One of the maxims that I used to follow in my fantasy baseball journey was a simple one: stay away from rookie starting pitchers. There was just too much risk, too little reward. Despite huge pedigrees, wicked stuff, or all the hype, the math just didn’t work for rookie starters. Most often, there was a very serious learning curve for even the top rookie starters — and while some players were dangerous from day one, plenty of them were ineffective.
Things have changed. Top rookies like Shelby Miller and Jose Fernandez are dominating major league hitters out of the gate. Unheralded rookies like Nick Tepesch and Dan Straily are good enough to play in your fantasy leagues. While rookie pitchers have always been a risky proposition, these days it appears that the risks have been somewhat mitigated by continued solid performance.
Daily fantasy leagues are a little different, in that we’re often asked to look at players who don’t have the same pedigrees as the tip-top of the top prospects. Oftentimes we have to pick from a number of questionable choices, and being a rookie pitcher was enough to make me say “no thanks” to a particular guy on a given day. But that’s no longer true. Back just five years ago, in 2009, rookie starting pitchers had a cumulative ERA of 4.92 and an FIP of 4.80. Compare that to this season, where rookie starters have a 4.45 ERA and 4.32 FIP. While the entire run environment has also changed a bit in favor of pitchers, this is still a rather dramatic shift that outpaces the changes to the “other” starter population. And it’s been consistent over the last four seasons.
As a population, we still have to remember that rookie pitchers are a little less likely to be successful than other starting pitchers — but at the same time we shouldn’t be too fearful of digging into this population in daily fantasy. Especially considering how some of the lesser-known names become solid, cheap daily options when facing off against weak offenses, being willing to risk a rookie starter can be a valuable move. So I’m picking three today.
The Daily Five
Steven Wright – $9.080
Starting anyone against the Houston Astros is usually a good idea, but Wright is especially interesting, as a knuckleball pitcher. He’s had more than a little difficulty limiting walks in his limited major league action, but facing off against a strikeout-prone Houston lineup with weak offense, we could see the Astros’ young hitters struggle against a pitch they haven’t seen much of.
Wily Peralta – $8,412
Over the last couple of games, Wily hasn’t been sharp on the road in Chicago and Colorado. Nevertheless, Peralta has come on strong in the summer, dropping his seasonal FIP down to 4.32. Peralta struggles with homers sometimes, but the Giants are not a home run-hitting team, one of the worst in baseball. That matches up pretty well.
Jenrry Mejia – $8,049
Not only is the Mets’ most recent rotation callup looking more like Matt Harvey than Zack Wheeler, he’s doing it while dealing with a minor arm injury. While you can’t expect Mejia to have the same success that he’s had to this point, the Rockies aren’t a very good offensive team, especially outside the heart of their order. He could give more than a few strikeouts to go with a win, if everything breaks right tonight.
Paul Goldschmidt – $7,926
Yesterday, Brett Talley talked a little about Paul Goldschmidt’s propensity to hit a little better on the road, despite the favorable park conditions in Arizona. Well, despite hitting at home today against the Rays, Goldschmidt gets to face Jeremy Hellickson, and he’s coming off three home runs over his last five games. I’ve got no problem going with the hot hand here.
Chase Utley – $7,614
The Phillies’ second baseman is only capable of being stopped by his own body, not the pitchers in the National League. Utley faces off, at home, against Edwin Jackson today. Jackson isn’t an assassin, and Utley gets the platoon advantage against the veteran right-hander, so I’d take him when the price is so very low.
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