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Andrew Heaney - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

While we not all define the term exactly the same, we're always searching for the coveted "sleeper." These are the players flying under the radar, presenting an opportunity for you to swoop in on draft day and pluck them from the player pool abyss, making you look like a genius at the end of the season when you post your Championship-winning roster picture on Twitter. Nothing grabs attention in the fantasy world like a good sleeper.

Here at RotoBaller, we love sleepers more than anyone else in the industry. If you don't believe me, just scroll on down to the bottom of this page and take a look for yourself.

Our focus today is on Los Angeles Angels' starting pitcher Andrew Heaney. Can he cash in on some intriguing peripherals and help your fantasy team in 2019?

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Is there reason to be high on Heaney?

The Angels have two promising southpaws in their rotation, but this one in particular is generating a lot of buzz for the 2019 fantasy baseball season. Andrew Heaney pitched 180 IP last season, posting a 4.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 180 SO. The numbers don't look overly sexy on the surface, but there is plenty to be excited about when you dig a little deeper.  First off, pitching 180 innings is a great sign after missing almost all of 2016 and 2017 with shoulder and elbow injuries. Heaney averaged six innings per start in 2018, and even had a complete game shutout, so the injuries look to be safely behind him.

The first thing you notice when looking at Heaney's statistics is that the man deserved better than the stats he received last season. In 2015, his last healthy season, he allowed 0.77 HR/9. In 2018 he allowed 1.35, which is a contributing factor to his 3.68 xFIP being much lower than his ERA. That xFIP actually ranked 20th best among qualified starters. But the bad luck wasn't just in HR rates, because of those 20 top starters in xFIP, Heaney's 71.4 LOB% was the second lowest. The lefty also suffered from some awful Home/Away splits. On the road his ERA was 5.02, compared to 3.22 at home. There's no reason to expect that to continue in 2019, and just with these three stats alone one can reasonably expect positive regression this season.


A healthy mix of pitches

Aside from good health and incoming karma, Heaney also has an intriguing arsenal of pitches on his side. Pitch Info on Fangraphs characterizes his fastball as a Sinker, and he throws it more than any other starter in the league. The 92 mph velocity leaves much to be desired, but his money is made with his off-speed stuff anyways. His change-up boasted the sixth highest value among starters, and his 25.2% curveball rate was sixth highest in the league. The curve was devastating, generating a 19.9 SwStr% and a lowly .187 BAA. The trio of pitch types kept hitters off balance all season, and generated the seventh highest soft hit rate among starters.

Even though he threw the change-up at only a 16% rate, it was by far his make-or-break pitch. We can see this by looking at his best month (2.88 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in July), and his worst month (5.55 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in August). The heat maps for his Sinker and Curve ball look almost identical. But there were noticeable changes in the location of the change-up (top two images), which resulted in a drastic spike in his ISO/P (bottom two images).

The main thing holding back Heaney from truly becoming a star in 2019 is his ability to get through a lineup multiple times. I believe it stems from the lower velocity on his fastball/sinker, which allows hitters to sit back on the off-speed pitches after seeing him the first time. The first time through the order, Heaney was phenomenal, boasting a 11.38 K/9 and a 3.10 xFIP. For reference, German Marquez owned a 10.59 K/9 and a 3.06 xFIP the first time through a lineup. But Marquez got better as he progressed through a game, whereas as Heaney suffered a drastic drop-off. His K/9 dropped down to 8.24 the second time through and 7.26 the third time through, while his xFIP increased to 3.68 and 4.46 respectively. The first difference between the two that I notice, besides handiness, is about 3-4 mph on the fastball. The good news is the 2018 velo was the highest of Heaney's career. If he can continue to tack a few tenths onto his mph then there's no doubt he takes a step forward this year with top 40 fantasy SP potential.

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