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Surprising Starts From Fantasy Baseball Pitchers: Who Will Regress?

Reid Detmers fantasy baseball rankings MLB prospects

When putting together a fantasy baseball team, starting pitching may be the most difficult position to account for. Chances are you won't put together a team full of set-it-and-forget-it aces. As the season goes on, injuries will occur and some sleepers will end up not making the big jump some people expected.

On the other hand, several starting pitchers were not expected to produce much in the fantasy realm and had little fanfare; either going undrafted or left for the deepest leagues will make a surprise start to the season. If you can hit on one or a couple of these pitchers early in the year, you could head to league domination.

After two-plus weeks, it's time to look at some starting pitchers who have gotten off to surprising starts and whether or not they can be trusted in the long-term.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups and weekly lineup resources:

 

Ronel Blanco - Houston Astros

2024 Stats: 15 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.94 FIP

Blanco is one of the biggest stories of the year. He pitched a no-hitter in his first start of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays while striking out seven and allowing two walks. Start No. 1 for Blanco would have been almost impossible to duplicate, but during his second start, he started the game with five no-hit innings against the Texas Rangers.

Blanco would pitch six innings in that start, allowing one hit and four walks. The 30-year-old has just nine starts in the majors and was being used as a closer in the minors as recently as 2021. Even though it's a small sample size, Blanco's .029 BABIP, 100% LOB%, and 0.0% HR/FB show there was some luck to his first two starts.

An xFIP of 4.57 tells the story of Blanco's luck as well. With five starting pitchers on the IL, Blanco was initially added to the rotation more out of need than merit. However, the hefty righty should keep his spot while he pitches well. Obvious regression is coming; however, Blanco deserves a place in 12-team leagues. Unless a league mate is buying the hot start and makes a good trade offer, it's probably best to ride Blanco as long as he's hot and hope he can sustain it.

 

Tanner Houck - Boston Red Sox

2024 Stats: 12 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1.13 FIP

If not for Blanco, Houck might be the biggest surprise to start the 2024 fantasy season. However, unlike Blanco, Houck had started 41 games before the season and had a modicum of success in the majors. His 5.01 ERA in 2023 wasn't good but the 28-year-old ended the season with better predicted ERA numbers. Houck's xERA, FIP, xFIP, and SIERA came in at 4.43 or under.

The former first-round pick has had trouble in the past with walking too many hitters. Though a small sample size, he has cut his BB% in half in 2024. Sustaining that type of control probably won't happen, but any improvement will help his arsenal play better. Statcast compared Houck's pitches and movement to Logan Webb in 2023, showing how good his stuff is. He's a heavy sinker/slider pitcher who mixes in a split-finger and cutter. Once a fastball-first pitcher, Houck threw it 9.9% last year and just once this season.

The tall righty is owned in 75% of Yahoo leagues, so he won't be available in most leagues. If he is, however, or if a league mate drops him after one bad start, he's worth taking a flier on to see if he translates his early-season dominance into a good campaign.

Reid Detmers - Los Angeles Angels

2024 Stats: 11 IP, 1.64 ERA, 1.12 FIP

The thing with Detmers is he has the pedigree of a good MLB starting pitcher. Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2017, Detmers went to college at Louisville and was drafted 10th overall by the Angels in 2020 at 20 years old. Before the 2021 season, MLB.com ranked him the 74th-best prospect.

During that season, he participated in the Futures Game and made it to the MLB after 14 minor league starts. In 2022, he rose to the 21st-best prospect by MLB.com after making five starts for the Angels in 2021. Detmers wasn't as dominant in his first full season in the bigs but held his own, compiling a 3.77 ERA and 3.79 FIP over 25 starts.

2023 didn't see the lefty improve on his solid rookie season. Detmers took a step back most of the year. After a horrible July and August, it looked like a lost season for the 24-year-old. However, Detmers started four games between September and October, pitching to a 1.82 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 24 2/3 innings.

That performance set Detmers up with momentum and hope for a bounce-back in 2024. His 45.2% strikeout rate won't stay, but he has a 34% chase rate and 41.8% whiff rate, indicating he should have well above-average strikeout numbers. Also owned in 75% of Yahoo leagues, Detmers seems to be the best bet between him, Blanco, and Houck at sustaining success all season.

Brady Singer - Kansas City Royals

2024 Stats: 13.1 IP, 0.68 ERA, 2.99 FIP

Like Detmers, Singer has the track record and pedigree looked for in starting pitchers. Though drafted in the second round out of high school, Singer decided to attend the University of Florida and became the 18th overall pick in 2018. MLB.com ranked him as the 54th-best prospect pre-2019 and 59th-best pre-2020.

He made 26 starts in 2019 for the Royals farm system, racing to the majors for the 2020 season. Over four-plus years in the majors, Singer has a league average 100 ERA+, a 3.96 FIP, and 489 strikeouts over 519 innings pitched. While those strikeout numbers give him close to a league-average 22% strikeout rate, he could probably benefit from being a little less over the plate.

His 9.1 hits per nine have led to his 1.324 career WHIP. Mostly a two-pitch pitcher in the past, the 27-year-old has relied on his four-seam fastball more to start the season. If he can keep it up in the zone as much as he has in his first two starts, it will play nicely off his slider/sinker combo.

So far in 2024, the big righty has increased his Whiff % and decreased his hard-hit %. Going from the bottom 1 percent in avoiding hard contact to the top-five percent in one season seems unlikely, but if Singer can improve there, it'll go a long way in keeping up this success.

 

Other Starters Off to a Hot Start

Garrett Crochet - Chicago White Sox

Crochet has great stuff with a 97 mph fastball and a plus slider he uses about 30% of the time. He added a cutter this season while being moved into the starting rotation. He'll use it to get in on righties and get them off his fastball. His 1.5% walk rate won't stay, but he'll take it if he can stay around 10%. His biggest issue will be his workload. Before this season, he made 13 starts and all were in college. Run him out there with confidence now and keep him around until an eventual innings limit is reached.

Spencer Turnbull - Philadelphia Phillies

Now 31, Turnbull hadn't found success since a nine-game run in 2021. He's added a sweeper this season, which may lead to better chase, whiff, and strikeout rates. His walk rate is at 2.4% to start the season, so look for regression there. Currently owned in 44% of Yahoo leagues, he's worth a speculative add in 12-team leagues to see if the change in scenery and arsenal results in better outcomes.

Sean Manaea - New York Mets

The elder statesman of the list, Manaea has over 1,000 innings pitched with a 4.07 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and 4.05 SIERA. Manaea is another pitcher who has started to lean more on the sweeper, currently using it 14.4% of the time. He has a league-average 22.2% strikeout rate for his career, so it may be hard to continue at the 34.1% rate he has this season. Don't bet on the hot start to continue but ride it as long as possible to see if the added usage of the sweeper helps miss more bats.



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