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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 1


Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

This week we're looking at a trio of promising right-handers, all under the age of 28. Sandy Alcantara lit up the Phillies on Opening Day, Brady Singer dazzled in his MLB debut, and Dylan Bundy looked sharp in his first start in an Angels' uniform.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 7/26/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

Editor's Note: Love the strategy of season-long fantasy sports? Live for the short term gratification of DFS? Try Weekly Fantasy Sports on OwnersBox - a new weekly DFS platform. Sign up today for a FREE $50 Deposit Match. Offer expires Thursday night! Sign Up Now!

 

Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

63% rostered

2019 Stats: 197.1 IP, 3.88 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 8.3% K-BB%

07/24 @ PHI: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 7 K

Alcantara was a surprise workhorse for Miami last year, putting up nearly 200 innings in 32 starts despite just having 6 MLB starts under his belt coming into 2019. His surface numbers look decent, but advanced stats have never been kind to Alcantara, as the young right-hander sports an ugly 5.21 SIERA and 1.77 K/BB ratio for his career. The lack of strikeouts, poor control, and awful team around him have made Alcantara an afterthought in the fantasy world, but at just 24 years old there may be room for growth here.

Alcantara’s defining pitch has always been his sinker, which makes him a relic of the past in today’s game. Sinkerballers are on their way out, but Alcantara has managed to hold batters to a .227 AVG, .121 ISO, and 62.2% groundball with the pitch throughout his career. Opposing hitters also mustered just an 83 MPH average exit velocity and a -1-degree average launch angle in 2019. There is some spice in this cheese too, as Alcantara averages between 95-96 MPH and has been known to touch 99-100 MPH when he’s really dialed in. Sinkerballers don’t put up the strikeout numbers we crave, but there’s no denying Alcantara’s sinker works as intended, and has helped him suppress home runs despite power surging around him.

While the sinker is clearly a good foundational pitch for Alcantara, he has a litany of question marks that have prevented him from taking the next step. One of his biggest issues has been poor control. Alcantara has a bloated 10.7% walk rate for his career, along with a 41.4% zone rate. He issued two free passes in this start against Philadelphia, but he did manage to throw 56 of his 87 pitches for strikes, which is nice to see from the sometimes wild hurler. Alcantara managed to do it with just a 35.6% zone rate in this start, and that’s because he got hitters to chase more often with his secondary pitches.

Alcantara’s five-pitch arsenal may look impressive on the surface, but this repertoire has always lacked a put-away pitch. Sure, Alcantara can lean on the sinker, like he often has, but he doesn’t have a pitch he can rely on for a punchout. Things looked a little differently in this start, as Alcantara notched 14 swinging strikes along with a 50% whiff rate on his slider and a 66.7% whiff rate with his changeup. Of course, these metrics are skewed by small sample size, but Alcantara still got plenty of hitters to chase at these pitches. He benefitted from an extra two inches of horizontal movement on his changeup and an extra half-inch of drop on his slider. The changeup is the pitch worth focusing on, because Alcantara made improvements with the pitch last season that coincided with better results (see below, source: brooksbaseball.net)

2019 Changeup Horizontal Movement (by month)

2019 Changeup Velocity (by month)

2019 Changeup Whiff Rate (by month)

2019 Changeup Batting Average Against (by month)

As he gained more movement and more velocity, the pitch performed better and (mostly) got more whiffs. Alcantara also improved his K/BB ratio in the second half to 2.38 along with a 4.47 FIP, which doesn’t sound  great, but is much better than where Alcantara has been throughout his career. If he could truly develop his changeup, and to a lesser extent, his slider, as reliable secondary pitches he could become more than a rotation filler. In a normal season I’d prefer a wait-and-see approach, but since we don’t have the luxury to wait Alcantara is a fine add where available, and usable in his next outing at Baltimore. There are a lot of strong lineups in the eastern region, so if there’s any time to use Alcantara it’d be in that matchup.

Verdict: Take a shot, but be wary of the kinks he still has to work out. I wouldn’t hesitate to drop him if he reverts back to bad habits.

 

Brady Singer, Kansas City Royals

24% rostered

2019 Stats (Double-A): 90.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 15.3% K-BB%

7/25 @ CLE: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

Singer, who was ranked as the Royals’ top pitching prospect and second-best overall prospect behind Bobby Witt Jr. coming into the season, was a surprise addition to Kansas City’s rotation. Injuries to Jakob Junis and Brad Keller along with complete lack of organizational depth forced the Royals’ hand in giving the young pitcher a shot, and in a shortened season they might as well see what they have in the 23-year-old ex-Florida Gator.

Singer has a four-pitch arsenal consisting of a two-seam, four-seam, slider, and changeup. The fastballs and slider are his bread-and-butter, and Singer racked up 14 swinging strikes between his fastball and slider in this one, including 10 just with the slider. The slider is really the make-or-break pitch with Singer, so let’s look at a pair of examples from the start below.

Late slider movement fools Franmil Reyes on one of Singer's best of the day

Singer caught far too much plate with this one, making it easy pickings for a hitter like Jose Ramirez

As you can see, Singer’s slider is more of a slurve, as it clocked in at around 84 MPH in this start and tends to have a looping motion, compared to the hard, sweeping slider that’s common across the league. Singer’s slurve coupled with his strong two-seam fastball not only give him good strikeout potential, as we saw in this outing, but should help him maintain a healthy groundball rate as well. Singer maintained a groundball rate of 49% or higher as a minor leaguer, and had a 2:1 GB:FB ratio in his start against Cleveland.

Strikeouts and groundballs are the golden combination for a pitcher, and add in the fact that Singer has maintained a walk rate under 7% throughout his minor league career and there’s a lot to like in this profile. It will be interesting to see whether Singer utilizes his changeup more often going forward, as he only threw two changeups this entire start despite Cleveland starting six lefties and/or switch-hitters against him. There was a lot of buzz around Signer’s changeup during the preseason, and it’s hard to imagine Singer relying on his slider 50% of the time all season. There were plenty of positives here, and if Singer can successfully incorporate his changeup he could carve out a permanent role for himself in this rotation even when Junis and Keller return.

Verdict: The slider-fastball combo looked dangerous in this one, and it leaves me impressed and excited to see more out of Singer. It’s worth monitoring his pitch mix, as his hyped-up, revitalized changeup could be the third piece that helps Singer stick around. He’s worth a speculative add in 12+ team leagues, and he is even startworthy in his next matchup against Detroit.

 

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels

73% rostered

2019 Stats: 161.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 14.8% K-BB%

7/25 @ OAK: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

Dylan Bundy has long been one of my favorite breakout candidates, but between injuries, gopheritis, and the incompetence of the Baltimore organization in developing pitchers had my predictions of stardom looking more and more foolish with each passing season. At 27 years old Bundy was an afterthought following the 2019 season, but an offseason trade to the Angels could be just what the doctor ordered for a post-hype breakout in Bundy.

Bundy has a deep five-pitch arsenal, consisting of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. Anyone who’s followed Bundy knows that, despite the five pitches, he lives and dies by that slider. For his career, Bundy has held batters to a .167 AVG and .132 ISO, along with a monster 24.1% SwStr rate. Even at his worst, Bundy’s slider has been an elite pitch and was a big piece of his success in this start. He had a 26.67% whiff rate with the pitch, and threw it 30 times out of 90 pitches. Even with his tumultuous history, Bundy’s slider is a known commodity and a strong pitch that can maintain a solid strikeout rate by itself. What’s more intriguing about this start is Bundy’s changeup usage.

Bundy only threw 11 changeups in this start, but had a 27.27% whiff rate with the offspeed offering, which is over 9% higher than his career rate. Bundy made some improvements with his changeup last season by increasing vertical movement and making changes to his release point, and the results speak for themselves. Prior to 2019 batters had a .265 AVG, .258 ISO, and a 17.37% whiff rate against Bundy’s changeup. Since 2019 batters have a .250 AVG, .157 ISO, and 19% whiff rate, and in 2019 Bundy had a 28.7% chase rate with the pitch compared to 33% the year prior. These improvements should allow Bundy to reduce his home run rate, fare better against left-handed batters, and finally give him an effective secondary offering outside of his slider.

It’s hard to declare Bundy “fixed” after just one outing, but there’s a lot to like about what he did against Oakland in this one. The biggest concern remaining is the inconsistencies in Bundy’s fastball. It clocks in at just 91 MPH, and it’s clear at this point that he’ll never come close to the mid-to-high 90s he flashed as a prospect before he suffered serious shoulder and elbow injuries that sapped his velocity. He’s a high-risk, high-reward breakout candidate, and that’s a chance I’m usually willing to take in fantasy.

Verdict: Bundy has flirted with the next level for years, only to come crashing down. Still, his elite slider guarantees an above-average strikeout rate. Add in an improved changeup and a much-needed change of scenery and there might be something cooking here. Bundy is worth adding in all leagues, and if the Angels’ rotation stays intact his next two starts will come against the rebuilding Mariners.



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It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More