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Fantasy Baseball Pickups: Underrated arms ready to be acquired

Dalton Del Don
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Framber Valdez, Houston Astros

He’s not one of the team’s elite prospects, but Valdez has pitched effectively (3.12 ERA) out of the pen this season and is now moving into the Astros’ starting rotation thanks to Corbin Martin’s struggles (5.59 ERA, 5.59 BB/9). Forrest Whitley was placed on the IL in Triple-A last week with shoulder fatigue, Collin McHugh remains on the shelf with an elbow injury, and Josh James looks entrenched in a relief role (where he’s been up-and-down with 22 walks over 34.2 innings), so there’s an opportunity here.

The Astros have the league’s best offense and employ a strong defense and bullpen, so it’s an ideal situation for Valdez, who gets away with shaky control thanks to being an extreme ground-baller (career 62.7 GB percentage). Valdez is set to square off against a poor Orioles offense at home during his first start and is still available in more than 80% of Yahoo leagues.

Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers

With Gio Gonzalez and Jhoulys Chacin on the IL, Peralta returned to Milwaukee’s rotation Thursday, and he responded with a fine outing (9:0 K:BB ratio). It came at home against arguably MLB’s worst offense in the Marlins, but Peralta now has 148 strikeouts over 122.1 career innings, with a 3.88 FIP. He’s been maddeningly inconsistent and is homer-prone, but those in deeper leagues in need of strikeouts should look here. Jimmy Nelson is another alternative to start for the Brewers now, but Chacin has been downright awful this season (NL-worst 5.75 FIP), and Peralta offers legitimate upside. He’s out there in nearly 90% of leagues.

Bryan Reynolds, Pittsburgh Pirates

A second-rounder in the 2016 draft, Reynolds hit better than .300 every step throughout the minors, was destroying Triple-A pitching earlier this year (153 wRC+) and owns a .346/.404/.549 line over 133 at-bats with Pittsburgh. The left fielder’s .418 BABIP is sure to drop, but his expected batting average (.301) and Hard Hit% (49.0) are both in the top 8% of the league. Reynolds has moved to second in the Pirates’ lineup lately, and he should remain plenty useful in fantasy leagues, at least until Corey Dickerson returns.

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Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

He’s one homer shy of last year’s total in 353 fewer at-bats and has shown signs of growth at the plate since returning from suspension. While it’s been a small sample, Russell sports a career-low in K% (19.7) and a career-high in BB% (9.2), and his exit velocity is up. He’s hitting toward the bottom of the order, but Russell is still just 25 years old, and it’s clear he’s been re-embraced by the Cubs’ franchise. As both 2B and SS eligible, he’s reemerging as an option in deeper leagues.

Adam Haseley, Philadelphia Phillies

With Odubel Herrera out of the picture and Andrew McCutchen out for the season, the rookie is suddenly looking at a big opportunity in Philadelphia’s outfield, even with the team also trading for Jay Bruce. The No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft, Haseley is a contact-first hitter with hopes of developing further power. While his bat doesn’t appear ready to go crazy on the league (he posted a .795 OPS in the minors last season), Haseley has a good pedigree and is now the starting center fielder for a first-place team in a park that’s excellent at boosting homers. He’s still available in more than 90% of leagues.

Michael Pineda, Minnesota Twins

One of my favorite late-round SP fliers this year, Pineda was dropped from many teams after recording an ugly 5.34 ERA before being placed on the IL with knee tendinitis. No doubt, he’s been a huge disappointment, but Pineda does own a 1.22 WHIP and a 50:11 K:BB ratio on the year, so there remains plenty of potential, especially if his recent time off results in a healthier version able to push off his legs better.

Pineda is owned in less than 10% of leagues, but he’s in a nearly ideal situation, as the Twins provide him with terrific run support as well as defense, and Target Field has been baseball’s best pitcher’s park so far this season, too. Pitchers with 5:1 K:BB ratios in that type of environment have too much upside to be left on waiver wires.

Zac Gallen, Miami Marlins

He owns a 1.67 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP with a 99:15 K:BB ratio over 81.0 innings in Triple-A this season. Gallen’s 28.8 K-BB% would rank third among starters at the major league level, and the odds of him getting called up and joining Miami’s rotation increased after Caleb Smith was placed on the IL on Friday. Gallen is still available in 95% of leagues, and while wins will be hard to come by for the Marlins, their extreme pitcher’s park will certainly help.

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OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
NY Mets
-164--
Houston
+135--