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Baseball games that count are once again upon us! Now that baseball is back and you're looking over your fantasy squads, you're probably a little light on pitching. If your format has an innings cap, it'll probably be harder to reach than you realize. If it doesn't, volume becomes the best way to accumulate more wins, quality starts, and strikeouts than your rivals.

Of course, you need the right volume plays to avoid destroying your ratios. Sean Newcomb has the potential to be a stalwart of your rotation all season long, while Sean Manaea produced a stellar outing on the second day of the season (7 2/3 IP, 7 K, 0 BB, ER).

We're still using ADP for those who like drafting late, but both of these guys went undrafted in some leagues. Check your waiver wire!

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The Fantasy Jury is Out

Sean Newcomb (SP, ATL) ADP: 317

Newcomb was all right as a 23-year old rookie last year, posting a 4.32 ERA (4.52 xFIP) and 23.7% K% over 100 IP. His performance at Triple-A last season (2.97 ERA, 3.50 xFIP, 29.7% K% over 57 2/3 IP) and Double-A in 2016 (3.86 ERA, 3.62 xFIP, 25.6% K%) is more indicative of the upside he could add to your roster.

Newcomb's arsenal generated plenty of whiffs at the MLB level last year. Everything is keyed off of a 94.2 mph heater that Newcomb throws 63.4% of the time. Its 55.5% Zone% last year did a nice job setting up his secondary offerings, while its 8.7% SwStr% was well above the league average for a vanilla fastball.

Newcomb's most used secondary offering was a curve thrown 21.9% of the time. It's almost never a strike (26.5% Zone%) and chased at an average clip (36.4%), but posted a 13.5% SwStr% and .191/.269/.266 line last year. A slight adjustment could probably boost its chase rate, making this breaking pitch a lethal weapon.

Next up was a change thrown 10.6% of the time. It's a classic wipeout pitch that makes up for a low Zone% (30.4%) with well above average SwStr% (19.6%) and chase (42.2%) rates. Newcomb sometimes misses his spot with it though, allowing opposing batters to slash .388/.400/.531 against his put away pitch last season.

Finally, Newcomb has a show-me slider thrown 4.2% of the time in 2017. The sample is too small to draw definitive conclusions, but its 17.1% SwStr%, 45.1% chase rate, and 30.4% Zone% suggest upside as an alternative put away pitch.

All of these pitches need more control to truly shine. Newcomb struggled with walks in his MLB debut (12.5% BB%), at Triple-A (13.3% BB% last year), and at Double-A (11.9% BB% in 2016), so the problem isn't new. You could have said the same thing about Robbie Ray at the onset of 2017, and he turned in an ace-like campaign last season. One adjustment is all it would take to put Newcomb on that level.

The Braves should be more competitive than they were last season, and Newcomb's .327 BABIP allowed should tumble now that Matt Kemp's -17 Outs Above Average have been jettisoned from the outfield. There is every possibility that rostering Newcomb blows up in your face, as command is hard to learn. However, the upside is massive if he figures it out. He's probably free, so why not roll the dice?

Verdict: Champ


Sean Manaea (SP, OAK) ADP: 260.6

Manaea was pedestrian in 2017, posting a 4.37 ERA (4.53 xFIP) in 158 2/3 IP. He was limited by a shoulder strain and illness, so last year's 20.2% K% may not accurately represent his true talent level. Indeed, his repertoire supports considerable strikeout upside.

Manaea features three pitches: a fastball, changeup, and slider. His heater lost considerable velocity last year, averaging 92.1 mph vs. 93.3 in 2016. The result was a .293/.370/.455 line against and 6.8% SwStr%, but there is hope. Its spin rate was 1,977 RPM in 2017, considerably below the league average range of 2,100-2,400. Low-spin fastballs are associated with ground balls and weak contact, a profile that could allow Manaea to last deep into games in an era where that's increasingly difficult to find.

Low-spin heaters do not lend themselves to strikeouts, but Manaea has secondary offerings for that. His change is a wipeout pitch, making up for a low 37.4% Zone% with a 17.2% SwStr% and 43.6% chase rate. His slider is an alternative put away pitch offering an 18.7% SwStr% and 41.4% chase rate to offset a 32.5% Zone%. Two deadly weapons make Manaea less predictable, giving him strikeout potential his surface stats don't suggest.

Oakland's infield defense also projects to be stronger than it was last year. First, they get a full season of Matt Chapman at 3B, where he somehow put up 19 DRS in just 727 defensive innings in 2017. First baseman Yonder Alonso (-9 DRS in 767 defensive innings) is also gone, replaced by Matt Olson. Olson only played 349 2/3 innings at 1B last year, but he put up a promising four DRS in the sample. Second baseman Jed Lowrie (-2 DRS) is mediocre while SS Marcus Semien (-9) is lousy, but the improved glovework at the corners should help Manaea reduce the .259 BABIP he allowed on grounders last year.

Manaea's 69.6% strand rate is also due for positive regression, especially if he can get his K% up. Oakland may not be an ideal spot for wins, but Manaea has the potential to throw 200+ quality innings for a fraction of the cost of an ace.

Verdict: Champ


MoreĀ 2018 Player Outlooks