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Sawyer Gipson-Long: Champ or Chump for Fantasy Baseball?

fantasy baseball prospects MLB prospects rookies call-ups

If your fantasy baseball team still has something to fight for, now is the time to start looking at the nitty-gritty. Think about who you might want to stream a few days in advance. Consider what you might do if teams like the Braves and Dodgers start resting their regulars. Of course, you should already understand your league's standings page and manage accordingly.

If pitching will decide your final place in the standings, one unheralded name to consider is Sawyer Gipson-Long. Gipson-Long is a 25-year-old Detroit Tiger generally found at the bottom of the organization's top 30 prospect lists. Scouts see little ceiling but a strong probability of spot-starter work, but his recent performance suggests much more.

In this article, we'll explore both Gipson-Long and how Detroit's remaining schedule might play to his advantage. Let's get started!

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Scouting Sawyer Gipson-Long

The Twins selected Gipson-Long in the sixth round of the 2019 draft and signed him for a below-slot bonus, so he didn't have any buzz on draft day. COVID-19 compromised his development by robbing him of his first MiLB season, and scouts weren't impressed by a fastball that topped out at 96 but lived in the 91-93 range.

Most prospect hounds focus on higher-rated prospects, but our regular sources go deep enough to mention Gipson-Long. FanGraphs ranked him 29th in Detroit's system, noting that he "works from a low-three-quarters arm slot that imparts sink and tail" and that "both his slider... and change have above-average action." However, his fastball is described as "hittable".

The site gives him 50/55 grades for his slider, change, and command but only a 40 for his heater. The result is a future value of 35+. MLB Pipeline tells a similar story with 55 grades for his slider, change, and control but a 45 fastball. He's ranked 19th in Detroit's system, with his scouting report indicating he "spots his pitches well" but may struggle in the zone against more advanced competition.


The Performance of Sawyer Gipson-Long Trumps His Pedigree

The scouting report admittedly does little to inspire confidence in Gipson-Long, but his performance in the minors suggests he unlocked a new level this season. Gipson-Long reached Double-A (Wichita) with the Twins in 2022, posting an ugly 7.17 ERA over 37 2/3 IP. His .343 BABIP was unsustainably high while his 52.1% strand rate was laughable, so his 4.28 xFIP provides a better estimate of his talent.

Gipson-Long struck out 20.8% of the batters who faced him, but his 13.3 SwStr% suggested he had the raw stuff for more. His 3.6 BB% was excellent. Ultimately, the Twins included him in the Michael Fulmer trade, sending Gipson-Long to Double-A (Erie) to finish the year.

Gipson-Long logged another 35 2/3 IP with Erie, and his 4.54 ERA was much closer to his 4.20 xFIP. His SwStr% fell to 12.7%, but his K% jumped to 23.3 while his BB% increased to 6. It seems like the Tigers were trying to add more chase to Gipson-Long's game, and it provided dividends this season.

Gipson-Long began 2023 at Erie, pitching to a 3.74 ERA and 3.10 xFIP over 65 IP. His 5.9 BB% was a repeat of his 2022 performance, but his SwStr% jumped to 15.1 while his K% spiked to 29.8%. The performance earned him a ticket to Triple-A (Toledo), where a 5.45 ERA over 34 2/3 IP masked a 3.74 xFIP and 32.7 K% backed by a 14.8 SwStr%. His 9.2 BB% was a little high but nothing a 30+ K% couldn't fix.

Gipson-Long has two big league starts under his belt, working five innings against the White Sox in his MLB debut and another five against the Angels in his second start. Neither represents the best the league has to offer, but Gipson-Long's 41 K% and 2.70 ERA (1.66 xERA, 2.45 xFIP) over 10 IP are still impressive. Whatever the Tigers did at Erie last season, it's working.


What Does Sawyer Gipson-Long Throw?

Like many modern pitchers, Gipson-Long leads with his secondary stuff and features sinkers and fastballs only sporadically. His slider has a 24 SwStr%, 46 Zone%, and 33.3% chase rate, making it a very good pitch. His change is the wipeout offering, boasting a 31.7 SwStr%, 36.6 Zone%, and 42.3% chase rate. His sinker has been elite with a 17.6 SwStr%, 58.8 Zone%, and 50% chase rate too.

Finally, Gipson-Long's fastball has a mediocre 7.4 SwStr% but an excellent 74.1 Zone%. It should help him keep his walks under control. Some sources claim Gipson-Long added a cutter this year, but he's only thrown three pitches classified as such in MLB. As a whole, the entire repertoire should get MLB hitters out.


How Does Detroit's Remaining Schedule Impact Sawyer Gipson-Long?

Sawyer Gipson-Long is only confirmed for one more start: a meeting at Oakland on September 22. Oakland is a great place to pitch and the team is among the few weak enough for Detroit to be favored, giving Gipson-Long a solid shot at a W and QS. He should pile up Ks no matter who he pitches against, and walks shouldn't adversely affect a fantasy manager's ratios. In short, he should be streamed everywhere.

If Gipson-Long receives a second start before the end of the year, it'll come at home against Kansas City on September 28 or at home against the Guardians during Detroit's final series of the year. Either would be a favorable matchup and this author would be comfortable streaming him in virtually any circumstance.

The waiver wire doesn't have much in the way of pitching right now in most leagues, and Gipson-Long could easily be the best arm available to you. He's only rostered in 10% of Yahoo! leagues, so do yourself a favor and add this Champ to your roster before your rivals do. The bidding will be intense if you wait until the day before he faces Oakland.

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