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Patrick Sandoval: 2022 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

patrick sandoval fantasy baseball rankings mlb player news

After all the aces are off the board in your fantasy draft, it’s time to start looking for starting pitchers who have ace upside in the mid-rounds. Hitting on those mid-round starting pitchers is a tough art to master, but by maximizing your research and solidifying your strategy, you can give yourself the best odds for success in your rotation.

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval is a great player to look at when targeting mid-round starting pitcher sleepers. He currently projects to be the second or third starter on the Angels, behind Shohei Ohtani and potentially Noah Syndergaard. Calling last year a breakout season for him is a bit misleading as he threw only 87 innings, but he showed the baseball world (and fantasy analysts in particular) a lot to like during those 87 innings.

In today’s article, we’ll take a look at the 25-year-old southpaw’s most alluring assets and discuss where he should be targeted in your drafts.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Pitch Mix

In 2021, Sandoval made some major adjustments to his pitch mix. He had thrown just 76 innings in the big leagues prior to last season, about half of those innings coming in 2019 with the other half coming in 2020. During those two stints, Sandoval leaned heavily on his four-seam fastball, throwing the pitch 46.4% of the time in 2019 and 44.6% of the time in 2020.

Last year, Sandoval only relied on his four-seamer 24.3% of the time. It wasn’t even his most-thrown pitch in 2021. That honor went to the pitch that became his most effective offering, his changeup. He threw his dominant change piece 29.6% of the time and it generated a 51.4% whiff rate while batters hit just .139 against it.

Sandoval was a four-pitch pitcher in 2019 and 2020, but last year, he introduced a fifth pitch, a sinker. His sinker was his third most frequently thrown pitch in 2021 as he threw it 18.8% of the time.

The five-pitch arsenal was the fuel for Sandoval’s mini breakout in 2021. Here’s a full look at the healthy pitch mix Sandoval used last year, courtesy of Baseball Savant:

 

Swinging Strikes

The primary stat that has all the fantasy pundits drooling over Sandoval this offseason (including yours truly) is swinging strikes. Sandoval ranked in truly elite company in swinging-strike rate over the season as a whole last year. His 15.2% swinging strike rate put him right alongside aces such as Max Scherzer (15.9%) and Robbie Ray (15.5%).

Sandoval’s marquee performance of 2021 came against the Minnesota Twins in late July. In the start, he went 8 2/3 innings and allowed just one hit, one walk, and one earned run while striking out 13 batters. While those surface numbers were extremely impressive in their own right, the most eye-popping stat from that outing was Sandoval’s 32 swinging strikes. That mark was tied for the most in a single game last year – Gerrit Cole matched the total against Sandoval’s Angels on September 1st.

Sandoval’s most effective strikeout pitch was his aforementioned changeup. The dominant pitch had the second-highest swinging strike rate amongst all pitches in the league last year. Here’s a look at how he effectively disguised the pitch with an overlay alongside his fastball:

 

Minimal Hard Contact

When batters weren’t swinging and missing against Sandoval’s pitches last year, they typically weren’t doing much damage with their bats. Sandoval ranked in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity last year. Batters had an average exit velocity of just 85.4 mph against him.

His success with balls in play stemmed from his ability to generate ground balls while reducing line drives and home runs. He paired a stellar 51.1% ground ball rate with an 18.5% line drive rate. He was tagged for just 11 home runs while maintaining an HR/FB rate of 15.9%.

All of those strong numbers above were also backed up by his .342 xSLG, which ranked in the 82nd percentile of the league.

 

Potential Warning Signs

No sleeper comes without risks and Sandoval is no exception.

There are two things that scare me a bit with Sandoval: walks and workload.

Sandoval has had some walk trouble dating back to his minor league career and trickling into last season with the Angels as well. In his last extended run in the minors, 2019, he threw 80.1 innings across Double-A and Triple-A and surrendered 4.7 BB/9, which led to an ugly 1.743 WHIP.

Last year, he had a 9.9% walk rate, which ranked in the bottom 28% of the majors. He only gave up 69 hits over his 87 major league innings, but he was hurt badly by the 36 walks he gave up (3.7 BB/9). His 1.207 WHIP last year was certainly solid, but if the high walk rate continues (or increases) and some of his other numbers fall off, we could be looking at an unsatisfying WHIP for him.

Sandoval’s 2021 campaign was limited to 87 innings primarily due to a lower back stress fracture he suffered in August that ended his season. It’s not clear how the Angels would have handled his innings down the stretch last year if he had stayed healthy, but his workload history would suggest that an innings limit likely would have been in effect.

Sandoval threw 119.2 innings across the minors and majors in 2019, then was held to just 36.2 innings in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The Angels probably don’t want to extend him too far above 120 innings in 2022. His best-case scenario is probably 150 innings. So that means if he stays healthy, the team will have to do something like reducing his pitch count in starts, extend the rotation to six starters, or even move him to the bullpen.

 

When To Draft

Sandoval currently has an ADP of around 200. He’s being drafted in the same range as other starting pitchers such as Tarik Skubal, Jose Urquidy, Anthony DeSclafani, and Joe Ryan.

If you are trigger-shy on pitchers early in your draft, then Sandoval is someone worth targeting as early as round 12 or 13. Few starting pitchers outside of the top-30 or so at the position had as promising peripherals as Sandoval had across the board last year. He was a borderline must-start pitcher for about a third of the year last year and if it weren’t for the stress fracture, we may be seeing him go consistently in the top-10 rounds of drafts this spring.

Sandoval has about equal value across all formats, but he may be slightly more intriguing in points leagues. There’s little doubt that he’ll be able to rack up significant strikeouts. He has a total of 169 punch-outs over 163 major league innings and he averaged 11.0 K/9 in his last minor league stint at Double-A and Triple-A in 2019.

In categories leagues and rotisserie leagues, he’s a bit of a question mark in wins, losses, ERA, and WHIP. He was decent in the latter two stats last year (3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but if either of those clips increases even a little, he won’t be a sure-thing weekly starter for categories leagues and rotisserie leagues. As for his win-loss potential, he finished 3-6 last year over his 14 starts. The Angels were battered by injuries in 2021 and his run support was limited. On paper, the team should certainly be better next year, but Sandoval will be pitching in a tough division that may have just gotten even tougher thanks to the offseason additions in Texas.

Bottom line: After you’ve built the nucleus of your offense and the front end of your rotation, Sandoval should be on the shortlist of top targets for you. Anyone you’ll be drafting in the double-digit rounds comes with risks and concerns and Sandoval’s risks and concerns are much smaller than other starters in the same ADP range. At the very best, he could be a “Robbie Ray light” in 2022 and at the very worst (apart from injury), he’ll be a matchup-dependent starter who should give you a boost in strikeouts each time out.



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