On Monday I wrote about the No-Name MVP batters of 2017. Guys like Tommy Pham, Paul DeJong, and Chris Taylor that weren’t even on March draft radars but played well enough to not only erase bad draft decisions, but win championships. Today, we look at the pitching side.
Starting pitching in 2017 was extremely volatile. Of the top 25 pre-season Yahoo pitchers, 12 vastly underperformed. Only eight outperformed their ADP. While there were a few true elite breakouts like Alex Wood, Luis Severino, Robbie Ray and Jimmy Nelson, none of these qualify for the No-Name Fantasy Team. Why? Because pitchers:
- Could not be a highly rated prospect. I didn’t set an arbitrary cut off for what “highly rated” means. You’ll find a few prospects in this list, but they were more or less unknown or forgotten outside of die-hard dynasty fans.
- Could only have limited appearances before 2016.
Some managers know the baseball player universe better than others. If you spot someone you think shouldn’t be in here, great! Chances are you know more than the average manager. I looked at these through the lens of a typical person who has knowledge of, say, the top 50 prospects in baseball and a solid — but not tight — grasp on all players in MLB.
Luis Castillo, CIN
Our No-Name ace truly sprung out of nowhere this year. Before debuting in late June, Castillo had never pitched above Double-A and was often labeled as a reliever thanks to an 80-grade fastball but below average secondary offerings. Suffice to say that we weren’t expecting much, if anything, from him. 89.1 innings later and we’re now well aware the Reds have a new staff ace.
Castillo not only used his 80-grade fastball to dominate hitters, but much to everyone’s surprise, utilized a legitimate four-pitch mix this season. According to BrooksBaseball, Castillo slowly weaned off his fastball and began upping the usage of his other pitches.
Managers who rostered him earned benefitted from a 3.12 ERA to go with 98 Ks (27.3 K%) for the low, low price of Pool Pick Up.
Zack Godley, ARI
What’s more improbable: A pitcher with no experience above Double-A finding success in the majors or one who had a 6.39 ERA (4.97 FIP) in 2016 now showing flashes of being elite? Godley was such an afterthought entering this year that even in NFBC formats, where 750 players are drafted, Godley was the 251st pitcher taken on average out of 257 who qualified in ADP.
The righty landed in the rotation in May and never looked back, carving up hitters (9.5 K/9), limiting walks (3 BB/9) and inducing groundballs at an elite rate (55%). If you want to argue he’s the best pitcher on this list, I’d probably agree with you. Only six pitchers (min. 100 IP) struck out more than 25% while inducing groundballs at 50% or more. Of those six, only one (Luis Severino) matched Godley’s 13 percent SwStr%. He slowed down in the second half (4.01 ERA), but make no mistake that he’ll be a popular sleeper pick in a few months.
Jordan Montgomery, NYY
The next three names won’t be as good as the first two, but hey, it’s not easy creating a rotation of supposedly good pitchers who were unknowns entering 2017. Making his MLB debut this year, Jordan Montgomery was an early sweetheart, flashing a true four-pitch mix and a 3.75 FIP that gave hope of better days. However unlike the other two names before him, he never really found his groove. Montgomery struggled on the road and suffered in the dog days of summer (28 ER in 48 innings between July and August).
But if you stuck with him in September, he rewarded you with a 2.49 ERA. He should have a spot in the rotation next season, but unlike Castillo or Godley, he won’t cost you that much. While he was more than likely a streamer in your leagues, Montgomery still pitched well enough to be a No-Name All Star.
Jake Faria, TB
Faria had always been the forgotten Rays prospect behind Blake Snell, Brent Honeywell and recently Jose De Leon. But after giving up just 3 ER in his first three starts with 22 Ks, he became a hot commodity. Relying on a fastball, slider, changeup combo, Faria performed similarly to Luis Castillo, with a 3.43 ERA and an 8.7 K/9, 3.22 BB/9 in 86.2 innings.
Unlike Castillo, though, Faria fizzled out in the second half with poor numbers that were probably a result of the abdominal strain that shelved him for a month. He returned and pitched only eight innings in three appearances.
Mike Clevinger, CLE
Clevinger’s strong season shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us. In his last 50 minor league starts spanning AA and AAA, he had a 2.81 ERA and 280 Ks in 285 innings. He had the goods and this year he wasn’t afraid to flash ‘em. The Jacob deGrom lookalike finished with a 3.11 ERA (3.85 FIP) and a 27.3 K%. His walks (12 BB%) were a bit unsightly, though. But chipping in 12 wins in 121 innings is something his owners gladly took.
My only gripe with Clevinger was how sporadic he could be. You never knew if you were getting six innings or three in a start. In quality start leagues he was a difficult play, notching only 11 in 21 starts. But when we’re talking about pitchers who helped right our ship and became stopgaps for bigger injuries all for the price of ‘Free’, it’s hard to complain too much. With a borderline four-pitch mix, he’s certainly earned the chance to be a full-fledged starter next year.
Chad Green, NYY
You can always count on a handful of relief pitcher breakouts each season and this year, Chad Green was king of the no-name ones. In 69 innings, he struck out a whopping 103 (40.7 K%!), had a minuscule 6.7 BB% and a 1.83 ERA. It was his first year relieving after trying to start last year and you have to wonder if he’s going to go the Andrew Miller route.
In standard leagues, he was one of the rare must-own non closers and finished inside the top 100 overall of fantasy players thanks to 5 wins. Side note: NYY now has Chapman, Betances, Robertson and Kahnle to go with Green. That’s silly.
Blake Parker, LAA
I’m bending my second rule here. Parker actually debuted in 2012 with six innings for the Cubs. Since then, he’s had only one full season (46.1 innings in 2013) and never found his footing in an organization until 2017 with the Angels. The 32 year old found some velocity out of nowhere (93.5 mph average fastball is highest in his career) and deployed a 32 percent split-finger fastball usage and went right after hitters for a career-high 67 innings.
Owners eventually nabbed him for the saves, but he only tallied eight of them thanks to Mike Scioscia’s infuriating use of his bullpen. Still, he had a strong 27.6 K-BB% and if you were in roto leagues, you were riding him long before he took over the closer role.
Dominic Leone, TOR
OK, be honest, is this the first time you’re even reading about Leone? It’s certainly my first time writing about him. Even though he debuted in 2014, Leone is still just 25 and he posted one of the most unheralded RP seasons this year. He finished with a 2.56 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 81 Ks in 70 IP. In standard leagues he ended up inside the top 200 overall and in deeper roto leagues, he was a solid asset.