On Monday, we discussed the common-thread hitters who occupy my 2015 fake baseball teams, for better or for worse. For Tuesday, we discuss the recurring pitchers. You’re invited to share your Wallet Players in the comments.
-- Aroldis Chapman: The more you respect the competition level of your league, the more I think you should devote some March resources to acquiring saves. Sure, if it’s the land of the blind, you can shift into “don’t pay for saves” mode. Heck, almost any strategy will win that sort of league. But if your opponents know what they’re doing, I suggest trying to get a bank of saves on draft day or auction day.
And here’s the cute thing about some sharp leagues: the big-time closers don’t seem to cost so much. It’s almost like there’s some silent collusion at play, wanting to avoid the gauche strategy of, gasp, paying for a closer.
Chapman takes on extra juice in any league that caps your innings or starts, since he’s such a ratio dominator and strikeout monster. Consider the last three years: 2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 16.2 strikeouts per nine innings. You can cast a wider net for your starting-pitching plays (or streaming picks) if you have Chapman at the back end, taking a sad song and making it better.
Oh, and he’s awfully fun to watch, too – one of the rare closers who’s legitimately appointment television. Fun still has a currency in fantasy baseball, right?
-- Jake Arrieta: So lovely when a post-hype prospect puts it all together and rings the bell for us, all at a minimum cost. That 2014 run sure was fun. You’ll have to pay more for Arrieta this year, but the cost doesn’t seem unreasonable to me (No. 23 ADP starter in Yahoo, not counting Yu Darvish). I see Arrieta as an easy Top 20 arm, and likely Top 10-15.
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio can take a bow; he helped Arrieta tighten his mechanics and perfect a slider (no, it’s a cutter, no, it’s a slider). If you take the nine-run shellacking at Colorado out of the equation (a reasonable request), Arrieta posted a 1.85 ERA over his last 18 starts last year. Hitting Arrieta's slider is like hitting a brick.
-- Gerrit Cole: I recognize it’s betting on the come with Cole, given we're still waiting for his first complete season. But what’s not to like on his profile? Cole brings gas in the mid-90s, gets ground balls almost half of the time, pitches in a favorable park (and with a respected pitching coach watching out for him), lives in a non-threatening league and division. Every scouty thing you read on Cole is glittering, screams out “future Cy Young” (and he was, after all, the No. 1 pick in his draft class). Usually I’m more of an agnostic, “take what they leave for me” drafter over a target-driven, “must get my guy” owner. But Cole is someone I shoved back on this spring.
-- Jose Quintana: The only thing wrong with Quintana’s 3.32 ERA last year is that it should have been better, if fielding-independent ERAs mean anything to you (FIP suggests 2.81). Otherwise, just ride the wave with The Q, who’s thrown over 200 innings two straight years, with an ascending strikeout rate and a dipping walk rate.
-- Mike Leake, Henderson Alvarez: Neither pitcher cost much, but I grabbed both of them as low-investment depth options in some head-to-head and weekly formats, where innings are not capped and quality starts take on more value. Both pitchers collect ground balls by the bucketload, what you want to see from a pitch-to-contact specialist.
-- Brandon McCarthy: He tweaked his arsenal during a dynamic run in New York, and now he’s headed to Chavez Ravine, where the park is friendly and Vin Scully provides the dreamy backdrop. I want in.
-- Andrew Miller: Normally I would rather find a new middle-relief hero rather than chase the previous guy, but I expect Miller to be used as an aggressive weapon by the Yankees, to the point that he’ll be in position to get a handful of wins (or saves, or both) in addition to what I expect to be wipeout ratios. In short, I trust Miller truly is as unhittable as he looked last year.