WHIP) – Miami Marlins
This is the one reliever I’ve covered all year, and when it comes to set-up men, I’m not sure there’s anyone better. In his second year with the Marlins, Capps has absolutely taken off, as you can tell from his minuscule ERA and WHIP, but of course, when you’re talking about the electric 24-year-old, the first thing that comes to mind is strikeouts. In 25.1 innings pitched, Capps has 48 Ks, compared to just six walks, making him useful in any league, even ones that don’t score holds. When Capps is inevitably given a chance to close somewhere in the future, he could become a huge, huge deal.
FINAL RECORD: 13-5-2 (72.2%)
So, there you have it. Out of the 20 pitchers I touted throughout the season prior to the All-Star break, I was correct on 13 of them, wrong on five of them, and ‘pushed’ on a couple — good for a 72.2 percent hit-rate. In other words, not only is Deuces Wild deserving of an All-Star berth, it’d probably be starting in the game as well… toeing the rubber. Oh, and as alluded to in the intro of this week’s writing, I did mention there were five under-the-radar hitters I hyped as well, three of which I flopped on (Max Muncy, Cory Spangenberg, and Carlos Peguero), one I nailed (Mike Moustakas), and the last I pushed on (Mark Canha, who I still believe has the ability to break out in a big way), but that’s why this column specializes in starting pitching.
But now, we commence on the season’s second half. Similar to my enormous success here at RotoExperts, if you’re enjoying your own fortunes within your Fantasy campaign, the best advice I can give you is this: Never be content. There are always people below you, above you, or even with you that might get hungrier, and thus, might pull off those critical moves that could end up putting you in the dust. It’s a lesson worth digesting in any facet of life, actually. Don’t get content with your success, keep working hard with your team, and hopefully, the almighty championship is your endgame. And on that note, best of luck coming out of the break and I’ll see ya next week here on Deuces Wild.