This summer, FantasyAces.com is turning up the heat with its $250,000 World Baseball Championship. 20 qualifiers will enjoy a 3-night oceanfront vacation in Southern California for the live final at Angel Stadium. So, enter the next FAWBC qualifier and take a swing at this once-in-a-lifetime DFS experience and the $100,000 grand prize!
After an extremely successful first half, in which I went 13-5-2 (72.2 percent! As good a performance as any other Fantasy Baseball analyst in the country, of course) in terms of projecting the 20 under-the-radar pitchers that I recommended throughout the campaign, Deuces Wild is now ready to take its first swings in the season’s second half. With that being said, hello all and welcome back to the column that could. As always, I am the illuminating Matt Zylbert, and this is the column that takes you on your weekly excursion outside the box for some of the wisest and brightest analysis you’ll find on under-the-radar starting pitchers anywhere. This week, I have two arms for you that could be scooped up at any given time, so pay close attention and get ready to make an Alex Sanchez-type burst (yes, random mention but one of my favorite leadoff hitters of all-time) toward the waiver wire.
Chris Bassitt – Oakland Athletics (Trending UP)
He’s only made four starts this season, after appearing in five games as a reliever, but I am already convinced that Chris Bassitt is here to stay as a dependable middle-of-the-rotation starter for years to come. And this isn’t even a new belief, as Bassitt actually stuck out to me at the tail-end of last year, when he first debuted with the White Sox, and now, here he is in 2015 with a brand new team, showcasing some really marvelous work thus far.
A former 16th-round pick in 2011, Bassitt was never really a highly-touted prospect, which is understandable these days when a youngster doesn’t possess flame-throwing stuff. But here’s the thing: Bassitt, according to Fangraphs, is throwing harder than ever, having upped his average fastball velocity to 93.1 MPH, while his sinker has also experienced a boost, now up to 92.6 MPH on the radar gun. That’s extremely notable for a five-pitch pitcher, which is exactly what Bassitt is, as a quick glance at his repertoire will reveal he has a fastball, sinker, slider, changeup, and curveball all in his arsenal. That’s not common, and when a pitcher has a good grasp on all of those pitches, well, he has a very good chance to succeed.
That’s exactly what’s been happening for Bassitt in the early going. While his ERA for the season currently sits at 2.94, not to mention while owning a 1.13 WHIP, he’s actually been better than that since being given a chance to run as a starter in the Oakland rotation.
In fact, the 26-year-old has allowed just two runs or less in all five of his starts, while logging at least five innings in each instance as well. As a starter, he actually has a 2.74 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, and has allowed just one home run in all of his starting assignments, spanning 24 innings.
The one drawback about owning someone like Bassitt is that the strikeouts aren’t there yet. Overall, he has 21 strikeouts compared to 11 walks in 33.2 total innings, but as a starter, his K:BB ratio is much more distinct, being 13:2, which can still be useful. In any case, he reminds a little bit of someone like Kyle Gibson, who is excellent at getting groundballs, and when I first wrote about Gibson in the beginning of the season, he actually had more BBs than Ks. Bassitt already maintains an excellent ratio, and with notably increased velocity since first debuting a season ago, the strikeouts are only going to go up.
Clearly, this is a pitcher that shouldn’t be sitting on any waiver wire. Hell, I’d even recommend picking him up for standard leagues, as opposed to just deep formats. The Athletics are out of contention, and therefore will have no problem continuing to trot out the right-hander every fifth day as sort of an audition for next season, and let’s also remember that Oakland has one of the best pitcher’s parks in all of baseball. As of now, the right-hander has passed every test with flying colors, even going toe-to-toe with Madison Bumgarner in his most recent start at AT&T Park in San Francisco, where he shined. Bassitt can absolutely continue to churn out quality starts on a consistent basis, making it necessary you pick him up right away.
Joe Ross – Washington Nationals (Trending UP)
Fun fact that seemingly most people still don’t realize or acknowledge: Joe Ross is actually the younger brother of San Diego Padres stud pitcher Tyson Ross.
This is especially intriguing to me, as someone who has been a fan of the elder Ross since his forgotten early days in Oakland (even labeled him a sleeper years ago before most had heard of him, and lo and behold, he ended up an All Star last year). And this is very notable because the younger Ross, since debuting in the beginning of June on a Saturday afternoon against the Cubs, has actually looked as impressive as his big brother, which could indicate big things are on the horizon.
Of course, I can’t tell you to immediately hold a spot down for the baby brother in the Ross family, as his spot in the rotation appears to be in jeopardy once ultra-talented Stephen Strasburg returns from injury relatively soon. But in the meantime, Ross has certainly proven he’s already Major League ready and will definitely be in somebody’s concrete rotation plans for next year.
Through five starts, Ross is only 2-3, but that’s certainly not indicative of what he’s showcased thus far. In fact, he has a very nice 3.03 ERA and an even nicer 0.95 WHIP, but most impressive of all, the 22-year-old has clung together a brilliant 34:3 (!) K:BB ratio in his 32.2 innings of work. For extra emphasis, let me repeat that: that’s 34 strikeouts versus only three walks! Ross has been terrific in his first taste of the bigs, and he’s only been getting more comfortable, based on the fact that his last four starts have registered as quality ones.
His best start is perhaps the most definitive proof that the former 2011 first-round pick will succeed for years to come. In only his third big league outing, Ross took on the Pirates in the heart of their extensive monster run that catapulted them to where they are in the standings today, and not only did he hold them to just one run over seven-plus innings, he completely stifled them, striking out 11 batters. In three of his starts, in fact, Ross registered seven or more punch-outs.
This trend of Ross picking up strikeouts, while contributing some smooth pitching along the way, appears to be no coincidence either. After all, the right-hander is consistently hitting the low-90s with his fastball and cutter, and unsurprisingly, has always maintained a good K/9 rate at each stop throughout his journey to the Majors. Right now, it’s 9.37 with the Nats, and in Double-A Harrisburg earlier this year, it was 9.47. Last year, when he first got to Double-A as a member of the Padres, he registered an 8.55 K/9 rate.
It’s pretty evident that young Joe Ross has a nice, lengthy career in front of him that should unfold over the next decade and more. The key, though, is timeliness, as it pertains to all of our 2015 Fantasy campaigns. While Ross is really hitting his stride, does he merit a permanent bench spot on your roster through the end of the year and playoffs? That’s up to you, because once Strasburg does indeed return, there may not be another injury to the Washington rotation, which would put Ross’ standing in limbo. He’s got great stuff, though, and if he’s able to secure more starts in the future, he’ll definitely be a Fantasy asset moving forward, and could then play a pivotal role in the homestretch.