Over the last few days, there has been some chatter of pitchers expected to throw around 100 innings; thus, not regular starters but long relievers or spot starters that could have a fantasy impact. These players are hard to draft but worth keeping an eye on for streaming purposes or maybe more throughout the season. With innings such a concern all over baseball, some of these pitchers throwing 7-10 innings a week could be pretty productive for your fantasy team. Let’s take a look at a few that I have my eyes on, acknowledging there are likely more than we can discuss throughout the spring and season.
Freddy Peralta, MIL
Peralta highlights this list for me as I am all in for the 2021 season. Peralta projects to be the long man for the Brewers and should see his fair share of innings. Last season he pitched in 15 games for 29.1 innings after throwing 85 innings in 2019. He saw his K% rise to 37.6%, while his WHIP fell to 1.16. More impressively, his 3.99 ERA was maybe even better, proven by a 2.41 FIP and 3.23 xFIP. Significant improvements from his previous two seasons.
Peralta’s success was mainly due to his two pitches’ dominance (working on mastering a third). He is primarily a fastball and curveball pitcher, and both had a CSW above 32%. Peralta has already thrown 3.2 innings this spring and has ten strikeouts over that stretch. The Brewers starting rotation has Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Josh Lindblom, but the rest of the rotation is subject to short outings. These short outings will open the door to plenty of innings from Peralta and eventually a potential starting spot for Freddy. His ADP over the last two weeks is 316, and at that point, he is definitely worth the pick with the upside he brings to your strikeouts and ratios.
Since writing this manager, Craig Counsel said the Brewers want to continue stretching Peralta out to join the rotation. Draft now as the ADP is about to head to the moon.
Alex Reyes, STL
Recent news came out this week that the Cardinals want to get Reyes to 100 innings pitched. First, let’s be realistic in the fact that 75-80 innings would be fantastic. He only threw 19.2 innings last year and has not thrown more than 31 innings in any season since 2016. Reyes has battled injuries, but for now, looks healthy (been throwing high 90’s, even reaching 100 this spring) and ready to roll, and the Cardinals want him to be a significant part of the team.
If Reyes gets 75 or more innings, that means he will likely be a long man, get the occasional start, or just be a significant piece of the bullpen’s back end. There is something to like about each of those scenarios. Wins, saves, and holds can all come into play for Reyes this season. Besides those stats, Reyes brings solid ratios throughout all of his minor league seasons and a very strong K%. Projections have him with an ERA below 4.00 and a K% over 30%. Those stats will play excellently with an ADP of 322. Health is always a risk with Reyes, but he brings a ton of fantasy upside at his ADP while on the mound this season.
Michael Kopech, CWS
I have been avoiding Kopech in drafts all off-season, but the more I sit back and look at the pitching landscape, I see a fit for Kopech on fantasy rosters. Kopech took the 2020 season off due to COVID but appears good to go early in spring training. Kopech did not just miss 2020; he also missed 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery. The White Sox are not going to rush this talented young arm. He has even come out this week and said he’s learning how to be a valuable part of the bullpen.
With Kopech being locked into a bullpen role, a potential role similar to Peralta, he becomes a fantasy asset. Kopech brings massive strikeout upside as well as a potential ratio asset. He should throw 75 or more innings with a chance of closing in on 100 innings. His ADP of 328 brings his risk into play and makes him a potential fantasy asset in drafts. If you miss out on Peralta, then Kopech is a target I am looking into for a similar fantasy asset on my teams.
There are a few other names to keep an eye on during the season, aka they will likely go undrafted. Jakob Junis of the Royals has developed a cutter to add to his pitching repertoire. This addition has already been practical early in spring, and if it continues to evolve, he can become a streamable fantasy asset.
Jose De Leon of the Reds is an arm that is worth keeping an eye on this season. He was once a heralded Dodgers prospect, traded to the Rays, and now on the Rays after suffering some major injuries. He missed all of 2018, returned and threw 59 innings in 2019, 6 innings in 2020, and is ready to go for 75-100 this year for the Reds. He brings sub 4.00 ERA stuff with 30%+ K% to the Reds bullpen. He could be extra sneaky given the innings.
Lastly, Alex Young of the DBacks is a pitcher to monitor. Young threw 138 innings in 2019 and then pitched in 15 games (seven starts) for 46.1 innings in 2020. Last year Young gave up more fly balls than usual and struck out fewer. He’s made some changes to his pitch mix/approach this offseason, and there’s a lot of optimism the lefty can return to his prospect form. He’s a long shot but worth monitoring through the season as a possible streamer.
There will be many more options similar to these pitchers to pop up throughout the season. Peralta and Kopech are my main draft targets, with Reyes moving up more board the more positive performances he delivers. Keep an eye on others as many pop up and are serviceable throughout the season.