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Roster Doctor: Starting Pitcher Trade Targets To Fix Your Fantasy Baseball Teams

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We're entering the crux of trading season, with enough games in the book to give fantasy managers an initial idea of where a team is performing well and where you might need to perform some categorical surgery.

We don't want to just make trades all willy-nilly. You, my savvy readers, want to make trades that best set you up for success, looking to send out offers that have the best chance of getting accepted, and the best chance of improving your team in the most meaningful way.

In our first edition of Roster Doctor, FD, we went over some of the best practices for greasing the wheels of commerce and looked deeper at a couple of hitters that are set up for increases in their overall value but who can also give you big boosts in specific categories. This week, it's time to hit the arms portion of the medical bay, looking for starters you can use to throw a splint on your broken pitching categories.  I hope you have a mint because it's time to pucker up for a little Categorical Pitching Resuscitation.

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Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves

Preseason ADP Rank: SP #25, Season to date rank: SP #94
2022: 13 GS - 67.1 IP - 4 W - 75 K - 5.08 ERA - 1.37 WHIP

Why They Might Sell:

Morton is coming off of his best start of the year, shutting out the Cubs over 7 IP and striking out nine. But while the strikeouts have gotten back on track (he also had 12 K in his previous start vs PIT), Morton still has an unsightly 5.08 ERA and 1.37 WHIP for the season, allowing 4 ER in each of his four starts prior to roughing up the Cubs.

Even with the most recent success, managers who drafted him in the top 100 are probably getting really sick of Uncle Charlie's shenanigans. But one or two more good starts could make the buying-low window start closing real fast.

Why You Should Buy:

Alright, this one's actually super easy. Because while Morton's overall results haven't started jumping off of the page yet, his month-by-month numbers have shown a clear path of progression. As in, virtually every metric of note you can look at has gotten better in June compared to in May, just as his numbers in May had risen from what he posted in June.

No, seriously; whether having to do with ratios, strikeouts, or velocity, Morton is quickly rounding back into what we saw in 2021:

Stat April May June 2022 2021
ERA 7.00 4.60 4.00 5.08 3.34
FIP 5.80 3.93 3.24 4.24 3.18
xFIP 5.66 4.27 1.97 4.02 3.31
SIERA 5.32 4.02 1.95 3.77 3.53
WHIP 1.78 1.34 1.00 1.37 1.04
K% 17.4 22.8 39.2 25.3 28.6
BB% 12.8 8.1 5.4 8.8 7.7
K-BB% 4.7 14.7 33.8 16.6 20.9
SwStr% 8.0 9.7 17.3 11.1 12.4
CSW% 24.6 27.5 34.7 28.5 31.0
GB% 34.5 33.0 52.6 37.5 47.8
FF mph 94.8 95.3 95.5 95.2 95.5

Believe me now? Take a look not just at how much he's improved by month but also at how his numbers in June have now crept right back up to the elite levels from 2021, even if the direct comparisons between 2021 and 2022 are still very far apart.

Looking at this slow burn is not only inspiring in and of itself but could also serve you well when it comes to trade negotiations. Because a lot of your potential trade partners aren't going to dive deeper than comparing year-to-year and might be blinded by the seemingly endless string of 4 ER outings in Morton's game logs. But you, my intrepid reader, have your third eye open and can see that he's been getting better by leaps and bounds, with every month that has passed.

Morton's next two starts are on the more difficult side, scheduled to face San Francisco at home Wednesday night, and at Philadelphia next Tuesday. But after that, he's currently lined up to face divisional doormats in his following three starts, getting Cincinnati once and the Nationals twice.

This is a perfect storm of buying-low: Morton has gotten incrementally better every month but on paper still looks far from the player that he was drafted to be. And his fantasy managers have probably gotten pretty fed up with such poor performance and might be ready to write off his aging behind - making his price to acquire unlikely to be onerous. But if you set the o/u at SP 40 for the rest of the season, I'm taking the under with a bullet.

It's time to pounce.

 

Luis Severino, New York Yankees

Preseason ADP Rank: SP #50, Season to date rank: SP #32
2022: 12 GS - 66 IP - 4 W - 80 K - 3.27 ERA - 1.06 WHIP

Why They Might Sell:

Unlike others on this list, no one is selling Severino because of poor performance, as the once and future ace has returned with a vengeance after only pitching a total of 18 innings from 2019-2021 due to injuries. But while those that drafted him after around his 175 ADP are very happy with their returns, some fantasy managers still worried about the specter of three seasons worth of injuries might be willing to put their money in the bank and cash out.

Why You Should Buy:

Doctoring up your roster isn't just about buying low, sometimes you have to pay retail to get the medicine you need. The key, though, is actually buying the right thing. Obvious but that doesn't make it any less true. Pulling off a successful buy-low might often be more satisfying but you shouldn't feel any less pleased about making a trade that accomplishes your goals, even if it costs more.

Trading for top pitchers can be tricky, simply because they just won't be available, even if you're willing to pay over market price. However, Severino is in that sweet spot of having been really good so far but not so much that his owners will keep him death gripped to their roster. But if you're looking for some high-ceiling/high-floor pitching relief, he's where I'd start.

  1. Yes, it's scary that he's missed most of the past three seasons with injury but there are no obvious signs that Severino isn't now fully healthy. He hasn't been going quite as deep in 2022 (5.5 IP/GS) as he did in 2018 (5.9 IP/GS) but his fastball velocity has stayed steady from month to month, even if it is down a tick from 2018.
  2. Even though the four-seamer velocity is down slightly, the relative movement isn't - it's getting 1.2 inches more movement than average (+9%), compared to 1.1 inches in 2018 (+8%). And while he's compensated for the decreased velocity by slowing down that nasty slider, again, the relative vertical movement is still elite (5.4 inches over average vs 5.5 inches in 2018). And hitters have done even less against them both - his four-seamer has a -1.1 RV per 100 pitches in 2022 (-0.7 in 2018), while his slider is running a ridiculous -3.1 RV/100 (-0.9 RV/100 in 2018).
  3.  Severino's 29.9% K% is basically identical to his prime rates but is also still (barely) a career high. As is a 13.6% SwStr% that's up from 12.4% in 2018 and 13.0% in 2017. And while he has a slightly lower 28.5% Chase%, it's still right in line with 29.6% Chase% in 2018 and a 28.2% Chase in 2017. There aren't many pitchers that you can consistently bank on around a 30% K% - Severino is one of them.
  4. The ratios are as tight as they were before and are backed by evaluators that say they're running true. Severino has a 3.27 ERA (3.39 ERA in 2018), 3.21 xFIP (3.10 xFIP), and 3.21 SIERA (3.10 SIERA).

It's not just that Severino has been a top-30 SP, so far, it's that he's putting up numbers that are virtually identical to when we last saw him complete a full season in 2018 - you know, when he finished as the #9 SP? He might not yet be exactly what he was before but don't forget that even though it seems like he's been around forever, Severino is still only 28 years old.

If you get a top-30 starter ROS, you're probably happy. But if you get a top-15/20 SP? Gold, Jerry. Gold.

 

Hunter Greene, Cincinnati Reds

Preseason ADP Rank: SP #106, Season to date rank: SP #88
2022: 13 GS - 65 IP - 3 W - 85 K - 5.26 ERA - 1.29 WHIP

Why They Might Sell:

Greene has produced piles of strikeouts but has been an absolute ratio-buster while playing on a Reds team whose trashy bullpen and substandard bullpen are unlikely to provide many wins. Greene has the 13th-most strikeouts among 86 qualified starters (min 60 IP) but is 80th in ERA, 58th in WHIP, and t-59th in Wins. The velocity might sizzle but some owners are probably running out of patience with the up and downs that come with rostering a rookie on a bad team that plays in a bad park.

Why You Should Buy:

For one, the strikeouts are locked in. Greene has a 30.1% K% this season, just as he ran around a 30% K% at every level of the minors. The dude's got whiffs. So, worst-case (much like a hitter that steals a lot of bases but struggles overall), you can at least count on production in a key counting category.

But for two, the ratios could quickly improve, as Greene's 5.26 ERA has a 3.99 xFIP and 3.60 SIERA that say better times are on the way. Those still wouldn't be world-beating ratios but they don't have to be since they'll be combined with the aforementioned locked-in strikeouts.

We don't want to cherry-pick good/bad starts too much but Greene's ERA has gotten blown up in a real Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde kind of way. Milwaukee hung 8 ER on him on May 5 (and 4 ER in his most recent start), Boston got him for 4 ER/3.2 IP, the Cubs for 5 ER/5 IP, and he allowed 4 ER in 4.2 IP in Colorado. In those five starts, Greene has a 10.89 ERA - but just a 2.64 ERA in the other eight. Hell, even if you just take his eight starts since the 8 ER beatdown, Greene has a 3.65 ERA.

Rookies have ups and downs but Greene has elite stuff and is clearly trending in the right direction. And while his surrounding cast shouldn't make you bullish on Wins, everything else looks to be pointing towards big-time fantasy goodness for the remainder of the year.

Trade for the K's, stay for the ratios.



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IDP Leagues Waiver Wire Pickups for Fantasy Football: Week 4 -- Jevon Holland, Eddie Jackson, and more

We’re three weeks into the season, and the Broncos are tied with Kansas City as the best team in the AFC West. The Jaguars are the best team in the South, the Browns, without Deshaun, are tied for the lead in the North, and the Dolphins defeated the Bills to take the undisputed lead in... Read More