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Deep fantasy league thoughts -- Wade LeBlanc, worthwhile Marlin?

LeBlanc brought back the two-seam fastball last year, and he showing dramatic improvement. It's still around this year. Keep an eye on a Marlin pitcher.

Marc Serota




(And no, it's not Giancarlo Stanton.)

(I mean, I do recommend Giancarlo Stanton, but that's not who I'm writing about.)

(Well, I guess it has been so far, but I'm about to stop.)

(Is that enough parentheses? I think so.)

I love playing around on MLB Depth Charts. I will click through a team's 40-man just to see if, I don't know, Justin Duchscherer happens to have wound up in some organization this year. He hasn't, but hope springs eternal. Anyway, it's fun to go from roster to roster, just exploring.

Only, it gets less fun when you get to the crappy teams. It's not fair, but it does. When you click around and you realize "Oh look, Kevin Correia is the #2 starter for the Twins," that's just not a fun way to spend a Thursday night. So the end result is that I - and, by extension, fantasy owners who click through rosters for ideas - don't always spend enough time dredging crappy teams for potential value. And it doesn't really get more depressing, roster-wise, than the Miami Marlins.

Stanton is owned in regular leagues. At this point, Jose Fernandez probably is, too. Maybe Ricky Nolasco, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano, if some owner has a funny feeling. But I feel really comfortable betting that, unless you are in a 15-team, NL-only league, no one has sniffed around at Wade LeBlanc quite yet.

Now, a league has to be nearing that 15-team, NL-only threshold to justify a flyer on LeBlanc. I wouldn't recommend him in a 10-team mixed, in other words. But in the deeper leagues - 16-team mixed, 10-team NL, whatever - I feel comfortable saying he's at least worth a look.

First off, as I've said before, ignore his 2013 numbers so far. He's 0-3. His ERA is 6.75. That's no good, without question. But it's 14.2 innings, and of his three starts, only Monday's against Washington was actually bad. Peripherals can be slightly more telling, and his strikeout and walk rates are good so far, but still. 14.2 innings. Cool it.

On the other hand, one thing LeBlanc has done so far this year bodes well, at least to my eyes.

He's throwing his two-seam fastball.

LeBlanc debuted his two-seamer in 2009, throwing it on 2% of his pitches according to Fangraphs PITCHF/x data. And then he retired the pitch, settling into his mix of fastball/change/cutter/curve. It was...not that effective. He pitched for the Padres for four years, notching a 4.54 ERA, a K:BB ratio of 1.81, and only one year (2009, in only 46.1 innings) as an above-average pitcher by ERA+. Heck, 2009 was his only season that even approached average.

Then, for the 2012 season, LeBlanc joined the Marlins. I don't know if he angled for it, or if Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez came up with it, or what happened, but LeBlanc brought the two-seamer back. He threw it 14% of the time last year, and (coincidentally? No idea) had the best season of his career, notching a 108 ERA+. The two-seamer itself was far from his most successful pitch, according to PITCHF/x data, but still - you add a fifth pitch to a repertoire, that gives hitters one more thing to consider, one more thing to think about.

We can't draw any conclusions about pitch frequency yet this year, but we can say for certain that he's using the pitch again. Maybe I'm just a LeBlanc apologist - and, if so, I'm the only one - but I think a pitcher who expands his repertoire, has his best season, and sticks with what works is a good idea.

LeBlanc is due for a start against Cincinnati Saturday. Maybe think twice about tossing him against that offense. But after that, if the schedule works out right, he could face the Cubs, Mets, and Padres in succession. It's potential, if nothing else. Again, not in a shallow league. But if your league is really deep, I'd wager it's definitely worth a shot.


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