Fantasy Baseball: Pitching prospects that will become relevant in 2016

Aaron Nola has the potential to be a useful streaming option this week.

Noah Syndergaard, Carlos Rodon, and Andrew Heaney all made contributions to their big league clubs in 2015 becoming relevant for fantasy baseball. 2016 presents a new crop of pitching prospects that should be fantasy relevant during the season. Some of the names on the list have a much clearer path to playing time while others have either a stable rotation or organizational roadblocks that may push back their MLB impression. Lets take a look at five players to monitor.

* ADP data via Fantasy Pro’s

Aaron Nola | RHP | Philadelphia Phillies
ADP: 246

Aaron Nola has been a professional for only 2 seasons but has already made an impact at the Major League level. He came up last season for 77.2 innings over 13 starts. The sampling gave fantasy owners and Phillies fans a reason to be excited. He went 6-2 in his starts with a 3.59 ERA. Nola had a K/9 at 7.88 which was down from his Triple-A total but still a solid number. His BB/9 was over two which isn’t ideal but is something owners should expect this season as he continues to adjust to the major league level. He will be their ace and top of the rotation guy from the start of the season. I would expect Nola to pitch close to 180 innings this season with a K/9 at or above 8 and an ERA in the mid to high 3’s. There is a chance he can exceed those projections but 2017 feels like a safer projection for his elite season.

Steven Matz | LHP | New York Mets
ADP: 130

Steven Matz is another pitcher that made that made his major league debut last season going 4-0 in his 6 starts. He will start the 2016 season with the Major League team currently penciled in as the number four starter. Matz will be able follow Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard which should keep the pressure to be perfect in his outings.

For 2016 Matz has the chance to be a productive pitcher. Many of the projection systems have Matz between 140 and 160 innings mainly due to how the Mets have treated their other young pitchers in the past however Manager Terry Collins “expects no restrictive innings limits for the New York Mets’ young starting pitchers in 2016.” per Adam Rubin of Around 180 innings for Matz feels like a better estimate for 2016. I also expect an ERA in the low to mid three’s with a K/9 flirting with 9. Matz is currently coming off the board around names like Yu Darvish and Jeff Samardzija which feels like the right range. All three have a risk of not getting to 180 plus innings and have the potential to well outproduce ADP.

Tyler Glasnow | RHP | Pittsburgh Pirates
ADP: 288

Tyler Glasnow spent all of 2015 in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system. He moved quickly from Low-A to Triple-A going 7-5 over 22 starts between 3 levels. He produced a K/9 over 10 at each of the levels including an impressive 11.71 at Double-A where he spent most of his time making 12 starts. There is some concern around Glasnow and his control. When he made the leap from Double-A to Triple-A his BB/9 jumped from a reasonable 2.71 to a worrisome 4.83. Often times these trends will happen as a player moves up a level especially if they are overthrowing pitches in an attempt to adjust to the next level.

He will likely start the year in Indianapolis with the Pirates Triple-A team but there is an opportunity for Glasnow to move up quickly. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano are locked into the first two rotation spots but after that there are more questions than answers. Jon Niese is penciled into the third spot and should stay in rotation barring injury but is far from special. After Niese it gets interesting with Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Locke tentatively penciled into the 4 and 5 slots respectively. 38 year-old Vogelsong has had moments over the past few seasons in San Francisco but has a 4.8 ERA over his last 3 seasons. Locke has a ballooning ERA and walk rate which does not create enthusiasm. Pittsburgh may play with service time but there is a strong chance we see Glasnow sooner rather than later.

Lucas Giolito | RHP | Washington Nationals
ADP: 364

The Washington Nationals enter the 2016 with a seemingly set rotation. Obviously Max Scherzer is set at the top and Stephen Strasburg follows as the number 2. Assuming he is healthy he should be in this role the entire season but assuming this is not something fantasy owners or Nationals fans can do. He has spent parts of 6 seasons on the DL. The question marks continue after Strasburg as Gio Gonzalez currently pencils into the number 3 spot with Jordan Zimmermann leaving in free agency. Gonzalez has seen his strikeout rate drop and ERA balloon over the past two seasons. Tanner Roark and Joe Ross fill out the rotation. Roark is back after a season in the bullpen. In 2014 he posted an impressive 15 win season with an ERA under 3. Joe Ross, the brother of Tyson Ross will get his first full season in the majors in 2016. There is potential to see Giolito sooner than later but with the Washington Nationals Front Office there is always some reservations with young pitchers. Giolito is ready to produce at the Major League level but it may be July or August before he makes his mark.

Blake Snell | LHP | Tampa Bay Rays
ADP: 404

In 2015 Blake Snell got a taste of Triple-A after starting the season in High-A. Assuming to see Snell in the majors to start the season would be unrealistic for both Snell and the Rays. The Rays are well versed in service time and getting the most out of their young players. Snell only made 9 starts in Triple-A a season ago so developing him to start the season before making the jump to the Majors should help Snell see success. That said Snell has the skills to pay the bills. He has improved his command during his time in the minors helping to elevate his strikeout rate to over 11 in Triple-A and lower his walk rate.

The potential to have an open rotation spot with the Rays is the next question. Chris Archer is a stud and will be the ace. Jake Odorizzi should be the number 2 and look to eclipse the 170 innings total in 2016. The third slot is where the questions start to arise. Drew Smyly is the presumed number three but has had issues staying healthy in the past. He has eclipsed 100 innings once in his major league career. If Smyly misses time Snell could move into the rotation. Same goes for Matt Moore who is looking to bounce back after battling injuries and control problems. Erasmo Ramirez is the 5th starter for Tampa Bay and should get his 150 plus innings in that role. Ideally we see Snell sometime in May and get 15-20 starts from him. The more realistic approach is we see him sometime after the All-Star break and get close to double digit starts. A Nola or Matz type impact down the stretch would be ideal in the latter.


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