Fantasy owners are always on the lookout for quality pitching. Of course, the less value they have to give away to find it, the better. That’s why they are always trying to buy low on struggling stars.
It’s an excellent concept, perhaps the ABC of in-season management and the waiver wire. However, acquiring talented players on the cheap is not always easy.
Here are some potential options to buy low, as fantasy managers might get tired of them. We examined hitters last week, but now it’s time to look at the hurlers.
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Fantasy Baseball: Buy Low, Sell High; Pitchers Edition
Pitchers To Buy Low
Jose Berrios, Toronto Blue Jays
This is a good one. The Blue Jays’ righty had a horrible 5.23 ERA last season and a career-high 1.52 home runs per nine innings allowed. Nevertheless, he worked hath mechanically and mentally in the offseason and reported early to spring training, hoping to start the year in top shape.
After 21.2 frames, he has a horrible 6.23 ERA, a full run higher than in 2022. So why is he a buy-low target? Well, because he is having some horrendous luck and has actually been very, very good.
His 2.67 FIP would be the best mark of his MLB tenure, his K-BB% of 18.9 is better than his career mark, and he is stranding a ridiculously low 39.1 percent of baserunners. Perhaps it is some hideous batted ball luck, or he might be pitching hurried by the clock. We don’t know. But we do know that a 39.1 LOB% is unsustainable, and it will correct itself and get closer to his 71.2% career mark soon.
Berrios is probably not loved by his owner, so pounce. You might be getting a solid third or fourth starter for your staff.
Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies
As of Thursday, Zack Wheeler had a 4.79 ERA. Of course, most fantasy owners know better and are more than willing to let the guy struggle for as much as he needs before straightening things out. But you never know if Wheeler’s owner is panicking and looking to move him for the hottest prospect.
That ERA makes Wheeler a prime target to buy low. His FIP is a solid 2.88, he is hardly giving up any home runs (0.44 per nine innings) that may suggest command issues, his BABIP is abnormally high at .367 (his career mark is 2.98), and he is throwing as hard as he did last year.
Zack Wheeler, Wicked 89mph Slider. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/XrVtNCO678
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 18, 2023
Give him three or four additional starts, and his numbers, once again, will look elite.
Nate Eovaldi, Texas Rangers
You can have a 5.40 ERA and still pitch the best ball of your life. That’s the magic of a small sample size right there. It’s actually what’s happening to Texas Rangers’ righty Nate Eovaldi.
Yes, his ERA is high, but that creates a buying opportunity that may not return later in the season. His FIP is a much lower 2.26, and xERA and xFIP (3.75 and 3.02, respectively) agree with his dominance.
He is still striking people out, nearly 10 per nine frames, in fact. The following numbers tell us that he will be fine: .422 and 62.1%. That’s his BABIP and LOB%, or percentage of people left on base. For the latter, his career mark is 71.6%, so expect positive regression to the mean soon.
Pitchers To Sell High
Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves
Charlie Morton has been a serviceable fantasy commodity for years. He was even a pitcher to buy low back in the day, in 2017, when the Houston Astros overhauled his repertoire. Now, he is more of a sell-high candidate.
As of Thursday night, Morton has a 3.22 ERA in 22.1 frames with the Atlanta Braves. Other run-prevention metrics and underlying stats scream sell, though.
His FIP is a much higher 4.57, mainly because his K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) went from 10.73 last year to 6.85 in 2023. In addition, the whiff rate on his trademark curve is down from 41.8 to 29 percent.
His velocity has been mostly fine, but he has lost the ability to miss bats. The spin rate on his fastball is also down. Perhaps his stuff bounces back, but he is 39. He is bound to decline eventually, and 2023 might be the year.
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
Jack Flaherty is just 27, theoretically in his prime. He has a career 3.39 ERA, so he has been an ace before. If you happen to own him, try to find out if he has some name value left because his actual value might not be high.
Flaherty has a 17/17 BB/K ratio in 21.1 innings with a 5.48 FIP and a .220 BABIP. He has been lucky enough to post a 2.95 ERA through Thursday, but his good fortunes might not last long. Shoulder issues have ruined his last two seasons, and he is not the pitcher he once was.
#STLCards RHP Jack Flaherty’s totally understandable look at the grand slam that put his team in a 6-1 hole in the 7th inning. pic.twitter.com/9Z3XVt6Z3V
— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) April 18, 2023
He might be able to bounce back to some degree, but the odds are against him as long as he is having so many issues with throwing strikes.
Mike Clevinger, San Diego Padres
Mike Clevinger, who dodged a bullet in a domestic violence case a few months ago, has a 3.26 ERA in 2023 and a 3.38 career mark. He was brilliant in 2017-20 but then got hurt.
With a 4.33 ERA last year after Tommy John surgery, he wasn’t all that impressive, but he somehow managed to post that 3.26 ERA this year in 19.1 innings despite a horrible 1.50 WHIP.
At 6.98, Clevinger’s K/9 would have decreased for a fourth straight year if the season had ended today. His 5.13 FIP is more indicative of his current talent level, and he is just not missing bats anymore. He has a 7.6% swinging strike rate, down from 10.6% last year and 12.1 for his career. He is a sell if you can find something useful for him because if not, you can even consider dropping him depending on the format.