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High upside Starting Pitchers going late in fantasy drafts, part 2

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In this series I will list some starting pitchers who are going late in drafts that I think have high upside in 2015. I define high upside as the potential to significantly outperform their draft slots. Here is part 2:

Brandon McCarthy, Los Angeles Dodgers (Yahoo ADP of 209)

McCarthy changed the way he pitched upon leaving the Diamondbacks organization last July and had a massive increase in production. With the Diamondbacks, McCarthy primarily relied on his sinker (56%) and was discouraged from using his cutter. He also did not throw any four seam fastballs with Arizona, according to pitch FX. The predictability of his pitch type resulted in tons of hard contact and a very elevated home run to fly ball ratio. McCarthy said of his pitch types with Arizona, "it's hard to keep major league hitters off one pitch".

The Yankees revamped McCarthy's process on the mound. First, they encouraged him to use his cutter more often. McCarthy said of his cutter, "the cutter neutralizes the inner half of the plate against lefthanders, and you can do things away to righthanders with it. It kind of helps set up everything else and gives you some room to work." Secondly, with the help of catcher Brian McCann, the Yankees convinced McCarthy to throw his hard four seamer, which averaged 93.4 mph with the Yankees, up in the strike zone as a counter to his sinker. The four seamer served to change hitters eye levels and keep hitters from hunting McCarthy's sinker, which they teed off on in Arizona.

McCarthy's quality of contact was far better with the Yankees than with the Diamondbacks and it led to a substantial increase in results:

Team

ERA

FIP

xFIP

K%

BB%

SwStr%

BABIP

Yankees

2.89

3.22

2.85

22.2%

3.5%

9.4%

.307

DBacks

5.01

3.82

2.88

20.0%

4.3%

8.2%

.345

McCarthy is now moving to the pitcher friendly park of Dodger Stadium and will play a lot of road games in San Francisco and PetCo. I expect him to continue to his success with the Yankees and prevent runs at a high level with Los Angeles.

Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians (Yahoo ADP of 239)

Salazar burned a lot of owners last year who drafted him in the top 100. He built up huge pitch counts early in games and was consistently forced to exit starts early, leading to a demotion to the minor leagues. Salazar averaged just 4.9 IP per start before his demotion, and the Indians wanted him to become a more efficient pitcher. After the stint to the minors last year, Salazar put together strong numbers in his 12 starts after the recall:

ERA

FIP

xFIP

K%

BB%

FIP-

IP/GS

SwStrk%

First strike%

Pre

5.53

4.71

3.79

25.5%

9.2%

127

4.9

10.6%

57.1%

Post

3.50

2.83

3.25

25.2%

6.2%

77

5.6

11.3%

61.4%

Salazar significantly cut down his walk rate while maintaining his high strikeout and high swinging strike rates. He also threw more first pitch strikes. His 3.50 post demotion ERA lagged behind his FIP and xFIP, pointing towards poor defense behind him or unlucky batted ball placement.

Salazar is developing in the right direction, and while I understand some fantasy owners won't want to go to that well again, his upside is worth taking at his current ADP.

Wade Miley, Boston Red Sox (Yahoo ADP of 240)

Miley getting out of Chase Field is a huge positive for him. His career ERA is a full run lower on the road than it is at Chase Field. His home run to fly ball ratio is significantly lower on the road at 9.2%, compared to just under 13% at Chase Field. His FIP is also about a half run lower away from Chase Field.

Chase Field is tough to pitch in because it has similar park effects to Coors Field, although not as extreme. I'm no scientist, but from what I understand, the high altitude of Chase Field (which is second only to Coors Field) decreases air pressure, which gives fly balls less wind resistance and therefore causes them to travel further than a normal ballpark near sea level. The low humidity also causes dry air, which makes gripping the baseball more difficult, leading to more erratic command. There is also less movement on pitches, making them easier to square up.

Miley generates a large percentage of ground balls and his strikeout rate and swinging strike rate both rose significantly last season. Fenway Park isn't exactly a soft landing spot for a LHP, but it should be an improvement over Chase Field for Miley, and I don't think a finish inside the top 150 is farfetched.