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An Intriguing Deep League Starting Pitcher

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In a very much lost season in Atlanta, there is little to cheer about, but it is opening up opportunities for young players to emerge. John Gant is one such player and might just have sneaky fantasy value the rest of the way.

Cleveland Indians v Atlanta Braves Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Quick note: despite being listed as a starter on the Braves official website and still listed as the starter some places for tonight’s game in Arizona, it appears Gant will be in the bullpen in the short term, but I have no idea why. They certainly have room in their rotation. The below advice will apply whenever he does start.

If you play in deep leagues (NL/AL Only, 16+ mixed league teams, 40-man rosters, etc.), you know just how hard it can be to find talent off the waiver wire. You go out there and look at the list and it’s nothing but guys like Mike Montgomery, Jorge de la Rosa, and Brett Anderson in the starting pitching market. However, every once in a while you can pick up on a pitcher that scouts over looked and your league underestimates. Corey Kluber, Jacob deGrom, Dallas Keuchel, and others emerged from nowhere to become great starters. This year, guys like Tyler Anderson, Junior Guerra, and Tanner Roark have become reliable fantasy options with little-to-no fanfare coming into the season.

All that rambling intro is to say that I want to provide some help to you deep-leaguers. I’m going to profile a pitcher that is very under-the-radar that I think could help out a lot of teams. I doubt he will ever be a #1 or #2 starter, but he’s young and has enough upside to be very interesting. He is essentially 0% owned in Yahoo, so he’s out there everywhere.

I guess I’ve buried the lede here. John Gant. That’s his name. He is a RHP for the Braves. He is 24 years old and missed the last two months with an oblique strain. He is currently listed as the #3 starter on the Braves’ team depth chart. He has four career MLB starts and 31.1 total innings (includes some relief appearances).

His minor league track record is just ok. His K/9 has been great at several stops, particularly in A-, A+, and AA in the second half of last year, posting K/9 of 10.17, 10.71, and 9.52, respectively. His ERAs in those stints have been below 3. In 52.1 innings in AAA this year, he had a 4.3 ERA, but a 3.54 FIP and 8.94 K/9.

As recently as last November, Dan Farnsworth of Fangraphs ranked Gant as the #2 prospect in the Braves system. Yes, this was before the Braves brought in a slew of talent through offseason and mid-season trades, but still. Farnsworth gave him future potential grades of 60 fastball, 60 curveball, 70 changeup, 65 command, and 60 overall value. Those are some very good grades.

More recent reports haven’t been quite as glowing. MLB.com has him as the #22 Braves prospect this year and gives him a 45 overall grade, with 50s for all four grades. Here’s an excerpt from their write-up on him:

Obviously, that isn’t as glowing as Farnsworth evaluation, but there are still some things to like. He has that big frame for durability and throws a deceptive 92 mph fastball, along with a nasty changeup.

On to this year, he has pitched mostly out of the ‘pen, but actually improved as a starter.

IP K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP
Starter 18.2 22.40% 7.90% 3.38 2.99 3.82
Reliever 12.2 25.40% 8.50% 6.39 5.28 4.32

You can see he has done well in a starting role, but briefly. If he hadn’t hurt his oblique, we would know more about him by now. What I can say is that his overall swinging strike rate is 9.7%, which is about average, his changeup gets well above average whiff rates, his curve is about average, and his fastball is just below average. He just throws three pitches: fastball, curve, changeup. They are split 55%/20%/25%. His K% as a starter is good for 59th best in baseball among pitchers with 10+ innings.

His hard hit rate as a starter of 30% is a little worse than average. As a counter to that, his exit velocity allowed is much lower than average at 87.5 mph. Some pitchers around him at that average velocity are Noah Syndergaard, Jake Arrieta, Aaron Nola, and Johnny Cueto. That’s great company.

I like to gamble on starting pitchers in deep leagues, because you never know which ones are going to put it all together and take it up a notch. I can’t guarantee that Gant will become the next Keuchel or even Guerra, but he’s got just enough to like that I think he’s worth the shot. He’s shown good strikeout stuff, scouts love his command so he should have a high floor, and he’s 6’5” tall and only 24 years old, so there is room for him to improve.

This is the type of player you have to bet on in deep leagues in hopes that one or two of them will emerge. This year, my “project starters” have been Luis Perdomo, Robbie Ray, Kyle Gibson, Daniel Norris, and Chad Green. As you can see, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s they way it goes. I like Gant and think he can outperform most expectations and have unexpected fantasy value. Maybe he will crash and burn, but I think he is worthy of your consideration. Tschus!